As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I was born with a pale yellow complexion akin to a discolored tooth. I have dark hair and dark eyebrows; I just look better with a tan. So today I went to the Beach Bum Tanning Salon on 86th Street to get a spray tan.
First of all, you have to be buzzed into Beach Bum, an establishment that sits under a massive awning announcing the fact that it caters to the lily white and vain among us. This means that I stood waiting outside for a good three minutes, which doesn’t seem like that long a time when you’re not waiting to be let inside a tanning salon but really does when you are. After climbing the flight of stairs to the salon, I was rung up by a freckled girl who was animatedly grooving to the City High song, “Caramel,” while she was charging my credit card. Then I was led into the Mystic Tanning both and given a set of complicated instructions.
“Here,” said the employee tasked with explaining how to use the machine to me as she handed me two plastic bags. In one were sticky foot shaped pads that I was instructed to affix to the soles of my feet so I didn’t end up with leathery-looking feet like a Hobbit. In the other was a shower cap. “Get undressed, wait until the machine is ready, then put barrier cream all over your hands and go into the booth. Wave your hand in front of the sensor and the spray tanning will begin.”
When she left, I quickly disrobed, trying to minimize the amount of time I stood in the room in just my underwear. The Mystic booth is a closed chamber, but you have to do all the preparing outside of the booth, in a closet-like space that looked like there might be a hidden camera in the vent. I quickly stuck the foot pads onto the soles of my feet, then applied the barrier cream to my hands like I’d be told to. When the machine announced that the ‘warming-up period’ was complete and it was okay for me to get in the booth, I gingerly opened the door and took my position.
Inside the booth, there were four numbered foot-shaped tiles on the floor. A robotic voice instructed me to place my left foot on Number 1 and my right foot on Number 3, and when I’d done so, the voice piped in and told me that “the spray tan [was] commencing.”
Let me tell you – there’s nothing quite like standing half-naked in a weird booth in a weird tanning salon while a machine sprays an ice-cold mist all over your body and face. I felt kind of like I was being waterboarded, and I was concerned that I was standing incorrectly and setting myself up to be half orange, like a Bridge and Tunnel version of Two Face. Luckily, I seem to have succeeded in getting a pretty good tan, except for one thing: my hands are a different color than the rest of my body and look like I just got a hand transplant.