When I scheduled my first on-demand Soothe massage, I was a tiny bit scared that something terrible would happen. Call me old-fashioned, but the concept of using an app to invite a stranger into my house to touch my naked flesh sounds—OK, you know what? There’s no way to make this sound any more or less weird than Tinder. In fact, Soothe is much safer; these are licensed massage therapists, not anonymous shirtless torsos. It’s probably even safer than Uber, in that I knew exactly where I was the entire time. So ordering an on-demand massage felt sketchy, yes, but not any more sketchy than the rest of the sharing economy. Nevertheless, I was nervous.
My concerns dissipated as soon as I met Karen, an experienced LMT who, immediately upon arrival, gamely carried her mobile massage table up two flights of stairs without breaking a sweat. After a minute of small talk, I realized that Karen had way more reason to be scared for her safety than I did. (Maybe not in this particular case, as I am fairly small and nonthreatening and didn’t lead Karen into a dimly lit locked basement. But, you know, in general.) After making a tacit agreement not to murder each other, I was able to fully enjoy my in-home sports massage, complete with hot stones. (I did have to go to the kitchen to boil water for the hot stones, forcing me to choose which of my coffee mugs would make the best hot stone receptacle. I never said there weren’t weird moments!)
There were other awkward parts, too, like when Karen asked if the room temperature was comfortable for me (what would she have done if I said no?), or when she hung out in my bathroom while I changed my clothes. But overall, the on-demand massage experience was pretty great. I didn’t have to find parking, or even leave the house. I didn’t have that weird moment of almost falling asleep and then waking up and not knowing where I was, because I was in my bedroom, where I always wake up. I was allowed to select the music. And when I got dressed after the massage, I actually put on a different outfit than I was wearing an hour ago, because why not?
The Soothe app, which is available in 25 cities and counting, launched in Portland in late April. Users specify the time, location, length (60–120 minutes for $99–169, tip included), and style (Swedish, sports, deep tissue, or couples) of their desired massage, and in as little as an hour, a licensed massage therapist (or two!) will arrive at your home, office, or hotel room. Services are available from 8 a.m. to midnight; demand usually peaks on evenings and weekends. Patrons can also request a massage therapist of a specific gender, and can rebook massages with a specific therapist that they’ve used before. After enjoying maybe the best massage of my life, I’ll definitely be rebooking as soon as I find $99 on the ground. I hope Karen likes Chance the Rapper.