Hot air envelopes me. The change in temperature is like walking out into the blazing summer sun after a morning of stale air conditioning. After a few minutes I will be reminded how much I hate being hot. When you’re cold, you can always add layers. When you’re hot, there are limits to how much you can remove, especially in public. I check the dimly lit room: no one home. Good. I remove my towel, step up, and sit on the hot wooden bench. I close my eyes and try to relax. I wait.
I hear voices. My senses go on alert. They’re in the hallway: people going in and out of the bathrooms just outside. I reassure myself that if a woman were entering the outer room, I would have plenty of time to grab my towel while she made her preparations to come in. For many, sauna is a social affair. Last year, the two Russian women, old but still cross-country skiers with good form and plenty of endurance, had stayed the entire hour talking non-stop as they moved from outer sitting room to my sanctum and back. The large cartoon strip posted on the wall tells the story of a group of naked Finnish men having an uproarious time sweating together, jumping into a cold lake, going back in the heat, and into the drink again: sauna as party. Continue reading Sauna