Illustration by Pablo Lobato
Illustration: Pablo Lobato

Here’s how I do pedicures, usually: Read a book on my Kindle app. Toggle over to email to respond to work stuff. Reflexively yank my foot away when something tickles. Repeat.

I don’t get pedis for the relaxation benefits. I get them because I don’t want to be embarrassed by gnarly-looking toes during flip-flop weather. While a foot massage is nice, it’s hard to bliss out when someone is filing off a callus.

A new virtual reality pedicure at the Kohler Waters Spa in Burr Ridge is out to change that. Long before Brittnee, my nail technician, asks me to pick a polish color, I’m faced with a bigger decision: Do I want to go to the beach or the forest? Brittnee hands me a headset that I’ve only ever seen on the suckers trying out that 4D ride in the food court of Navy Pier. Because it’s an unseasonably cool day, I go with the beach.

Wearing the giant goggles, I settle into my chair and stare out at the waves. Every now and then I turn my head to scan the shoreline, or look down to check out the sand. I must seem insane to the other patrons, none of whom have opted to cough up $95 for this 50-minute high-tech experience (compared with $79 for a standard pedi). But does their foot-prettying treatment promise to also improve breathing and increase mindfulness?

For the first 10 minutes, a male voice leads me in a guided meditation, though I find it difficult to focus on his instructions. That’s probably because it’s the middle of the afternoon, I have work deadlines racing through my head, and I arrived 10 minutes late thanks to Friday afternoon traffic on the Stevenson from Chicago to Burr Ridge. Of course, all of those are reasons I need to meditate.

Once the voice subsides, it’s just me and the waves. And Brittnee, obviously, but even though she’s busy exfoliating my legs and rubbing my feet, I’ve pretty much forgotten she exists. After 20 minutes or so, I’ve put the traffic and deadline stress behind me, fully blissed out. The beach goes from day to night and back again. I find myself fascinated with what I think are fireflies blinking above the ocean. I fall asleep for about five minutes. Er, I think it was five. Time is fluid on my beach.

When 45 minutes have passed, Brittnee takes off my goggles and it’s time for the regular nail polish portion of the afternoon. Then I kick back and munch on trail mix in the relaxation room for a few minutes before I head back to the city. The pedi is pricey, but at least it buys you time in the elegant spa, and access to its amenities, before and after. On the drive home, I can still hear the waves crashing in my head — even as the honking on I-55 rings in my ears.