I have this new job – a promotion, really, at my old job. But there will be lots of business-like activity in it. So I thought, I should look business-like, more professional, maybe I should get my nails done. I’ve never had acrylic nails, but I figured what the heck?
It seemed simple enough, right? There’s a nail shop upstairs from where I work so during a long break, I went on up there. There was an Asian man sitting out front reading a newspaper. It was 103 degrees. He was apparently oblivious to the heat. Southern humid heat.
I should have seen this as an omen.
I sat down at his little booth – the shop was empty – and he began to dremmel my nails bouncing from the flesh on one side of my fingertips to the flesh on the other. No, Marge was not there, there was no soaking my fingers in Palmolive first. There was no congenial conversation. I sat and watched in a sort of horrified fascination – why would women do this weekly?
He slapped outrageously long Mortisha Adams, or Lily Munster-like tips on my nails, dremmeled again, and asked, “This good?”
I looked from my reddened fingers to the nail-man and back again. “They’re a little long.” I replied as I tried to imagine typing, doing dishes, catching peeps, feeding horses, or even changing my grandson’s diaper. I envisioned poking myself in the eye while sleeping. “I need them shorter,” I said.
Satan, the manicurist, rolled his eyes. Clearly, I was not woman enough for his circle of Hell. He clipped straight across the nails – squaring them. Before I could say anything, he turned on a small personal fan (you know like the ones you hang around your neck) and began putting on the acrylic.
“Can we round them?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, no problem.” He continued to coat my nails with goo. He finished one hand and shoved it in front of the personal fan to dry. He did the other hand – then dremmeled the tops again. “Wash your hands now, Lady.”
I moved to the sink wondering if perhaps there was a locked room in the back with chains on the walls and whips. I looked at the assortment polishes on the wall and thought about Sigourney Weaver’s character, the warden from the movie Holes – was there rattlesnake venom in those bottles? I washed my hands and cautiously returned to my seat. “Can we shorten them a little more and round them off?” I asked.
“Yes, yes, no problem.” He took out an emery board – a tool I recognized as not on the sale page of a Sears tool flier — and I was somewhat relieved. “Color? What color? You want red?”
Red clashes with my hair, but somehow I knew this fashion statement would be lost on Satan—I was sure that in his world all things were blood colored. He briefly filed the tops and edges of my nails. “Looks good,” he said.
“They’re square.” I replied. And indeed they were completely squared off – except where they curled in to stab my cuticles and fingertips along the underneath edge.
“Yes, yes, no problem. Looks Good. What color –red? You must pay before I paint, twenty-dollar, place for tip on receipt.”
“Something light.” I told him as I dug for my debit card. A tip? He wanted a tip before he painted my nails – this was blackmail.
Satan rolled his yes again – I would be in purgatory soon – banished forever from Hell. I was not tough enough. He mumbled in his native tongue as he puttered around, ran my card and looked for a wussy color for me. I wondered what the official language in Hell was. He returned with one choice. He did not ask me if I liked it, he jut began to paint my nails. It was a pretty opally color so I didn’t object. He painted one hand – shoved it under the personal fan, then painted the other. “You go now, all done,” he declared as he picked up his newspaper and headed back out into the heat.
I looked at my wet nails and raw reddened fingertips. All done I thought. I wandered somewhat shell-shocked to my car trying to figure out how I was going to manage the keys with wet nails…
I scuffed the polish in my getaway.
I called my daughter, Jamie, as soon my nails felt dry enough to dial the phone. She arrived like the Calvary – she knew about acrylic nails. She looked at my hands and jumped into action. She removed the pretty opal polish, managed to get the chunks of acrylic that had been left pressed into my cuticles, soaked and lotioned my sore fingers before she rounded them off and painted them a dusky-rose color. Thankfully she was able to fix them.
I have met Satan and he is a manicurist in Virginia.
Post Script: This piece was written in June of 2007; I no longer work at that job, no more administrative meetings which in the end were much like getting this manicure. The nail shop in the story was closed down by the state of Virginia for health and safety violations. We continue to recover from the great computer crashes here, yes crashes, plural. I am working to get back on an even keel digitally.