I have a friend who works in the same neck of the woods as I do, and occasionally we like to girl it up at the nail salon for some simple manicures and the stress-relieving hand massages that come alongside them. The suggestion to go today after work couldn’t have come at a better time. I had broken two nails in under an hour and the polish was starting to make me look like I had switched personalities with a teenage Lindsay Lohan. When I met her at the salon, I entered nervously. It had been months since my last manicure and my hands were a mess. I had been told before that I don’t have good “drying habits” and the dampness I leave behind after washing my hands is apparently a luscious environment for cuticle growth. The disappointment of Tami or Lynn or Lynn (everyone is Lynn) cuts through me like the tool used for removing the robust cuticles will eventually cut my pinky.
My friend and I took our adjacent seats and dutifully dipped our fingers into the warm bowls of mildly soapy water as Lynn and Lynn prepared their swatches of paper towel and strange ropes of cotton. My Lynn was very nice and made jokes with me about nail color as I loudly announced that the “accent nail” is over and that I’m bored with it. And then I noticed the girl on the other side of my friend and her impending “accent nails”. And then I noticed Lynn’s “accent nails”. Oh no. I had to think fast.
Luckily for me, Lynn had no time to get sassy with me because Lynn two seats down was getting sassy with her “accent-nailed” customer. I couldn’t hear all that was said, and most of it was in barely whispered Vietnamese anyway, but there was a tiff happening. It seems Lynn-two-seats-down had tipped Accent-Nail’s French manicure in the wrong shade of sparkly pink. I know. How DARE she? It’s not like there’s a language barrier and an entire wall full of pink nail polish. What a dilettante. Tension was thickening and those whispered Vietnamese phrases were reaching a level I could almost hear. Shit got real. Tracy, the owner of the salon had to come over and defuse the situation by speaking simultaneously to the customer about how they would fix it and to Lynn-two-seats-down about something very tonal, in Vietnamese. I bet it was mean. I would have been mean. Then Tracy yelled, “I know it misunderstanding. I misunderstand her too. Now you have to fix!” and marched back to her station.
Truthfully, because of the tonal qualities of the language, I have no idea who was mad or what was mean, but it all sounded intense. That’s why I’m scared into submission and regress into childhood every time I enter one of these places. There’s a sternness about Lynns that causes my friend to accept the chip in her fresh polish and mutter nervously that “it’s probably just the light…” when she gets caught inspecting it. It’s why I’m terrified to fish my keys from my pocket even a second sooner than the unspecified drying time limit. I have no idea how long I’m supposed to keep my hands under the ineffective light but I do know I’m always too early. You will be scolded unabashedly and you will apologize for their mistake.
And you better or you’ll get a sliced cuticle doused in nail polish remover. And it stings something fierce. My pinky finger is painted in a mixture of blood and black polish but I only winced for a second. I know the drill.