French Manicure

It was lunch hour on Thursday. I went for a manicure–hadn’t been since the scathing story in the New York Times bringing to light the mistreatment and exploitation of manicurists. There were only two women on duty–the senior ones, one is, in fact, a senior citizen–and both Asian. I get the sense they are not being deprived or exploited or perhaps I’m simply trying to absolve myself of any wrongdoing in patronizing the salon.

It was a special occasion: this evening my friend and I would be seeing a production of Blithe Spirit at the Amateur Comedy Club. This is the theater where my mom starred as Queen Elizabeth I in Maxwell Anderson’s Elizabeth the Queen in 1974. It would be the last time she performed on stage, and the first time I saw her perform–she was magnificent. I was a bit nervous about setting foot in the theater again, a landmark founded in 1884 and still going strong. I needed nail armor to protect me.

Lunch time is a popular time at the salon, and I typically wait 15 to 20 minutes, but it’s worth it. The ladies greeted me with, “Pick a color,” and I went for OPI’s “Sapphire in the Snow,” same as last time–a deep blue, bordering on purple hue.

blue nails
photo by E. Herd

After about 10 minutes, two French women–one tall, blonde and lean; the other, shorter, brunette and more voluptuous–strode in like puffed peacocks.

The blonde said, “Is someone available for manicure and pedicure?”

The older Asian manicurist said, “Pick a color.”

The women, speaking vivaciously in French, perused the shelves of bottled colors, then burst out laughing.

They seated themselves on the pedicure La-Z-Boy-type chairs like throned queens.

“Can you fill the water?” the blonde said to no one in particular.

The manicurists muttered in their language, and the younger one filled their water troughs. Both were occupied doing manicures for other clients.

Note: For those not familiar with the World of the Nail Salon, it is unusual–at least in my experience–to seat oneself in the pedicure chair and ask the nail specialists to fill up the water so you can soak while they are servicing other clients.

The water started to fill up the troughs.

The blonde shrieked, “Oh, too hot!”

The elderly manicurist added some cool water while muttering to her co-worker (never in English).

The blonde fiddled with the remote which adjusts the seat, and can even give you a back massage too (I don’t care for it myself), and the two women began flipping through the available magazines.

The brunette pointed at something in People magazine, and they started speaking in French and laughing raucously.

The manicurists continued their private conversation in hushed tones, snickering intermittently.

When I was finally seated for a manicure, the blonde woman and I made brief eye contact.

As we looked at each other, I thought, “It’s people like you who give the French a bad reputation.”

Anyway, I was happy with my manicure and I don’t think I exploited anyone that day.

Kindergarten Bus


photo – Howard County Library System 

Every morning, I turn on CBS news to check the weather and see what horrors have ensued while I was asleep. The fun part of the morning is John Elliott, the perky meteorologist who lets us know it’s “hug a squirrel day” or “eat peanut butter day”: he must have a special book he looks these things up in. Then there’s Alex Denis with the “Now Trending” segment. She shows us cute youtube videos of animals, children and adults doing the darnedest things and simple acts of kindness.

In the spirit of “Now Trending,” I want to share with you my morning news which I feel is headline-worthy (at least to fellow commuters). It happened on the NJ Transit bus when the driver said, “If you have an empty seat next to you, please raise your hand.” That’s something a teacher would say to her kindergarten class. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The bus driver was quite friendly and I know she didn’t mean to sound condescending. A lady across from me on the other side of the bus sat alone with her tote bag but didn’t raise her hand. Deliberate non-cooperation. For shame. Hey, we’re all in this together, New Jersey commuters. “Jersey Strong,” as Governor Christie says. After all, he’s always looking out for his fellow humans. Maybe she’s a germaphobe, but if that were the case, she wouldn’t be riding the bus at all—it’s filthy!

Back to our bus driver. The drivers should (hate that word—so laden with negativity and dogmatism, but nevertheless) be keeping track of how many passengers have boarded, so the showing of hands would not be needed. In my over 7 years riding the bus, no driver has ever asked us to raise our hands. But there’s a first time for everything, right?

After she took note of the raised hands and more passengers boarded, she said, “Thank you.”

You see, that makes all the difference. Thank you. She asked us to do a thing, and some did, some didn’t, and she thanked us. A little civility goes a long way. That makes it trend-worthy.

As for the lady who didn’t raise her hand, she reluctantly let a stranger sit next to her. As she moved her tote bag from the seat and placed it onto her lap, her face scrunched like a balloon losing air. Did she really think she could hog two seats during rush hour? Just plain rude.

Now, what’s trending with you?

‘Twas All Hallows’ Eve

‘Twas All Hallows’ Eve and all through the bus
commuters were stirring, but no one threw up

A passenger clipping his nails behind me
another jerking and clearing his throat beside me

I put on my headphones to block out the sound
until in Port Authority we were safely aground

The bus driver said, “Have a good weekend;” we wished her the same
“Thank God it’s Friday” was our refrain

On the streets of Manhattan, a bracing autumn day
a man spat right in front of me and blithely went on his way

I look forward to tonight with the trick or treaters—
costumes and candies and toilet paper streamers
I welcome hobgoblins, zombies, Spiderman and ghosts,
witches, Frozen, Miley Cyrus with a big foam finger and other weird folks

What I won’t abide are the Rude Ones, you know who you are–
elbowers, seat jerkers, nail clippers, hummers, near and far
people whose seats drop in your lap, those who shove you with mighty thighs
open-mouth coughers, loud cell phone talkers, you who play videos without earphones– fie!

No candy for you, this is my decree
a pox on you Rude Ones—begone with thee!