Tales from the Nail Salon: Lost in Translation
I returned to the Scene of Humiliation this afternoon. Yes, I’m talking about the nail salon where, as you may remember, the Pedicure Lady suggested my toenails were just the right size to paint a landscape of the Himalayas plus the entire population of China.
Lest you think I spend all of my time lounging in nail salons, I should note that my previous visit was my first in many months — in part because I think pedicures are akin to torture (cutting cuticles could effectively replace waterboarding as an interrogation technique) and, mostly, because I was too embarrassed to go to the salon for a while, having lost both of my big toenails due to ill-fitting sneakers (R.I.P.).
That was six months ago. They just grew back. In the meantime, I’ve left a trail of displaced fake toenails wherever I’d go. Every day I’d come home and look down: “Damn! I lost another one!”
No wonder people never invite me back to their places.
Thank heaven nobody insulted my big ol’ toenails this time. Quite the opposite, the ladies fawned over me, addressing me as “honey” (yeah, I know, they call everyone “honey,” but I’m still a sucker for it) and telling me how nice I looked. Again, total sucker. The Vietnamese-American nail salon ladies are so sweet, in fact, that I feel bad engaging them in a conversation. Why? Well, between you and me, I can’t understand a word they say outside of “honey,” “square or round?” and “cash only.” So I end up nodding my head and smiling in response to everything they say, leading to kooky “Three’s Company”-like misunderstandings.
Example: A few years ago, one of these lovely ladies asked me what I did for a living. At the time I was a staff writer for the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” so I told her I worked for a “daytime drama” — because that sounds much more impressive than “soap opera.” Or so it did in my silly head. The lady squealed with an excitement I hadn’t received since sharing that same bit of news with an Aussie in Sydney, where B&B airs in prime-time and is much more of a BFD (Big Fucking Deal) than here in the States. The Nail Lady proceeded to ramble on enthusiastically — me nodding and smiling along the way — finally taking a moment to catch her breath by asking:
“So what Dr. Phil like?”
Oh dear. She thought I worked in daytime talk shows. I stared at her face, hopeful and expectant, and knew I could only say one thing:
“Dr. Phil is one tough dude. Just like he is on TV.”
I think I made her life with that statement.
You’d think I’d learn my lesson and actually, you know, start admitting to them that I don’t understand. They don’t seem to be the kind of ladies who would be insulted by such candor. But, no, I still continue with my idiotic nod-and-smile routine — which almost landed me in the California Department of Child Services today.
NAIL LADY: No see you in long time. Busy?
ME: Yes, working and, of course… [GESTURE TOWARD BELLY] … The baby!
NAIL LADY: Oh my goodness! Baby!
Nail Lady really digs into one of my cuticles. Blood gushes everywhere. Nail Lady is oblivious.
ME: [BITING LIP IN PAIN] Yes, six months now…
NAIL LADY: Oh my goodness! How much it weigh?
ME: Weigh…?! Um, I don’t know, almost two pounds now?
Nail Lady recoils as though I just told her I like to shred the baby and sprinkle her on chicken casserole.
NAIL LADY: Baby six months? Only two pounds?!
ME: No, no, no, no, no. I’m six months PREGNANT. [NAIL LADY IS STILL CONFUSED, SO I POINT TO MY BELLY] Baby is still in HERE!
One of the other ladies translates for her. A sigh of relief.
NAIL LADY: Oh! [LOOKS AT MY BELLY] You small!
Candy makes mental note: Add another dollar to her tip. Right after I put some ointment on that cuticle.