Okay. I’m certain that this blog’s title has got a variety of reactions, so let me perfectly clear: I am NOT one to go into a nail salon to “pretty up” his nails. I am a pragmatic realist though. I simply cannot cut my toenails. If I were to try, the result would surely end in a bloody massacre. I have found the least risky, most cost-effective way to deal with the impending doom of long, sharp daggers is to frequent a local shop that professionally deals with this minor inconvenience. So with every manly bone in my body I take a giant breath, gulp my pride, and march into the nail salon with my head up high.
Once I find a nail salon that I like, I tend to continue going to the same one. To me, it’s a matter of getting to know the Expert Nail Trimmers (which I will abbreviate as ENT) themselves. Quite frankly, it is not easy to cut my nails. My cerebral palsy makes me not only jumpy at any sudden sound, but if I am trying to keep still my muscles end up moving in a back and forth motion. When a new ENT tries cutting my nails for the first time, I am sure they are a bit naturally hesitant. After a minute or two, they finally get the hang of cutting my nails. Usually, upon meeting an ENT, I am greeted with a friendly grin and polite gestures. By and large, the awkward experience of getting my nails done is always not as bad as I had initially expected.
Whenever I go into the public, I usually get people that treat me as though I’m not all “there”. It’s just something I’ve learned to accept. We all get pre-judged by other’s first impressions of who we are. It can range from others thinking we are too fat, skinny, tall, stubby, hairy, hairless, grumpy, happy … I could think of a thousand more adjectives! For me it’s people usually thinking I’m mentally retarded. Oh yah – or extremely handsome .
About a year ago, I went into my newly favorite salon and was greeted by a new ENT I had never met before. Upon our first eye contact, I could tell she did not think I was mentally coherent. I tried to engage her in a friendly dialogue, but she could not break free of her first impression of me. Rather than treating me overly kind, which most people do when they think I’m mentally affected, she treated me with disregard. She quickly took off my shoes and socks, abruptly grabbed my foot, and haphazardly cut away. Usually it takes 10-15 minutes to properly cut my nails, but it took her 3 minutes. She improperly cut four nails and when I asked her to fix them, she grabbed my foot and almost blindly fixed them. After her cutting fiasco, I knew I would have to come back in a few days to fix what she neglected.
The common charge for getting toenails cut at this salon is $10. I reached for my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill and gave it to her. She started digging into her pocket to give me $10 change when I stopped her.
“No, no. That’s yours,” I said. She started to explain the charge was only $10, and I just said, “I know! The extra $10 is your tip.” She turned as pale as a ghost. At that moment I could see was reflecting upon how poorly she treated me. She thanked me profusely and even opened the door to help me outside.
Why did I give her $20 when her service itself only deserved $5 or nothing at all? Because all I could think of is the next person that she treated poorly due to her preconception of who they are. Perhaps a little girl or an elderly person who can’t speak up for themselves would be her next customer. I had to make a bold statement with lasting effects. If I were to merely scold her, what good would that do? It would most likely reaffirm her initial thoughts that I was an angry mentally retarded man not worth serving. By giving her more than what she deserved, I was hoping that she would simply be honest with herself that she deserved much less.
I am not saying we should always tip a bad server. Nor am I saying we should always reward bad behavior. What I am saying is we need to carefully weigh out the options before reacting to our own injustice. What would benefit not only the current situation, but also other people that get served by this same person? It may be that a harsh scold is in order. Or it may be an act of kindness helps them see their own disservice.
I still frequent the same nail salon and see the same ENT that did so poorly. Whenever she sees me, she eagerly helps me with the door, shares an enthusiastic smile with me, and offers to be my ENT for that day. When she does cut my nails, she does it with great finesse and much care. She is now well-worth the extra $10 tip I give her each visit.
I was invited to speak to an elementary school in northern California that had major issues with bullying. Bullying has gotten worse over the years, and many schools are at a loss knowing how to deal with this issue. I was a high school teacher myself, and understand the complexities and detriments bullying can have on everybody’s learning and social interactions.
Some bullying programs only focus on the fact that bullying is wrong. But knowing something is wrong doesn’t necessarily stop bad actions. One also needs to know why it is wrong. When I stepped foot upon this particular school I was determined to do my best at helping the kids see how bullying affects and hurts everyone – including the bullier.
When I entered the room I was immediately greeted by laughter from three kids. They were not laughing with me, but at me. The moment I started to speak their laughter got more intense. I immediately said, “I see that some of you are laughing at me.” I then scanned the room and looked directly at the kids that were laughing.
I then explained how if I saw them laughing at me when I was younger I would have been really hurt. Then I asked them blankly, “Do you want to hurt me?” Their laughter stopped. I then explained my story of why I’m in a wheelchair and how I value life and others – including them. Within 5 minutes all three of the kids, along with all of the other kids, began to cry.
At the end of my talk two of the three kids came up to me. They wanted me to know they were the ones laughing at me and they were extremely sorry. I embraced both of them and asked them to watch how they treated others from now on. They fully understood why I asked and eagerly said they would never hurt anyone again. This is why I speak.
In my early years of life – before preschool – I remember distinctly feeling no different physically than anybody else in my family. While I was born with Cerebral Palsy and need a wheelchair to get around, I have no recollection of being aware of my limitations when compared to others. I was just me.
That vantage point quickly changed my first day in school when I was greeted with an entourage of stares and snickers from other kids. came home crying and asked my mom what was wrong with me. She explained that they just never saw anyone like me before.
It took me a while to process that what I saw as an accepted normalcy, others saw as a weird oddity. Ever since I can remember I have always tried to look deeper into a person, finding their beautiful qualities inside. I have never felt limited because of my disability, even when imposing limits are placed upon me by others.
It is my passion and quest in life to help others see that many of the limits we place upon ourselves, or that are placed upon us, are just a false sense of reality. This is why I enjoy speaking so much. I love to encourage and inspire others to live their lives with unlimited bounds. It gives me no greater pleasure than to have people come up to me after I speak with tears in their eyes to say I gave them hope and a new perspective on life. That is what I live for.