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Getting My Nails Done

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.

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