So, I got into a fight in a bar. This is not nearly as rock and roll as it sounds because it was a nail bar. You know, one of those cheap and cheerful salons where you can get a manicure or pedicure for $25.
And it wasn’t a physical fight – hey, my nails were wet. Still, it got pretty ugly.
There I was, sitting calmly with my feet soaking in the sudsy water and my nails being filed while I tried to balance my phone between my knees. Degree of difficulty: high. First world problem: you bet.
I barely noticed the woman when she walked in. Late 50s maybe, dressed nicely but low-key. Nothing fancy. And then she opened her mouth. “Are you very experienced?” she said loudly to the Vietnamese manicurist who nodded meekly. “I need someone who knows what they’re doing. I’m sick of getting bad manicures.”
The background chatter in the salon evaporated as everyone’s attention was drawn by the woman’s aggressive tone. She was also talking in that excruciatingly loud way some people do when speaking to migrants. She’s Vietnamese, I wanted to say. Not deaf. Or an infant. “Tell me something about that new Shallac nailpolish that lasts two weeks, can you?” she demanded as the manicurist, clearly intimidated, stumbled over her words trying to answer her barked questions. “Wait, what are you DOING?” interrupted the woman, snatching her hand back to examine it. “No, look! One side of this nail is higher than the other!” And so it went on. Every time the poor manicurist did one stroke of the nail file, the woman inspected her work and told her she was doing a terrible job. “No! Not like that! What are you DOING?” Now, I’ve had this particular manicurist before. Many times. She does not do terrible jobs. None of the women in the salon do. And you know what else? It’s a MANICURE. And it costs $25.
At one point, the manicurist said something in Vietnamese to a co-worker (as happens often among people whose first language isn’t English) and this caused the rude woman to crank it up a notch or four. “You know, it’s very rude to talk in another language when someone doesn’t understand it,” she scolded at full volume. “You’re being VERY RUDE!”
By this point, the manicurist was practically in tears and I was shredding my tongue, having one of those internal debates about whether to say something. ‘Maybe it will get better,’ I thought in the way bystanders often do. ‘Just leave it a bit longer.’ So I did and the poor manicurist bravely soldiered on.