Let's start here: How dare you? Yes, you, the basic 35-year-old with a case-less iPhone in one hand and your US Weekly in the other. When you walked into this salon in the middle of a Thursday and brayed, "Who do I have to scream at to get a pedicure around here?" I thought, surely, she's joking, and I laughed at your poorly-executed humor. Then you clapped your hands twice, to ensure your request was heard. And it was.
You have a permanently-raised left eyebrow, so I wasn't sure if you were surprised by the endless array of color options along the wall or just in a perpetual state of Botox-induced wonder. Either way, you sighed repeatedly and pulled a bronze polish out of your oversized Birken, tags still attached inside. Yeah, we all saw that.
Leylah, your nail technician whose name you never used even though it was appropriately displayed, woven into her collar, smiled and walked you to the back, where you took a seat next to me. When you removed your heels and plopped your monstrous talons in front of Leylah, she didn't gasp, she didn't laugh or sigh or accuse you of growing up near a nuclear plant. No, she ran hot water and carefully sprinkled extra strength callous-removing powder into the tub. "This is too hot!" You shouted at her, or everyone, at an unnecessary volume. She nodded her head toward you and added cool water immediately. She didn't bark back that boiling water was necessary to remove the -- what was that, clay? -- from the heels of your feet. She turned to her coworker and said, in English, "I like her color, very summer." But because your mind was running rampant with likely narcissistic thoughts, you didn't hear her. You leaned forward and said "Don't talk about me in Asian please, that's rude."
You actually said that, to another human being, out loud. Asian is not a language. Leylah is Korean-American and yes, she is not fluent, but she was trying to speak your language to make you more comfortable. By this point, I wanted to scream at you, slap you across your frozen face and defend the woman you were treating as worthless simply because of her profession. A profession she is damned good at, mind you. But no, I said nothing and for a while, neither did you. You sighed repeatedly, frustrated by whatever injustices were happening on the pages of celebrity rags. You scoffed, "No, no, um no," when Leylah asked if you would like any additional services to maintain the pterodactyl claws you managed to squeeze into Louboutins. When she finished applying the polish you had chosen, you insisted that it was "too bronze." Even though the name of the shade was "Bronze to the bone," which might have clued you in before you committed to that color. That you brought in. And specifically requested. And watched her apply to 10 toenails before speaking up. But she changed it, without complaining, without stabbing you accidentally. As she reapplied a less offensive golden shade, you spoke as obnoxiously as possible on your cell phone to someone whose validity you clearly doubted, "No way! You're lying! You're kidding me! No way!" Only pausing to click your tongue at Layleh and shake your finger in her direction -- your attempt at communicating with the help.
I tried to meet Leylah's eye to let her know I was on her side but she kept her eyes down, working diligently, carefully perfecting the bizarre nail art you requested on your crooked, fat, toe.
My toes were dry by this point, but I restarted the timer just to see what else you'd do. Leylah gave you the bill, $22.00. "I'm not paying for the details you did because you messed up the first color," you said while handing her a $20. Layleh looked at her boss, they exchanged a few words, and Leylah walked toward the register. My stomach was churning, my fists clenched. You unbearable human being. You closed your purse after Leylah handed you the receipt and you stood up to leave. I stopped you in front of the door and quietly reminded you to, "tip her." You obnoxiously squealed a response, "What did you say?" I repeated myself louder this time. You scoffed and walked past me to your car. But I couldn't let it go, I already witnessed 90 minutes of your bigotry and harassment, yet I maintained my composure in a way you seemed incapable of. So I followed you outside and calmly gave you a few facts.
Layleh is 19 and works in this salon 60 hours a week with her mother and aunt. She has a son who is the same age as my son and all of her tips go toward his care. She is legally in this country, she was born here. Leylah makes $8.50 an hour to scrub your filthy feet, clip your ingrown toenails and carefully rub away horrific callouses. She is a professional who has the education and experience to provide you a service. How dare you treat her as inferior? I got as close to your face as I could, making us both uncomfortable. I wanted to be certain you heard me. "Don't ever come back here."
Not that you care, but I made sure that Layleh was paid appropriately for the services you stiffed her on. And if I ever see you in that salon again, acting like a spoiled child, so help me Lord, I will not hesitate to let you know just how inappropriate and disgusting your behavior is.
Follow Jessica Ciencin Henriquez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheWriterJess