American Dreams…One Manicure at a Time

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I used to get my nails done every two weeks. It took me a long time to get comfortable with that habit because of my own guilt for splurging on something so non-practical. Eventually, it was something that I did for myself, and nothing to beashamed of. But I digress…

I used to go to one of those nail salons that have a very basic name like Fancy Nail or Shiny Nail or Glamour Nail. You know the kind of place. Owned and operated by a group of Asian people. They have big thrones for pedicures, rows of tables of people wearing masks while putting on fake nails, day in and day out. Chattering to each other in their native tongue, leaving you to wonder if they aren’t talking about how gross your feet are. At any rate, I liked the place I went to. The people were friendly. The place was clean. And I liked their work.

I never had a regular person I saw there. I usually would just end up with whoever was next on the list to take a client. For the most part, everyone there was young-ish. Casually dressed. But there was this one man, I’d guess in his late 40’s early 50’s. He was always dressed a little more formally than his coworkers. Nice slacks, dress shirt, shiny loafers. He looked like he should have been in an office somewhere, not scrubbing the dead skin off my feet. I never could remember his name, because I am shitty with names in the way the Brad Pitt is shitty with faces.

One Sunday, he gets to working on my manicure, and he starts talking to me. Ugh. I’m not a fan of idle conversation. I stink at communicating. It’s easier for me to be silent than talk to people (and I am working on that). He asks me what I do, and I tell him. Where do I work? I tell him that too. He becomes animated and starts telling me about his son, who is in medical school.

“That’s quite a commitment.” I say

“Yes! Long time! Many years! So expensive!”

The man goes on to talk about cost of books. Cost of school. How hard his son works. Then I realize that this man, this business-dressed man, does manicures and pedicures every day, so his son can be a doctor. Think about that. He came to this country, and he touches some nasty-assed feet, so his son can go to college. What the hell did you do today??

Sometimes, it seems like that sense of sacrifice is lost on Americans today. Everyone is entitled. Everyone gets a trophy for just showing up and converting oxygen into CO2. For every person out there who turns their nose up at a job because it is “beneath them”, there’s a parent out there that take shit jobs so their kids won’t ever have to. Now, we have people who bleat about how immigrants come and “take their jerbs!”only to turn their own noses up at a tomato picking job that pays minimum wage because the work is too hard. For these immigrants, both legal and illegal, no job is too hard if it means their kid gets the chance at a better life.

I still think about that man, who was brave enough to file the dead skin off my feet. I hope that his son succeeds. If his dad’s work ethic is any indication, that boy is going to be an awesome doctor. Maybe even a podiatrist!

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