Friday, June 24, 2005

I Don't Know The Korean For "I'm Sorry"

The local nail salon has three Korean woman, who do manicures and waxing, and two young Latina girls who do pedicures. Two of the manicurists have been there for years, and get the "regulars" and the heavy-duty wrap/fake nail customers. (One of these is the manager - for all I know the owner.) The third is usually there for about 6 months or so before disappearing and being replaced with another. Sometimes I learn why; one had a baby, another went back to Korea to care for her sick mother. Other times they are just gone.

A recent #3 was a very friendly, chatty older woman who unfortunately wasn't a very good waxer. Every time I got her, she would give up ("hairs too short") and send me out with a half-assed job. (Not literally. We're not talking nether regions here - eyebrow, lip only.) I don't usually complain - I don't send food back if it sucks, I am too meek to make a fuss. Usually. But one Saturday I had been sitting waiting for over an hour, carefully watching the rotation of people before me to see who would be available when it was my turn. I probably would have just left if it weren't clear that it was J, the owner. But when #3 finished her customer and said, "who's next?" the chick who'd gotten there before me said, "You go, I'm waiting for J." Which just pissed me off, although really, it wasn't the customer's fault that she was more assertive about her wants than I was. But as I followed #3 back to the waxing room, I suddenly just said, "You know, I'll just do the manicure today." And came back out and told J. that I preferred that she or #2 do my waxing. #3 came out and started my manicure and J. told her something in Korean and her attitude changed; I could tell her feelings were hurt. But as soon as she was done, #2 did my waxing.

That's me in a nutshell - too afraid to hurt someone's feelings that I wind up with stray hairs on my upper lip. I mean, other customers are always picky about who works on them - why is it I felt weird about it for weeks? I'd walk by (everyday - this place is literally on my block) and #3 would just stare out the window without her usual smile or wave.

Therefore it was with relief that last week I saw a new #3 sitting in the third chair. I was in for a pedicure, and another customer came in and asked for the previous #3. She said she had a present for her; #3 had admired her bookmark one day so she'd bought her an identical one as a gift.

"Oh, she's not here anymore," said J, and explained that she had been having headaches and had some kind of aneurysm and went blind. She said that she would see her at church the next day, and would give her the bookmark. The customer said she would pray for her as well, and for a brief moment, I wished I prayed, too.


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