Leftovers: Nailed it

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A few sad and disturbing things have me preoccupied. Not just biggies like what’s really in Trump’s safe at Mar-a-Lago or how many fewer Ukrainian flags are flying in Portland this week, but smaller ones, too.

They’re important because small, sad, and disappointing things will add up and if not dissected and digested one at a time, can turn into a stressful, anxiety-provoking avalanche. 

Natalie LaddBut disappointing things are a matter of cause and impact, coping skills, and how close an individual may be to the ground zero of an issue. Such was the case when I recently went to get my nails done. 

I should have known something was off-kilter when I stepped into the convenient strip-mall spot to make an appointment. Having just walked almost all of my 10,000 daily steps for health and well-being in the blazing heat, I needed a shower. Additionally, Mellie, the Portland Phoenix director of barketing, was in the car (yes, my dog people, the car was running) waiting for me to hurry back. There was no intention of doing anything besides quickly making an appointment and going home to luxuriate in front of my newly installed window air conditioner.

Most patrons know nail salons have a rhythm to days and times when there are spikes in business. Before a long weekend, for example, during prom and wedding season, on Valentine’s Day, and prior to school vacations are just a few. We also know nail salons are an oasis of relaxation: Sitting in a pedicure chair with built-in massage features, some of the fancier places offer wine or champagne, and – I don’t care how bougie it sounds – having steaming hot towels wrapped around my sore feet are among the greatest (legal) pleasures. 

Don’t believe me? Just ask any career restaurant server or chef/owner after they worked four days of short-handed double shifts in worn-out Danskos that they’re too tired to replace.

Anyway, the appointment I went in to make was secondary to me after I saw how quiet and empty the salon was. Sure, it was a beach day but usually, at least one or two people would be getting a polish change or a new set of acrylic nails.

I was startled when a woman jumped up from beyond the front desk, greeted me, and firmly asked why I couldn’t come in right then. Explaining that I needed to clean up and my dog was in the car, she waved away my hesitancy. Go get the dog, she said. Turn off the car and have a seat in pedicure chair No. 2. Then, she sealed the deal with the three words all nail aficionados know well as she pointed to the hundreds of polishes on the wall: “Pick a color.”

Before sharing what this is all really about, I must confess that one of my dream jobs is naming nail polishes. Companies such as OPI and Zoya name the hues in thematic clusters of eight to 10 bottles, each intended to be used with the other for hands and/or feet. There’s a new neon yellow polish called Bee Unapologetic. Complement it with a soft blue called Sky True to Yourself, or a shimmering pink-orange dubbed Mango for It, and you’ll see why I turned my punny sights on the beauty industry. (Of course, this was after I got rejection letters from Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore.) 

Anyway, Mellie was resting comfortably when the woman told me she was the new owner of the salon. She had saved her money for a very long time and part of the business agreement was that the staff would stay there to work with her just as they had done with the previous owner. But, after one week they all left to begin working at the new place their former boss joined. Needless to say, their long-time customers followed and the new owner was left without staff or clientele.

While I would excel at naming nail polish and house paints, I’m no employment lawyer and am sure there are layers to the business dealings I’m not privy to. But at that moment, all the joy went down the drain with my scented pedicure water. No matter what happened between the parties, it was disappointing and sad to hear she was in that situation. It disturbed me so much I let myself be upsold by $5 and now have little hand-painted flowers on my big toes. 

Days after, while still preoccupied with the salon visit, I’m moving on to dissecting and digesting the bigger, sadder, broader disappointments in the world. I’m also brainstorming new color combinations and can’t imagine what new PG-13 name could be given to orange-on-orange apparel, or if a black-and-white jumpsuit with horizontal stripes will soon be all the rage.

Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].