The Redneck Salon

This past weekend I found myself about an hour out of the city, in a very rural town in North Carolina that's known for its pork production and little else. Max and I travel frequently out to the boonies to visit these friends, a couple with newborn twins. The father, a career military man, is heading off to South America on a humanitarian mission. And although Max had spent his entire week traveling, it was important to see his friend before the operation.

Because the guys wanted to spend quality time together, wife Ann decided to book pedicure appointments for us. To spend nearly an hour away from the twins, pets, and husband is like a vacation for Ann, and I am always up for a pedicure.

It's not that I find pedicures to be particularly relaxing. To have someone picking at my feet isn't what I'd call pampering. Pedicures amount to routine maintenance, particularly in the summer when sandals are choice footwear and especially because Max likes nicely manicured feet.

Nail salons in this city aren't anything fancy (unless you visit a day spa) and usually owned and operated by Vietnamese families. I feel comforted in this environment, having grown up with two Vietnamese men, like adopted brothers, who worked by my side everyday in father's restaurant. Today in the Vietnamese nail salon, I am reminded of both my past and of the richness in Asian cultures. As my toes dry, I chat it up with the nail technicians, trading suggestions on Vietnamese cooking techniques or arguing over which Asian market is the best in town. And, whenever I walk in to my local nail salon without Max, who is also a regular patron, the women look disappointed. In a melodic array of tones they ask the inevitable, "Where's your husband?" As if my presence isn't enough.

With all my experiences amid nail salons in the city, I didn't know what to expect from one in rural North Carolina. I reckoned it might be different, but tried to keep an open mind.

Located on a back road without discernible name or route number, the building which housed the Pocahontas Nail Salon seemed more likely to be an abandoned mini-market or gas station. Inside the owner had attempted to remove any trace of the building's original purpose. Southwestern art hung from the walls and each stylist's station was decorated with a wind catcher. I was surprised to see a full line of Aveda goods, the very same ones that my own hairdresser uses, as well as the OPI nail products used by my beloved Vietnamese nail salon. OPI would be where the comparisons stopped.

I waited a few minutes for Kitty, my nail technician, to finish her snack of Mountain Dew and pork rinds. Like a Monet painting viewed from a distance, Kitty seemed to be picture perfect--a pretty girl, with perfect hair and makeup. But as she stepped closer into view, Kitty appearance became more like a Picasso in his blue period.

"You my 2 o'clock?" she asked without waiting for a response. She directed me to one side of the mini-market, and Ann to the other side. This was one experience I wouldn't be sharing with a familiar face.

I took my place in the chair and waited as Kitty prepared herself to work. Feeling this awkward silence, I tried to start conversation.
"Pocahontas Nail Salon--that's an unusual name. Were Native Americans prevalent in this area?"
"Huh?" Kitty hadn't been paying attention to me, so I tried a different question.
"The name Pocahontas Nail Salon," I repeated. "Where did the name come from?"

Kitty pointed to a Beagle-mix that was curled up in a corner, just underneath the dryers.

"That's Pocahontas over there. She belongs to the owner."

Pocahontas lifted her head upon hearing her name, as if to make herself known. But like Kitty, she seemed more annoyed by my interruption and went back to her business.

As Kitty let my feet soak in the bubbling bath, she chatted excitedly with the other nail technician working beside her. I sat quietly, learning that the women, both in their early twenties, were mothers without husbands. I also discovered that this evening would be the big night out. The local club was featuring a bikini bull-riding contest. Kitty was the defending champion.

"Kitty wore a thong last year and won hands down," the other technician boasted.
"Yeah, but I had bruises for weeks," added Kitty.

Had I been able to reach the dream catcher, positioned just over my head, I might have strangled myself. I thought longingly back to my beloved Vietnamese nail salon. Had I been there on this Saturday afternoon I wouldn't be subjected to this conversation. I couldn't even understand it.

Fortunately for me, the conversation came to an end, when a decent looking man with a big truck pulled into view.

"Who's that?" the nail technicians asked each other excitedly. Literally staring with mouths open, the women watched as the man walked into the salon. My guess was that he was there to fill his tank, but instead he cozied up to the third nail technician--the one working on Ann over on the other side of the room.

"Is that her man?" Kitty wondered out loud. The other nail technician shrugged her shoulders.

As the man began to leave the salon just moments later, he noticed that both the nail technicians and I were staring at him. It wasn't that I found him attractive. I was more like a rubbernecked witness at the scene of an accident. Regardless, the man noticed us.

"Have a nice day, ladies," he grinned as he tipped his hat. I could feel my face turing red. Before too long the third nail technician had made her way to our corner.

"What were you doing all up n my man's face?" she said with a grin.
"Is that your man?" Kitty asked.
"No, honey, I ain't that desperate. I could have him, but I don't want him." she answered pointedly.

Kitty looked confused.

"Well, why not? He sure is cute," Kitty asked.
"For one, who knows what you'd catch just by touching him!"

This was one conversation I wasn't going to bear. I stepped out of the chair, with only the base coat on my nails.

"I really have to be going." I said politely excusing myself.

Foruntely, Ann was just about finished with her nails, too. We waited outside for the fellows come and pick us up from our afternoon at the redneck salon. Little did either of them know, but the humanitarian mission had begun with this act.

The following day, I visited my local Vietnamese nail salon to have my pedicure finished. A Vietnamese variety show played in the background, and two young women talked excitedly to each other. I couldn't tell what they were saying to each other, and found this extremely comforting as I dipped my toes into the foaming water.


running42k said...

Great story. Got to love the culture clashes, although bikini bull riding sounds interesting.

JustJunebug said...

oh my God, thats the funniest shit i have ever heard!!! i wish i could have seen your face!!!

├ůsa said...

That was so funny! You tell a good story. I’m sorry you had to go through that. It’s bad enough to have someone who’s not very interested in feet do your pedicure. But hey! It was good blogging material at least. Most people never get experience people like that. ...I hope!

utenzi said...

I just don't know what to say, Diane. The most shocking part was hearing that a guy gets pedicures. *Egad!*

David said...

The guy didnt get a pedicure did he? I thought he just walked in and made out the the lady that worked there?? Anyway I can't understand Vietnemese anyway so I probably didn't read it right.


TamWill said...

Thanks for the laugh, I needed it!
Redneck Salon indeed :)

utenzi said...

No, David. Not the guy in the story, I meant the guy in...

And, whenever I walk in to my local nail salon without Max, who is also a regular patron, the women look disappointed

I was referring to Max, Diane's guy.

kenju said...

Now see, I probably would prefer a nail salon where I could actually understand the technicians....LOL.
The ones I have been to here are Vietnamese too, and they do a wonderful job, but I hate not knowing what they are jabbering about while they work on me.

Grins said...

I tend to stay in Charlotte and not wander out to the countryside too terribly often. Every once in awhile though I'll get the bug to travel out away from traffic though.

Oh, by the way congrats on being Single of the Week!

mollymcmommy said...

YAY! you're single of the week! :)

i'm LOL'ing with your post, and trying to picture the whole thong thing, how odd!

loved the story!


The Daily Randi said...

Great, funny writing!