When I was a kid I was a nail biter. My father hated it and whenever he saw me do it he’d snarl. “Fingers!” he’d shout, giving me a look like —how could I hurt him so bad. (I knew what he was thinking: that he asked so little of me…. Still, sometimes, when he was close enough, he’d physically pull my hand from my mouth, giving me looks Boston never gave Buckner).

The good man didn’t live long enough to see me stop, which I ultimately did. It was the ‘90s and someone told me if I had my nails done the biting would end.

I did and it did. (Not that there wasn’t some irony to it. Indeed, if my Dad was alive to see me get manicures, that alone would have killed him).

Every few weeks though, I sit for ten minutes. It’s quick stuff. No appointment; it’s just down the hall from my office. I just stick my head in and if they haven’t got time I come back.

No big deal.

It never matters to me who they give me. I’m not there to talk; I’m not on the make; I just want it done. No polish…no buff…no massage. And for God’s sake, “No sauce.” “Just cut my f’ing nails,” I’m thinking—and then let me leave.

By far the best place I’ve ever been cut was in Great Neck. And this for three reasons.

First, the shop was right across from the Great Neck Diner. ‘Nuff said.’

Secondly, it cost seven bucks. (I’d hand ‘em a ten and everyone smiled).

But today it was Cleveland…and I wasn’t smiling…at the shop.

I got in right away, of course. Had I not I’d have booked. But they gave me to someone I’d never seen before, and she didn’t know my game, and she didn’t seem to get it. Not even after she asked me what I wanted. Not even after I told her. Not even as Natalia (a regular) kept giving her looks.

Note: I never care whom I get. Nor do I care, for that matter, what they look like. Oh, I’d prefer there be no tattoos. And I’d prefer not to see those specks of crystal masquerading as jewelry stapled to their faces. But do I really care? I think not.

—As long as they don’t talk to me.

So today—from 4:30 to 4:40 at least—was a day from hell.

“Buff or shine?” she asked first.
I nodded, eyeing Natalia. “And no sauce either,” I added.
“No massage?”
“No thank you.”
“What about your cuticles?”
“Not today.”

The next half minute was great. It was silent.

“Why don’t you want a massage?”
“It’s not my thing.”

More silence.

“Did you get a chance to enjoy yesterday’s weather?”

More silence.

“Did you spend Valentine’s Day with someone special?”

More silence.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”
“I gave it up for Lent.”
She then turned to Natalia: “Is he joking?”

Even more silence as finally I thought she got it. I was wrong though. Seems she was just setting up for her grand finale.

“Do you have children?…Are they in town…Grandchildren yet?…”

She got nods.

“What do you think of the new coffeehouse?”
“Why don’t you want polish?
“Are you tired?”

I wasn’t rude, but I had nothing to say…to her.

(Well, that’s not true, totally. What I wanted to say was “Listen whatever your name is, the tip is three dollars, but five if you shut up).

—But like I said, I wasn’t rude. Moreover, true to form, I left four bucks).

Oh yeah—-seems I got sidetracked. There’s a third reason to get manicures in New York. It’s the manicurists themselves!

(They’re all Asian, you see. They can’t speak English).

3 Responses to “FINGERTIPS”

  1. Aunt Helen says:


    Just a heads-up/note of caution. I thoroughly enjoyed this missive. But if you ever have a “Part 2”, be careful how you title it. There might be a copywrite on it.

  2. says:

    I hope you know that you can only have, at the most, nine blogs with the title “Fingertips”

  3. Mordecai Brown says:

    Make that 3, at the most.

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