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Archive for September 13th, 2020

A cheesy title I will admit, especially for the serious tale which follows. I was visiting my favourite nail salon, you must know the kind, where the impossibly tiny Vietnamese women minister to the hands and feet of much larger women with large labeled bags, who are constantly checking their cell phones and chewing on their blonde hair extensions. Well, at least that’s how I find it here in Oakville. So why do I frequent such a place? I view getting a manicure and pedicure as necessary evils in personal grooming, and I never developed the skills to give them to myself. I don’t have so much stress in my life (frankly, any stress) that requires checking in to a local spa for a day of “pampering in a relaxing and soothing atmosphere of cossetted comfort.” No, I just want to get in and get out, paying as little as possible for a professional level service. In the COVID era, the price has gone up to pay for all of the personal protective equipment required and I am appreciative of that. I tip extravagantly and happily pay a premium for the hand sanitizer, the checkin process, the mobile screens, and lastly, the subject of this blog, the disposable masks.
The owner of the salon, a busy and quiet man, was doing the prep required on my fingernails as my manicurist finished up with another client. So when the door swung open and a patron walked in, he waved him over to an empty chair in a row of pedicure stations. I glanced over (men are not that common in nail salons) and noticed a middle aged man, good looking in a rugged sort of way, deeply tanned from a summer of sailing or golf and dressed in the kind of althletic leisurewear which could be Value Village or Lululemon. I also noted that he was not wearing a mask. I thought about that and said to myself, give him a few moments: maybe he has one hidden in one of those casual yet oh so expensive looking pants. Or he will run to his car to retrieve the forgotten mask: I do that too. But no, when I turned to look at him again, still no mask. No movement. I returned to looking at the manicurist who was head down, focused on my hands, and I thought, well, this is a conundrum that I have never faced before. I am pretty sure that there is a big sign on the door to the salon which explicitly states that you must wear a mask on entry. As it does in every commercial establishment in Ontario. To add to that, this specific salon had just been inspected: I was there when I saw the inspector go through every drawer in the place like a mouse seeking cheese, looking for infractions of the COVID code. I decided that since I was the patron closest to the man, that if he still did not have one on, I would suggest he put on a mask. However, being me, I tossed around various approaches to the subject: would I be a supplicant, pleading with him to put a mask on for the sake of the other clients (there were about 5 other women in the room plus the staff, all of whom were wearing masks) , and oh who knows, his grandmother perhaps. No, I should not have to justify myself: it is the law, and the law should be obeyed. But I did not want to come across as all judgy and strident, so maybe a light hearted appeal to his better nature, as in “Hey buddy, you really should wear a mask in. Don’t want to infect the pretty ladies who work here!” But that kind of messaging works best when delivered with a smile, which of course, was not possible, since I had a mask on. And then I briefly considered turning on the charm and giving him a coquettish smile before I tossed my long blonde hair and said, “Hey fella, I bet a mask would look good on you.” But then, little charm, no long hair, and then there’s the mask. And I doubt he would be fooled by my feeble attempt to deliver a flirtatious message while pretending to be 20. Even with the mask.

No, I decided to just turn around and tell him that he should have a mask on. Direct, unsubtle, and not really friendly. (I had all ready wasted enough mind time on this situation) To which he said, in a challenging tone, “Do you work here?”, implying that I had no right to tell him to do anything. My back was up, but I kept my cool, and said slowly and deliberately “No, I am a client here.” He then got up, muttering no doubt something about my intelligence or parentage under his breath, rolled down his pants and prepared to walk out. The owner by this point was standing close by the fellow, a box of masks in his outstretched hand. But the man shook his head, and stomped off, saying to no one in particular, “Have a nice day”, and then even more strangely “Merry Christmas”. I think that he just could not come up with a snappy rejoinder when he was so obviously and clearly in the wrong.
The other women thanked me afterwards, and I had that momentary glow of bathing in the admiration of others for my “bravery.” But then the salon cleared out except for me and the ladies who worked there, and I started thinking about everything that could have gone wrong. The law of unintended consequences if you will. He could have flown into a rage, assaulted me or the owner, ran back to his car for a gun and gone “postal”, waited for me outside and confronted me, or followed my car home. There are endless opportunities for paranoia. I consciously locked the door behind me when I got home, something I never do during the day.

Of course it was the right thing to do. Ben questioned, rightly, why the owner did not do it himself: he had lots of opportunity to say something when he was filling up the basin for the fellow’s feet. But I can understand the owner’s reluctance: he has lost 4 months of revenue, and likely thought that he could not afford to lose any more. If his fiesty wife had been there, she would have set him straight. Or maybe not: they might be desperate to make the rent, or pay utilities, and they may perceive that their need for cash outweighs the risk of being noncompliant. Or being caught in noncompliance. It’s a tough choice for small independent business owners. I have been told that I could have reported the salon, for allowing him in without a mask and then letting him sit there, maskless, waiting to be served. I don’t have an easy answer of these kind of ethical dilemmas. Will the salon owner do it again? Maybe, and that saddens me. I may just have to vote with my wallet, and not go there again. Sigh.

I just read an article in the New York Times this morning about a doctor’s experience with being the only masked person at a large adult birthday party in Pennsylvania. His masked face was met with eye rolling, derision, skeptical eyebrows, and expressions like “whatever, we all know we’re all OK”. To which I can reply, and all of the good mask wearing folks out there can say, no, we don’t. So put it on.




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