In my hand, I am holding a bottle of O.P.I. Shanghai Shimmer, a dark rosy nail polish. I step forward to occupy the chair that the pedicurist has indicated. As I stand beside it, shrugging off my navy ruffled cardigan, she rushes forward to offer her help. She takes my large red purse, accepts my folded sweater, and guides my hand to the chair’s arm. When I am seated, she repositions the adjustable left armrest and places my caramel macchiato on an attached table.
Guided by the sound of water filling the basin before me, I swing my feet over the edge and place them on the low platform at the end of the chair. The pedicurist gently plunges my toes into the hot water, and I recoil. “A little too hot,” I explain, and she adjusts the water’s temperature. Soon, both feet are submerged in the warm rippling water.
I lean back and enjoy the spa chair’s rigorous massage as the pedicurist readies her tools. With my eyes closed and sunglasses on, I could easily fall asleep here – the sound of the running water and the slow massage of the chair start to overpower the two shots of espresso in my drink. Just when I am getting comfortable, she lifts my right foot out of the water and begins her work.
First, she applies a cream of medium thickness to my cuticles, rubbing the surface of each toenail. I feel the cool touch of a small metal tool against my skin, and I know she is trimming my cuticles. As she supports my foot with her free hand, the tool glides along the borders of each nail. When she finishes all five toes, the tool is laid aside with a tinny metallic clink.
Her grip on my foot changes, and I feel the presence of a weightier implement in her other hand. Deftly, she positions it against my toe, and I hear a resounding snap. She clips most of the nails on my right foot, evening their length. I take a sip of my coffee and relax into the massage chair, which squeezes my upper back with reassuring rhythm.
A significant thud lets me know that she has laid the tool aside. Her grip changes again and so does the feeling at the edge of my toes. A minute jarring sensation and low-pitched scraping sound accompany the file’s quick progression along each toenail. Then the file disappears, and a squishy foam block passes over each nail. The pedicurist silently lays aside the buffer and places my right foot – filed and buffed – back in the warm water. She lifts out the left foot to administer the same treatment.
Then she places my left foot into the lukewarm water and lifts the right out again. She runs an assessing hand along the bottom of my foot, feeling for calluses. Silently she picks up another tool and begins to rub along the bottom of my foot. Suddenly, I experience a sensory barrage – the tool works and sounds like a lemon zester, sending vibrations up my calf as it removes rough skin.
After the application of the zester, my toes come into contact with what feels like a giant toothbrush. The pedicurist dips my foot into the water and scrubs at my tender toes with a stiff-bristled brush. Then she rubs an exfoliant over my foot, ankle, and calf. She scrubs my leg, rinses it, and leaves it to soak in the water. She repeats the procedure with my left leg and lifts both out of the water.
Placing both of my feet on the platform before her, she dries each thoroughly with a soft towel. She even dries in between my toes, which comes as a surprise. While sipping my coffee, I suddenly feel the towel methodically slipping between each of my toes. After inserting glamorous foam separators between my toes, she begins to apply the Shanghai Shimmer. She holds my foot in one hand and paints with the other. The pungent smell and the chilly feel of the nail polish combine with a barely perceptible pressure as the silky little applicator flits across each toenail.
As the nail polish dries, the pedicurist covers my legs in lotion that smells like fresh-cut oranges and mangoes. She massages the lotion into each leg, working out tight spots along the bottom of my foot and up my calf. Holding one foot tightly in her hand, she pummels my calf with her fist. Then she pummels the foot. I’m so relaxed by the entire massage that I forget about my coffee. I don’t even notice that the spa chair has turned off.
After the massage, she wraps my legs in warm towels and lets them “steam” – she runs the towel along my leg to absorb excess lotion. As she cleans up her work area, I hear all the tools rattling together. She retrieves my silver flip-flops and meticulously slides them over the toe separators onto my feet.
I lean back against the inactive spa chair, sipping my coffee and waiting for my dark pink toenails to dry. When I stand up, my feet are so soft that they slide around in my sandals. But it’s not a big deal – I’m in no hurry to walk away.