Longform

Foot in the Door

Page 6 of 6

Back at K Desert Nail Spa in Tempe, the workers in the shop continue to chatter while kneading their customers' feet or applying a coat of polish to their fingernails.

One worker is wearing a ponytail on the back of her head and a pink curler to hold up her bangs. She has just finished giving a woman with frizzy brown hair a pedicure and leads her to a fan on the floor to dry her toes. The customer came in with her son, a skinny college student with sunglasses on top of his head and beat-up flip-flops. Seeing the son who got a pedicure with his mom makes the girl in the pink curler wonder about a different male client. She asks her co-workers in Vietnamese: "What happened to the man who used to come in every month?"

"Which one? The guy who owns the Mercedes?" asks Hoa, still working on the tattooed blonde woman.

The worker with the pink curler says he's the one, and again wonders out loud why he hasn't come in for his regular visits. Then another girl in the back of the store throws her voice so her co-workers can hear above sounds of running water and scrubbing feet. Projecting through her hot pink mask, she asks, "Why would someone with a Mercedes be such a cheap tipper? He'd only give me $2."

Just then, the mother who was drying her toes tells her son she's about ready to leave. He heads to the register pulling out his wallet and tells his mom he'll treat her to the pampering. The workers notice the gesture and comment. They come to the conclusion that the son is only paying to earn extra Brownie points with his mom; he's a suck-up. The girl in the pink curler meets the son at the register. As she runs the man's card through a machine, she says to her friends that the son may be winning mom's favor, but "he's probably just good at spending his dad's money."

With a hint of envy, the girl in the pink curler finishes her thought: "It must be a nice life."

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Lynh Bui