22 May 2010

Nails & Books

Two days before leaving on my trip I got a manicure/pedicure. I had assumed that my fingernails would be chipped and ugly after a week in Puerto Vallarta, but that my toes should last the whole month. I was wrong on both counts. Nothing chipped that badly that a touch-up with some local polish couldn’t fix. The problem was that my nails had grown at such an astonishing rate that in only two weeks I had noticeable, quarter inch, crescent moon, unpolished nail beds; sort of a reverse French Tip. My nails usually do grow rapidly, but this seemed to be way more than normal.

My choice was to go buy nail polish remover and cotton and remove everything myself, (which is something that I loathe), or to find someplace here to do it. Having a well founded phobia of unknown nail salons, I already knew that I wasn’t going to let anyone do anything but take off he old and put on the new.

In my walks around town I’d passed a few places that advertised manicures, but most were in shops with no natural lighting and no air circulation. I imagined that anything at a fancy hotel would be more expensive than in the US. When I passed a place right off the beach, lit by only sunlight and cooled by ocean breezes, I decided to give it a go.

My first clue that I may not have made the best decision was when they told me to sit on a raggedy bench and brought over a dirty TV stand table to work from. My next clue was the basket of cheap, old, nail polish in ugly colors. Let me say here that I am just not good at standing up and walking out of any place even when I know I should. But I also reasoned that since they were not going to use any sharp, probably bacteria-laden implements on my nails, it would be ok.

I think the person doing my nails was actually a masseuse since she really didn’t seem to have a clue about how to even remove nail polish. She tried using some soaked cotton balls but the color remained, although it had now turned to semi-muck. Since I couldn’t smell any acetone, I asked her if she was sure she was using the right stuff. She then had another woman come out to try and help, to no avail. They both kept at it until I picked up the bottle of polish remover and pointed out that it contained lanoline and glycerin, (and I have a good idea that it had been diluted), and that they needed to use straight acetone. At first they weren’t sure if they even had any. It was another opportunity to walk out except that my nails were a sticky mess.

Once they used the proper stuff to clean my nails, I expected them to at least rinse them off; I was wrong. The manicurist picked up the bottle of bright red that I had chosen and started to open it. I asked about a clear base coat but she had no idea what I meant, not that they even had a bottle of clear polish.

Not having my reading glasses on, it looked as if all was going well. I told her only to do one coat; I just wanted to get out and would throw on a clear coat when I got back to the hotel. And then I started paying closer attention. The polish she was using was way past its shelf life; all gooey and thick. I mentioned that it looked a little old and that I was worried it wouldn’t dry. She sprayed some drying stuff on my toes, tested it and pronounced that all was well.

I paid and tipped and it really wasn’t that much less than a full US manicure. But it was done, so I didn’t dwell on it. It wasn’t until I got home, put on those glasses, and looked at my nails that I realized just how horrible a job she had done. It looked as though I had let some seven-year-old play beauty parlor with my nails. There was polish on my fingers and not on all parts of the nails; it was lumpy and bumpy and it would never thoroughly dry. I took a deep breath, an hour break, then headed to Farmácia Guadalajara for acetone and cotton.


Knowing that one needs books for the beach, I’d brought down a bunch of paperbacks that I’d gotten from the library sale shelf. I also knew that there was a bookshelf in the lobby of the hotel filled with dusty, musty books, in which I’d found enough to interest me on my last stay. I figured there must be a whole new batch after the high season folks had left. After all, I had left my book, (as in the one I wrote), innocently amongst the others.

I was pleased to find that someone had liked my book so much that they had taken it home. I was not pleased to see that what was left on the hotel bookshelf were only the books that were so covered in mold and dust that you’d risk serious contamination if you were to pick one up. I was further bummed to discover that a good number of those books I’d brought sucked. So a few days ago I gathered al the books I had read, all the ones I couldn’t handle, plus another copy of mine, and headed for the nearby coffee shop/book exchange store.

I got enough in credit to pick up several books and started perusing the shelves. A lot of NY Times bestsellers and a lot of stuff I would never read. I am not at all a “literature” snob; just read my book if you need proof. It’s just that nine times out of ten, I do not care for anything on the NY Times list. And then there was the problem of the lighting inside the shop that made it necessary to move at maximum speed and get out.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted my book on a shelf. Wow, the counter lady was fast to already get it out and slip it in while my back was turned. I reached down to pick it up and then realized it was the one I had left at the hotel five months ago. What that means is that someone cleaned out the good books from the hotel, walked over four blocks and sold them. Rather tacky. I peeked inside to see what they were charging for my book and it was way higher than the average paperback. Guess the pristine condition and awesome cover was the reason. However, it also means that it has less of a chance of being bought and read, which was the whole idea of leaving a copy. I did notice that my book was not shelved with mysteries but on a floor shelf with trade paperbacks, or something like that. I quietly shelved it where it belonged.

I didn’t have a lot of patience that afternoon, so only picked up one book, which turned out to be awful. I returned today to stock up and noticed that they had moved my book back to the location on the floor where it is not easily found. And now there are two copies, side by side. But at least I had the energy to find some authors I did know and like.