We are in a weird moment for transactional goods and services. As more people draw inwards towards themselves, the social contract is less clear. What do we expect when we pay someone to do something for us? Do we make small talk? Do we smile? Do we reach for connection?
I went to a nail salon today. I’d called ahead looking for a specific nail technician. I was really relying on having her as I treat pedicures as more of a medical grooming need than a strictly aesthetic one.
I get pedicures mostly because the bending over required for clipping, filing, and cuticle trimming is hard on my Ankylosing Spondylitis. I prefer to have someone handle that grooming for me to avoid the unnecessary discomfort.
Especially because an ingrown nail can be a significant infection for someone like me as I take immune suppressants for my autoimmune condition. A little nick or cut gone wrong can get me quite sick.
I like to know I’m working with a careful nail technician. I went through cosmetology school and am familiar with what is in a safe aesthetician environment.
So I was surprised to find myself trying to communicate via non verbal cues with a gentleman who seemed unclear about what tools to use for what job. The woman is scheduled the appointment with was busy with someone else. I said I’d wait but it got lost in translation.
I got more anxious as an acrylic nail drill got involved. I don’t use acrylics. And I really started to panic when a razor came out. I definitely didn’t want that used on my cuticles.
And I found myself unsure in the moment. Do I just trust this gentleman who cannot understand a word I am saying with razors and drills? Or do I just get up and go?
I stayed for too long. The drill was used on my big toe and cut down too far. I finally after some shock extricated myself and left cash on the table and drove home feeling scared and unsettled without letting him finish.
If we can’t figure out how to communicate with each it’s complicates your social expectations. I didn’t want to ruin a service or not trust the person in front of me. But I also have expectations for the experience and safety from knowing something about the job and it’s safety requirements.
I found myself unsettled by the whole experience. That my expectations are high trust and I find myself simply not being able to make the transactional moment work. I’d failed. I paid in full for a service I didn’t get what I needed. I left.