Fun and Pampering in YYC

Where: Victoria Nails, Kensington

The Experience
I book an appointment for next week at Victoria Nails. It’s the first, and only thing, on my calendar for the next 3 months. Actually, when I look back there has been nothing on my calendar since the Covid pandemic started three weeks ago. It’s so nice during these troubled, grey days that seem to go on and on, to actually have something, Oh God anything, to look forward to. I spend the weekend wondering what my first foray into the world of masks, physical distancing, and Plexiglass will feel like.

On the day of my appointment, it feels like a really big deal to have somewhere to go. I want to make sure I’m not too early for this, but not too late.

I walk in and immediately see the extensive work they have done to be safe: plexiglass, masks, a new floor and even a new flat screen TV. There are official looking certificates that they have done the work requested of them by the government to keep safe during the pandemic.
Cindy, my regular manicurist and pedicurist, looks up and sees me. She says what she always says when a customer walks in. Since I’ve been dreaming and waiting for this moment for many weeks now, the words, if a bit muffled because of the mask she is wearing, sound sweeter to my ears than ever before:

“Pick a colour.”

I walk over to the wall of polishes and see every hue imaginable. Getting the right color feels important. I pick a lovely, bright pink. How can pink polish on your hands not raise your spirits even if just a little bit during these topsy- turvy times?
She takes the polish and I start soaking my nails. She starts the manicure, separated from me by plexiglass. I want to ask her how she is, how her daughter is, but she’s busy at work already filing and shaping. Since we’re both wearing masks, I worry conversation will be muffled. It can wait until next time.

“Long time,” she says. Indicating there’s plenty of work for her to do.

I lean back a little, revelling in this good feeling: of being out. Yes, I’m out of my house, finally, and out of the Covid cords that I wash and wear every single day because really, why not? It’s not like anyone is looking. It’s nice to have an afternoon of NOT doing what I’ve been doing every day during the afternoon since the pandemic began: eating my baking, eating chips, and waiting for the gorgeous blue woodpecker to land on the tree across the street so I can spend the afternoon watching it. That blue woodpecker is so productive. The sizable dent in the tree he’s made attests to that. So productive when I’m not. When many of the rest of us aren’t at the moment.

I go from the manicure station to the pedicure chair carefully so as not to smudge the pink polish and start soaking my feet. There’s plexiglass between Cindy and me there as well. These people have done their homework. She continues to quietly work away, clipping, filing, exfoliating, polishing, and I feel, bringing my nails back to life; bringing me back to life.

I watch Ryan and Kelly on the new flat screen TV. Near the end of the pedicure, Cindy rubs lotion on my legs. I think about how I don’t want it to end yet. I’m not ready to go back into my cocoon. Not just yet. I was worried my first foray into the world during Covid wouldn’t be relaxing but I feel pretty relaxed. It’s not quite the same but still, I do feel pampered. More importantly though, I feel comfortable and safe.
I get up, put my shoes on, and my feet feel light as pillows as I go to pay. I feel revived. I give Cindy a larger than usual tip.

“Still relaxing. Still wonderful.” I mumble through the mask.

“See you in three weeks,” she says.

I love this. I love anything right now that sounds like a normal routine.

By the time I leave, others have arrived and are going over perusing the nail polish colors.

“Pick a color,” I hear Cindy say as I start to head out the door.

I notice a couple walking holding takeout coffee cups. I walk in the opposite direction thinking a take-out coffee on the way home could be the perfect way to prolong this lovely afternoon. I haven’t seen a take-out coffee cup in months.

I order a dark Sumatra.

“Ma’am, keep your head behind the plexiglass” the barista says.

I’m not used to wearing a mask and ordering with all these obstructions.

“Please wait by the curb” the barista continues, after taking my order.

Coffee cup I hand, I start walking home. I sit and drink the coffee by the Bow River. I admire the view. And admire my pink polish. For a fleeting minute or two all feels right with the world, all feels normal. Free now, I’ll soon be back encased in my cocoon again. I finish my coffee and start heading home. I hope I’m in time for the woodpecker’s return.

March 1, 2020