Perfect Timing

It was 1996. Her name was Denise, she worked at the Holiday Inn, and she's the only person

who's ever broken a nail by stapling it.


I don't see nearly as much talk about timing these days as I did a few years back. About five years ago it seemed that concern over how much time it took to do a full set or fill was at a nearly hysterical high.

Everyone was worried about competing with discount shops that could churn out sets in half an hour. Newbies were worried that if they couldn't get their times to under an hour for every service they'd never manage to keep a clientele, and even many veterans were aiming for the magic "booked on the hour" schedule.


Classes designed to help you whittle away your service time were abundant. Everyone was all about speed.


What happened?


Well, maybe what happened was that a lot of other people out there came to the same conclusion I did: speed is overrated. Sure, you get there faster, but you didn't see as much along the way. (This analogy is where I really wish the BF had STOPPED THE CAR on our way home from that road trip to Phoenix so that I could take a photo of the uber-weird shoe graveyard in the middle of the desert. I'd use that photo for this post. But no! He just drove right past all those shoes at 90 mph and we've been arguing about it ever since!) But yeah, I'm gonna go ahead with the road trip analogy and completely stray from my original thought that had me start this post ...


I got my speed down to the point where I was able to book on the hour. And then I started booking on the hour. For starters, at the end of the day I was Claw Woman. My hands were all crooked and sore and it hurt to stretch out my fingers. I was living on ibuprofen — which was not acceptable for several reasons.


Aside from drawing the conclusion that the money wasn't worth it, I also discovered that road-trip analogy: I wasn't enjoying the journey anymore. One very big component in what keeps me intellectually and philosophically satisfied about doing nails is that I take great interest and joy in the creative process, from the consultation to decide what direction we're going in, through the physical preparation and application of the products, to the feeling of accomplishment not only from the sense of pride in my own work for my own sake, but in seeing my clients’ delight with the end result. I enjoy interacting with my clients, I like that I get to participate in their lives, that I know about their families, their pets, their homes, their jobs; and I like that they know about mine. And, of course, I like telling those stories over and over again.


I approach the process of doing nails very similarly to the way I approach a road trip. I don't want to be rushed. I want to allow time to see the sights along the way, stop and take a picture and wonder at them. If my primary goal was simply to get to the destination, I'd take a plane.


So one-hour appointments didn't cut it for me. I stopped liking my job and started feeling like it was just a job. Like all I was doing was hurrying through to the part where I got my money. And it turns out that I really am one of those people who are not motivated by money— which is whole other introspective rant.


And it turned out that my clients didn't love it either. They don't stick with me because I can get them in and out in less than an hour; apparently they really want to hear my stories. And they want to talk about their lives and they like that I (mostly, anyway) remember what they told me the last time I saw them.


So I went back to allowing an hour and half for nearly every service — or sometimes two hours, for those clients who always take a little longer to decide what we're doing. I can still bend my fingers without medication, I get to hear what everyone has been up to, I get to tell my stories — wild gesticulation included — and my clients keep coming back. And when I finally retire (or keel over dead at my desk probably) after the money has been spent, I'll have years and years of good times to look back on and lots of pictures of the nails I did along the way ... I can still look at a photo of nails I did 15 years ago on a client I haven't seen since and know who it was and remember something about her.


All I have to show for that trip home from Phoenix is a BF who says, "We made it home in 6 hours and 27 minutes with a moving average of 82.3 miles per hour and a maximum speed of 103." (Yeah, he has a GPS unit.) But I don't have a picture of the bizarre shoe graveyard on the random fence in the desert to go with this post.


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