Darrell Huckaby: When teacher talk turns to toenails

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

I am about to enjoy my 39th -- and final -- spring break as a classroom teacher. I have learned that teachers tend to get as giddy as the kids when that long-awaited vacation approaches. That sort of explains the rowdiness of my lunch table Monday morning.

Yes, I said my "lunch" table Monday "morning." Teachers take their 20 minutes when they are told to.

There were several of us crowded around the old math table in the Heritage commons. Caroline Ingle St. John was there, as was Margie Talevski. Heritage golf guru Mike Swords was sitting beside me, as was young Patrick Kicklighter. Tony Gray -- the Sage of Salem Road -- was holding court and was in rare form. Tony is the Last Man Standing at Heritage High School. He has been there since the doors opened and if it happened at 2400 Granade Road since 1976, Tony knows about it.

Talk turned, somehow, to wives who spend lots of money. I think it got around to that because I brought it up -- but it could have been Swords. At any rate, Mike and I began to complain -- OK, we were whining -- about how much money our wives waste on pedicures. Manicures we could understand, but pedicures -- especially in the winter when everybody wears shoes all the time, we just didn't dig.

"Let me tell you something," Tony Gray interjected. "Don't knock it if you haven't tried it."

We all looked at him rather incredulously, so he pulled out his pedicure card and showed us. "One more and I earn a free one," he told us rather smugly. The table broke up as we all conjured up images of Tony riding his Harley-Davidson up to the door of a nail salon, walking in, taking off his boots and "having his toes did."

"It's great," he insisted. "When I walk out of there I have happy feet."

Caroline hadn't laughed so hard since the woman told her drinking one $20 special juice a day for three weeks would cure her cancer.

Caroline let the cat out of the bag and told us that her own husband took great pleasure in having his feet pampered, and the uproar grew so loud that our principal, Punxsutawney Greg, came out to see what was going on. When we shared our topic with him he readily admitted that he, too, enjoyed a good pedicure every once in a while.

Patrick chimed in that his girlfriend's rather burly father had them regularly. That was enough for me. If Randy Page can walk into a nail salon and prop up his feet, then so could I. I vowed to be the first person in line at the salon Tony frequents the very next morning. I was, too.

I was greeted warmly by the owner and ushered over to an extremely plush chair. I was instructed to take off my shoes and socks and soak my feet in a nice warm tub of sea salt-enhanced water for a while. It felt great and I was so relaxed that I almost dozed off. As I listened to the soft chatter of the technicians I could almost imagine that I was soaking my toes in warm ocean water -- along the South China Sea.

Honesty compels me to admit that I had no idea what to expect, but a friendly, smiling lady approached my station, carrying a basket of assorted oils and lotions and nail files and clippers. When I brought my feet out of the water and she got a good look at them she was still friendly, but her smile faded a bit.

She muttered something that I couldn't understand and walked away. She came back in just a minute and had replaced her nail file and clippers with a pair of pinking shears and a metal rasp. I didn't mind that she had put on a pair of purple gloves but I did feel like the hazmat suit was going a bit too far. I actually got a little worried when she broke her pinking shears and replaced them -- and the rasp -- with a pair of hedge clippers and a lightweight McCulloch chain saw.

I understood, though. You've heard the expression "tough as toenails?" It was my toenails they were talking about. I haven't been able to touch them since 1987 or even see them this century. They are hard and thick and yellow, and I once injured a young puppy when I tried to cut my big toenail and the end flew across the room and stuck in his flank. And if you look up the word "grody" in the dictionary you will find a picture of my feet.

Once my lady had equipped herself with the right tools she went to town on my feet and for the next hour I felt like I was in heaven. My favorite part was when she rubbed the bottom of my feet with that lemon zester. She put oils and lotions on my feet and calves and rubbed and massaged them and I felt like a million dollars afterward. Tony was right. I did have happy feet.

I got my card punched on the way out, too. I can't wait to go back. But next time I think I will just get the clear polish. The folks at my lunch table didn't quite know what to think about my pink toenails.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.