As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, my right thumb shines. Not the whole thumb, of course—no whole thumb can shine by itself, as I mentioned above. No, a thumb can only truly shine when the individual thumb submerges its individual ego in the collective identity of the hand, something most thumbs are aware of and accounts for their fondness for totalitarian ideologies. So, as I keep mentioning without getting on with the object of the exercise, my right thumb remains its usual opaque self; only the nail shines. This is an unusual occurrence, given the latitude of our happy little burg, and one that requires some explanation beyond the torturous meanderings that constitute this essay thus far.
I drove to the local mall a few days ago, intent on going to the camera store to make an 8’ x 10’ print of the niece marching with the high school band in the homecoming parade. The mall was packed solid, this being the Christmas season, wherein Christians of all denominations go to malls throughout the length and breadth of this our Great Republic and show their devotion to Our Lord and Savior by driving themselves deeply into debt. This generally upsets the natives no end, but they continue to do it, for reasons best known to themselves and evolutionary biologists, and on more than one occasion during my trek to the camera store I had to throw myself up against the walls of this temple of Mammon in order to avoid the stampeding herds of feral Christmas shoppers that inhabit such places at this time of year. I am not sure where all these shoppers come from and it surprises me that some team of naturalists hasn’t tranquilized one or two of these malignant beasts and fitted them with radio transponders, the better to study their migratory patterns.
Eventually, after a good many twists and turns, trials and tribulations, and whatever other alliterative examples you can think of—I’ve more or less ran out of them—I reached the camera store, and there, happy to find my troubles over, I reached in my pocket for a mint. At this juncture, I should explain that I rarely go anywhere without a pocket full of mints. We all have our little quirks, I know; President Grover Cleveland, for example, was inordinately fond of corned beef and cabbage, and President Ulysses S. Grant was inordinately fond of dry, overcooked food, and President William J. Clinton was just inordinately fond, period; so if these people can have quirks, I can have one too, and my quirk is mints. I like them, I want them, and I will have them on me at all times or I will go to extraordinary lengths to get a hold of some. Fortunately, extraordinary lengths were not necessary. All I had to do was go down to the corner of the mall to a newsstand where people from the Indian subcontinent would be more than happy to sell me mints, gum, soda pop, newspapers, and lottery tickets, not necessarily in that order. So I bought three rolls of mints and headed back to the camera store, my anxieties calmed at last, when someone took me by the hand and said, come, I show you something.
You’ve probably noticed that not all the buying and selling at your local mall occurs in the stores. At our local mall, which I imagine is a fairly standard American mall right down to the six figure chunk of cash it took the owners to buy the 1984 town board elections to get the thing approved (laugh if you want to, but that’s what happened), there are any number of vendors who do not have the wherewithal to occupy a store and so must rent their little piece of the main floor. There are a good number of these folks at our mall, hawking everything from next year’s calendars to popcorn to cell phones to a stall where they will pierce your ears and then sell you ear rings to put in the ears once you’ve had them pierced. Given their precarious position in the economic food chain, these unhoused merchants tend to be a little more aggressive than the folks in the stores when it comes to peddling their wares, especially the cell phone salesmen, who either can’t or won’t get it through their heads that I am not holding out for a better deal, I just don’t want a cell phone. I see no reason in the world why I should make it easier for people I don’t want to talk to in the first place to get a hold of me. This seems a perfectly logical position to me, but the reasoning clearly eludes them and only spurs them on to greater efforts to sell me one.
None of these folks had ever tried to physically waylay me before, however, and I was about to tell this one to buzz off when she introduced herself as Aviv and she had something from the debt sea to show me. I immediately asked, the what sea, since it was still early in the Christmas season and we will not start drowning in the debt sea until January or February. She said the detsy, the lowest point on Earth, and then it struck me that the young lady was referring to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest point below sea level you can be on this planet and still be breathing without gills; the lowest point on Earth is the Marianas Trench, which is out six miles beneath the Pacific somewhere. I didn’t feel like quibbling, however; Aviv was (and is) an attractive young Israeli woman—the Israeli part I figured out from the Hebrew lettering on a water bottle, the attractive young woman part I figured out for myself without the aid of signage in any alphabet. I’m getting old, but I’m not dead yet, thank you very much. In any case, Aviv decided, on the basis of some Talmudic wisdom unknown to overweight goyish males, that what I most needed in life was nail care products, and wasn’t I lucky in that nail care products was what she was selling? You bet it was.
Now, I should mention, in the interests of full disclosure, that I don’t think about my nails very often. Nails exists, as do clavicles, for example, and that more or less sums up everything I know about nails and clavicles and everything I care to know about nails and clavicles. Given this fairly utilitarian view, it should come as a surprise to nobody that my view of good nail care is to chew them off when they get too long and spit them out on the nearest floor. Aviv was shocked as I said this, tut-tutting and shaking her head at the awful way I treated my poor innocent nails, looking at me as if I’d said that I enjoyed stomping on kittens for fun and relaxation. No, she could not allow my ignorance to stand. I had to learn the proper way to care for my nails, a process she would sell to me for $29.99, marked down from $69.99. But first, a demonstration.
She seized control of my right thumb and began massaging the nail with what looked like a small sponge. It wasn’t, of course; it was some sort of glorified sandpaper, but Aviv explained that what her sandpapery sponge was really doing was buffing my nail and restoring the circulation to the area under the nail, which has a name that I can’t think of right at this moment. The news about the circulation came as surprise to me—I hadn’t realized my nail had lost any circulation. The subscription numbers were still strong, especially in the suburbs. True, some advertising revenues were down, but I thought that was because we don’t take tobacco advertising any more. Aviv assured me that this was not the case, and that my buffing my nails with special salts from the Dead Sea would stimulate nail growth and eventually lead to a newer, better me. Ordinarily, I would have mocked such a ridiculous claim for the nonsense that it is, but it’s not everyday that an attractive young Israeli woman with masses of curly hair and a low, throaty voice massages my thumb, and so I let the claim pass. Yes, I am that shallow.
I asked if the product were safe, what with the Dead Sea being poisonous and all, and she agreed that the Dead Sea was indeed a vast pool of death where no living creature lived, but then she pointed to a picture of two men, obviously death row inmates awaiting execution, floating on the surface of this very same sea and playing a quick game of table tennis before they disintegrated into the brine. I immediately protested against this cruel and unusual form of capital punishment, but she told me not to worry about it, and so I didn’t. I put the horrible fate awaiting those two poor schnooks immediately out of my mind. Like I said, I am that shallow.
It was then that she finished sandpapering my thumbnail and put something on the nail to “protect” it. I asked what it was, and she told me, but I missed the significance of what she said until the next day, when one of my co-workers asked me why I was wearing clear nail polish on my thumb. It was at this part of the treatment that Aviv turned the charm on full blast as she coaxed me into buying her nail care products for my wife/girl friend/mother/ female relation/significant other for $29.99, marked down from $69.99, and I must admit, it took a huge pile of will power not to buy her wares then and there. So, forced with the overwhelming desire to buy something I knew I didn’t need and would never use on the one hand, and not wanting to disappoint an attractive woman on the other, I did what guys throughout the millennia have done in exactly this same situation: I extemporized, which is just a fancy way saying I started to make not very convincing excuses. I’d have to think about it, I said, there was no point in making a hasty decision about anything, even if Christmas were coming soon. She pouted, clearly expressing her displeasure with my decision and with her wasting her time on such a goy cheapskate. She implored me to think of how happy I would make someone on Christmas morning. I promised her I would, but it would take me some time to mull the matter over and come to a considered opinion, but in the mean time, I wished her a Happy Hanukkah, and she smiled broadly. You’re Jewish, she asked, and I said no, but this is New York, where even the goyim are a little bit Jewish, and then I left her, promising her once again that I would give the matter a great deal of thought and that I would let her know one way or the other before Christmas of my decision. My now extremely reflective thumbnail and I fled then before she sold me time-shares on a condo in Gaza.
So now I have a shiny thumbnail, even though I don’t really have much use for one. It’s certainly a help if I wanted to go hitchhiking, I suppose, or if I need a safety reflector on a dark night. Other than that, I’m a little hard pressed to think of what I am going to do with the thing now that I’ve got it. Maybe I should go back to the mall and ask Aviv for some ideas about that.