Poulenc at the Nails Salon

This is a little story about two strangers sitting next to each other one day in a nails salon.

A year or so ago, I finally took my daughter’s advice and walked into a nails salon for a pedicure.   Before you roll your eyes at this seemingly over-the-top self-care occupation, remember that I have significant knee problems and reaching my toes is a major challenge. At least, that was my rationale for finally giving this a try.

The routine for getting a pedicure includes sitting for about 30 minutes in a large soft chair that can be adjusted for comfort (into nearly all possible configurations) with your feet in warm swirling water.  Sometimes the pedicurist is chatty, sometimes not.  Sometimes the person in the next chair strikes up a conversation, but this is a little unusual. I think that, for many women, the occasion offers a sort of “time out”  from the concerns of the day.  I’m happy with the pleasant quietude that is often present.

So, on one particular day a couple months ago, as I was sitting in my comfortable chair at the salon and Charlie was working on my feet, another customer came in and was directed to the chair next to mine.  I glanced over at her — not anyone I knew.  Quietude resumed.

Then, somehow, a brief conversation got started between the new customer and me.  I think she mentioned something to her pedicurist about an upcoming musical event that she was attending.  We started talking a bit about music in our lives, and she told me she was very close friends with the owner of our local piano gallery.  Well . . .

That grabbed my attention, and I told her about my enjoyment of playing two-piano works with my piano partner Melinda for the past four or five years.  And, in fact, Melinda had purchased her second piano from the close friend’s piano gallery.

Then I got more caught up in the evolving conversation and began to describe the 2-piano piece we had just started working on — Elegie, composed by Francis Poulenc (a French composer who lived from 1899 to 1963).  Elegie is a kind of ethereal piece, much of it comprised of enormous chords — left and right hands together.  Melinda and I were sort of lurching our way through it at that time, struggling to find one big 8-10 note chord after another.  The woman in the next chair looked at me, and said “Oh, Poulenc!  That is so typical of his work.  He had huge hands!”


How is that for serendipity?  That the woman sitting next to me in a nails salon was not only familiar with the name and music of Francis Poulenc, a composer who had only recently popped into my life, but she knew that he had “huge hands”!  Hence the enormous chords, well within his reach but not mine.

The everyday threads of her life and mine came together in unexpected ways that afternoon.  For a moment, the two of us — who just happened to decide to get pedicures on the same day, to go to the same nail salon, to go at the same time of day, and to be seated in chairs next to each other — had a brief but meaningful conversation that involved shared interests and knowledge at a surprising level of understanding.  It was a moment of bright connection in the everyday!




2 thoughts on “Poulenc at the Nails Salon

  1. Betty, One of the things I enjoy most about your blogs, and you, is your capacity for amazement. It helps make life fun for all of us! –Sue


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