I met Paula Deen an Orlando nail salon

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love living next door to Walt Disney World, but one of the challenges, especially in the summer, is sharing my space with the mass influx of tourists. Everything from the theme parks to the grocery stores all the way down to the nail salons is packed with humanity during the peak season. My favorite nail salon is pretty much a walk-in place; in theory, you could make an appointment, but in practice it wouldn’t buy you much so your best bet is to just take your chances at what you hope is an off-time.

I decided that my toes needed a touch-up today and managed to catch a brief break in the crowd. It was the usual tourist circus, but little did I know that I was also about to run into Paula Deen and that she’s apparently a local.

There was only one open pedicure chair when I arrived, and it’s adjacent to the back of one of the couches in the waiting area. Two little kids, maybe three and five, were sitting there with a man (presumably Dad), and immediately spun around to stare at me in fascination. Living in Orlando, I’m pretty immune to kidlet antics, since virtually every restaurant is like a daycare from Hell all summer long. Besides, they were totally silent as though watching feet get primped was the most fascinating thing on earth. Either they were budding foot fetishists or just bored out of their minds.

Daddy, however, was not as mannerly at handling his boredom as his offspring. With the position of the couch, the kids were by my feet and he was by my head. He promptly whipped out his phone and started watching something with lots of screaming and loud explosions at full volume, without benefit of earphones. Uh, no. I’d finished my work early and was all about relaxing with a blissful hot stone pedicure as a treat. I didn’t feel like having it accompanied by a Michael Bay soundtrack.

Being from the south side of Chicago, I have no problem confronting rudeness head on. However, I thought it might be more fun to fight fire with fire. I brought up Amazon Prime on my phone, cranked my New Age playlist, and set it on the arm of my chair as close as possible to Explosion Boy. I told the man doing my pedicure, “I hope you don’t mind, but I want to relax so I have to drown out the rudeness.” Explosion Boy actually took the hint and turned it off, albeit with a sidelong glare.

I thought the rest of my pedicure would be uneventful, but little did I know that Paula Deen would soon come flouncing in the door. I should have realized she was going to put on a floor show when she bustled in, stared right at a man performing a pedicure on one of the women in a line-up of pedicure chairs that takes up the whole wall, and asked, “Do you do pedicures here?” Dude just rolled his eyes, and I couldn’t help saying, “I sure hope they do, because if not, I’m a little worried about what that guy is doing down there to my feet.”

Paula was soon ensconced in a chair a couple of seats down from mine. She then proceeded to boisterously complain that the salon was much too quiet. I’m not sure what she meant, as it had the usual buzz of low conversation among some of the people getting services, while others were simply kicking back to enjoy a bit of bliss. She proclaimed several times that she was from the South and that it’s just not the same here. Apparently she’s not good with geography and is also totally unaware that Tampa is home to the world’s largest Confederate flag. She yelped, “Hasn’t anyone here seen ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ or ‘Steel Magnolias?’” When no one spoke, she said, “No, huh? Well, that’s what a salon is supposed be be like.”

I still didn’t realize that I was in the company of Paula Deen herself, though, or her spiritual twin at the very least, until she asked the man doing her pedicure, “Who owns this place?” He responded, “Why, you want to buy it?” and she said, “Lordy, no! It’s Asian owned, right? I just wanted to know if it’s Asian owned because nails are your people’s thing, right?” I thought I was going to fall out of my chair; at least she didn’t says “Orientals.”

Presumably in an effort to change the subject before TMZ swooped in to see if Paula was wearing yellow face, the man said, “Where are you from? Georgia?” I swear I almost wet my pants when the Southern Belle said, “No, from Miami.” She must have realized how ridiculous that sounded because she swiftly added, “Miami is like the real south. I moved here to Central Florida, and it’s not the south at all. I’m moving back to Miami as soon as I can.”

The woman next to her made the mistake of making some sort of innocent comment, and Paula proceeded to talk her ear off for the duration, pausing only to boisterously exclaim, “I want to cheapest pedicure! Be sure to give me the cheapest one.” Vegas was naming her the odds on favorite in the “Clients Who Don’t Leave a Tip” category.

Alas, once she started chatting with her neighbor, I couldn’t hear her gems of wisdom anymore. It was time for my hot rock massage, so I drifted into sweet, sweet oblivion. I’ll admit I was a little sorry that the floor show was over, though. From Paula’s conversation, I gathered that she actually lived quite close to me, although she was counting the days until she could return the Confederate confines of Miami. It’s usually the tourists who provide all the entertainment, but today I got to enjoy Paula Deen live and in person with a routine better than any HBO comedy special.

Photo credit: “Pedicure 1″ by Stoive – Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pedicure_1.jpg#/media/File:Pedicure_1.jpg

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