I often cut through the North Bridge Mall on Michigan Avenue to get to the Grand subway station on my way home from work — especially when I want to avoid the weather. It’s a straight shot that takes me over Rush Street through Nordstrom and ends with an escalator that lets me off at Wabash. And it’s all indoors.

Years ago, I would never be caught dead walking through the North Bridge Mall for philosophically nostalgic reasons (or where they nostalgically philosophical reasons?). It used to be the McGraw-Hill Building, one of the last Art Deco buildings on Michigan Avenue. The landmark building was torn down to make way for a hotel and mall anchored by Nordstrom. The original relief facade was preserved and attached to a brand new construction that spanned several blocks. I had never been inside the original building, yet I’ve made frequent use of the shortcut through the mall.

Although I detest pretty much everything about the world of the shopping mall, it is there where I found myself Friday when I fell for the trap.

“Would you like a free sample?” she asked.

Normally I don’t waste my time with these come-ons, but my guard was down. “Sure, why not,” I muttered.

“Come here. Let me show you something,” she said as she grabbed my hand.

She had a disarming way and spoke with what I took to be a faint eastern European accent. I followed her to the kiosk.

“What is your name?” she asked, as she rubbed some lotion onto my hand. I was sucked in further.

“Do you like it, Tom? Now I am going to show you truly amazing. Do you want to see it?”

Before I know it, she squirted some liquid onto the fingernail of my ring finger and massaged it into my cuticle.

“Now I will show you something amazing,” she beamed as she pulled out a rectangular block. As she proceeded to buff out my nail, she asked if I have a girlfriend.

Fortunately, I am not a nail-biter. I gave that up years ago. So at least I wasn’t embarrassed about the condition of my nails. My cuticles, on the other hand, were in sad shape.

“Girlfriend? Yeah.”

“How long have you been together?”

“Oh, 15, no, 17 years.” (Actually 21 years. I have no idea why 17 came to mind as a correction to my first mistake.)

“Seventeen years and you are not married?”

I looked at her and realized she is probably not much older than my relationship. “Yeah, I’m a lucky guy.”

After she finished, she presented my nail to me. I have to say I was indeed amazed. The surface of the nail was completely smooth, devoid of any ridges. And a shine reflected off it that looked like a clear coat of polish, or grease from eating fried chicken.

“How long will this last?” I asked.

Two weeks.

Now I am not really a manicure kind of guy, but I was curious to see what this bit of indulgence was gonna run me.

“$80. But you get two packa…” she got out before I came to my senses.

“Sorry, to waste your time,” I said as I backed away from the counter.

More than four days later, I find myself frequently rubbing that fingernail. It remains remarkably smooth and I can still see myself in the reflection.

My other nails could use some work.

 

 

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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