American Tattoo | (760) 639.4545 | 125 Hanes Pl. Vista, CA

November 8, 2012


Today, for a few minutes, I lost mine.

Janine called me a few days ago on referral from a long time client of mine, Tanya. I told her I would be at the shop on Thursday, and if she wanted to give me a call around 1:30 pm I would know where my day was and if I could give her some name tattoos on her back. I told her to come by around 3:00 pm.

At 2:45 pm Janine showed up with her friend. I had to go to the post office, and told her I would be right back. I could tell Janine was excited to get these tattoos, as she handed me her release form explaining that it had been filled out.

I had them come back to my station. I brought out two folding chairs for them to sit in while they waited for me to break down my set up from the day's previous client. Janine talked about Mario her husband and how excited she was to get his name next to the bird of paradise flowers covering the right side of her back. I made stencils. They were too big. I resized them. I realized I spelled one of the names wrong. I redrew the name. I remade the stencils. I got my gloves on. The friend stood next to me and hovered over Janine's back.

Normally, a situation like this, I would freehand draw the names on someone's skin, but I just wasn't in the mood with the vibe I was getting from the friend. Like she really wanted to control every aspect of the situation that really had very little to do with her in the first place.

"Okay, don't touch her back. I just swabbed it with alcohol. Please," I said.
"Oh, I'm just trying to help," the friend said.

The two of them bantered back and forth about where all the names should go as they looked at Janine's cell phone screen displaying a picture of her back. This is where I should have pulled the reigns in on the situation, but gave this friend the benefit of the doubt. And this went on for a few minutes; I did all I could to stay calm and not let the red take over my brain.

"Okay. I'm asking you very, very nicely now, to please just sit down and let me do this. I don't come to your work and explain to you how to do your job," I said.
"Well, I'm only trying to help and you're not putting them where it looks good."
"Well, if you can sit down and just hang out maybe I can focus on the task at hand. You are driving me nuts. Please just sit down and hang out."

The friend moved her chair closer to Janine, cell phone in hand, explaining to her where the names should go. I made the mistake of allowing this for a few moments and asked her to take her seat again, as she was standing again. She pouted a bit, but did sit down and I made some progress with the stencil application.

"I mean, I'm here to help," said the friend as she stood up to look down on Janine's back as I rearranged the order and positioning of two of the names. "You know I just don't like that L. It just really doesn't look as good as the other letters."

"Okay. That's it. Now you need to go to the lobby. I'm done having you back here and you needing to always have the last word," I said. "This isn't your tattoo."
"Well. Fine. I'm leaving."
"Ohhhhhh, man," in chimes Janine.
"Please just go to the lobby."
"I just can't believe this. I mean I'm here to help."
"You are not helping. Please just go to the lobby."
"Fine. That is just rude. I can't believe this."
"Fine. Get out of the tattoo shop, because now you are done. Get out."
"Whatever. Fuck you," the friend said as she walked toward the exit, handbag trailing behind. I took off my gloves and shot them into the trash.
"Fuck you."

I tell Janine I am sorry I lost my temper with her friend.

"That was ridiculous. I haven't had to do that in a couple of years. Shit," I said as I walked into the office to grab my water. "Write a Yelp review about that!" I shouted from the office recalling commentary from the friend earlier as she looked up online reviews on her cell phone as I was setting up my machines.

"I just need to sit here and drink this water and breathe and calm down," I said.
"Oh man, oh man," said Janine.
"Do you still want to get tattooed?"
"Yes. Yes I do."
"Okay. Let me just drink this water and we can do this."

And I did my best to draw the third name on her back, but my hands were a little shaky and what I drew looked dumb. I asked her to look at it in a cell phone picture I snapped, but my voice lacked conviction, which she picked up on. Janine suggested we just do her husband's name and not the two others. My weariness conceded the situation, begging me to end this dreadful encounter, worthy of the earlier days of my career.

"You know, I'm glad that just happened," Janine said. "She does that sometimes, like she just doesn't get it. She just can't stop sometimes."

I tattooed "Mario" in five minutes, reassuring me of my own skills as a tattooer and that there really are some nut jobs out there. Those people who just can't mind their own business or take a hint. Those people who impose themselves so heavily and are offended when you reach your limit, oblivious to your verbal warnings. The people fleas.

After I bandaged Janine and washed my hands I told her the tattoo was no charge. I am sorry for losing control, but please, don't ever bring that friend along with you again.

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