Monday, August 18, 2008

Carp at your Service

An odd, expensive, little service offered by a single beauty salon in Alexandria, Virginia, was covered nationwide, lately. I read about it on the internet, but it was also detailed in my small-town daily. The service is a fish pedicure.

The fish involved are garra rufa, commonly known as doctor fish. They were first used in Turkey and had become popular in some Asian countries before Yvonne Hair and Nails salon introduced them to America.

The fish are small, perhaps an inch long, and have no teeth. They feed on dead skin, and when presented with a pair of feet in an individual, warm-water foot bath, they immediately swarm around, gumming off areas that a pedicurist would otherwise remove with a razor. The treatment lasts from a quarter to half an hour, after which the customer gets a standard pedicure.

All the articles I read seemed to have been picked up from a single source: AP. The article says that the service has been offered for four months, and in that time five thousand pedicures have been given. (That’s at $35 for fifteen minutes, $50 for half hour.) Each foot tank has about a hundred fish in it, with the salon’s stable (school?) of total fish numbering about a thousand.

I was trying to do the math about how much money the salon would have made that first four months, considering the investment was about forty thousand. I also wondered how voracious the fish were, because to run that many people through, it seems as though the fish would be required to eat on demand all day long. My observation of fish, gleaned from several spectacularly unsuccessful fishing trips, is that fish have definite times when they’re willing to eat and other long stretches when they fast.

Pedicures seem to be so popular, nowadays that even some of my granddaughters have had them. I’ve never had one, not even a regular, non-fishy, pedicure. However, when I was a teenager, we used to swim at Falks Lake all summer, and I remember many times when I’d have to shake my feet, because some little fishies were nibbling my toes. The water was so clear that I could look down and see them. I can still remember the tickling sensation, just like the patron described in the AP article. I didn’t realize it then, but I was way ahead of this particular beauty curve.

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