VALLEY STREAM, NY– Eleni Kostopoulis can be found every Tuesday morning at 9 at her small table in the main lobby of Long Island Jewish Valley Stream ready with the tools of her trade, a file and nail polish. In her alcove at the hospital, she gives free manicures to visitors in the surgical waiting room, alleviating some of the anxiety for those with loved ones in surgery. The service may seem a strange one for a hospital waiting room, but the time spent interacting with Kostopoulis over a manicure is time not spent worrying. The simple offer of a manicure while waiting often leads to a conversation. Kostopoulos said, “People will tell me what they have gone through in their personal lives, the sicknesses they have, a lot of different things. They also tell me about the family problems they have, sometimes it’s very sad.”
Kostopoulis grew up in Athens and has 40 years’ experience doing nails and listening to her clients with 3 and a half years working at Long Island Jewish Valley Stream. The hospital contacted the company Nail Therapy to add the service and Kostopoulis signed on, knowing the often therapeutic value of sitting down and having a chat over a manicure. The effect is close to visiting a therapist though without the need for a doctor’s referral.
“People confess to me because they don’t know me. I’m a stranger to them and they know I’m not going to see them again,” Kostopoulis observed. “They feel like they want to talk to someone. I don’t know if they want my advice, but I give it. I tell them what I feel and if they take it, they take it.”
A skilled listener, Kostopoulis realizes that there is often much more to a manicure than just the manicure. For a short time in the little alcove, the visitors are distracted from reality and from the tedium and anxiety of waiting.
“It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the manicure. I clean and file their nails, put on fresh polish, and massage their hands. I love doing this because people feel better when I’m finished.”
Even after the manicure is done, many linger, continuing the simple human interaction sometimes missing in their everyday lives, especially in this technologically-advanced age when people spend more time staring at their phones than talking to each other. Though Kostopoulis is a stranger, her friendly demeanor leads some visitors to ask to keep in touch. She noted, “A lot of people give me their phone numbers. Really my life is so busy I don’t have a lot of time to call them. But people say- call me, I’d love to talk to you.”
Kostopoulis is unsure about the long-term effect the service has on the visitors. She said, “I don’t know if I’m making a difference in people’s lives into the future but on that day, definitely…definitely. It makes a difference in that moment. They feel relaxed and say: ‘Thank you so much, thank you so much.’ And I love it.”