Getting a tattoo hurts. We all know this. We all work around it. We all deal with it in different ways with varying degrees of success – but the bottom line is always going to be: Getting a tattoo hurts.

So obviously because it’s an unknown (how bad is it going to hurt? will I be able to handle it? will I be able to sit still?) most people are a uncomfortable and/or unsure of themselves on a first tattoo. A professional tattoo artist will do everything that they can to help someone through this process as comfortably as they can. Friends may not. Lovers may or may not.

Today we are going to meet a couple that we shall call Jenna and Roy. It’s a busy afternoon at the tattoo shop and all of the artists are working or about to begin on their clients. There are a few onlookers and supporters and a couple of clients waiting for their time in the chair.

Jenna and Roy have come to the shop to get their very first tattoos together. They have booked this appointment a while back and the artist has their designs ready. They look like any twenty-something couple. They are anxious and excited and ready to go. Paper work is filled out. Last minute design approval – all of the normal stuff.

It is decided that Jenna will go first. She is getting a decent size tattoo on her foot and she is nervous and wants to make sure that she doesn’t “chicken out”. Roy gives her a little ribbing about this. She kind of looks more nervous. Jenna starts around the counter to get in the chair while the artist is doing final preparations and getting her stencil ready. Roy must at this point have snuck off and downed some of Dr Jekyll potion and begins his transformation into full blown jackwagon.

He starts messing with her. He starts telling her that she is never going to be able to handle the pain. He tells her that she is going to pass out and make a fool of herself in front of all of these people. Roy is being such a loud mouth jerk that clients from other parts of the shop are trying to encourage Jenna. “It’s all right honey, it’s not that bad… see I’m doing fine”. Roy starts arguing with the other clients “You don’t know how big a baby she is – she’s never going to be able to handle it.” Jenna doesn’t really know how she is going to handle it, so she looks apprehensive and worried but determined. She doesn’t say much at all.

The artist gets ready to start and Roy is out of control. He is jeering, he is leaning across the counter telling how horrible it is going to be – I want to make him wait in the car and my client wonders out loud why ANYONE would be involved with this twit. Jenna tenses up holds her breath – the artist starts – and she is …. fine. It’s her foot, it hurts, but she is fine. She grips the handles on the chair and resolves to get through it. Roy is undaunted. He continues to torment her. Every time she cringes, he calls her a name. She glares at him but says very little. The tattoo takes in the neighborhood of an hour and a half, maybe a little more – Roy never shuts up the entire time. Other clients and patrons are irritated with him and once in a while tell him so.

Jenna’s foot is finished and bandaged and the artist begins preparing for Roy’s turn in the chair. We all kind of forget about them for the time being. All is quiet in that area of the shop.

Everyone focuses on what they are doing. The next thing I remember is hearing Roy scream some obscenity. Obviously I need to look over (as does my client). Roy is in the chair now, getting the outside of his upper arm tattooed (arguably the easiest part of the body to get a tattoo done on).

He has not handled his first line well at all. He is obviously frightened, clinging to the chair and looking like a trapped animal. Normally this would be the point where the artist would be supportive and calming to the client, but having listened to Roy run his mouth for the better part of two hours – sympathy is pretty low. The decision is made to just plow on through. The artist says very little, Jenna says even less. Roy makes up for it. He is pale, he is sweating. He is freaking out.

The other clients start jeering Roy. Yelling back all the same crap he had been hurling at Jenna. They are delighted by the distraction and are seriously enjoying watching Roy suffer and twitch. Roy is now pale, sweating and every other person in the shop is hoping that he will pass out.

He keeps asking the artist to stop so that he can catch his breath (which the artist does) Jenna continues to be stoic and remain pretty quiet. Clients and a couple of the other artists pick up the torch and pick on Roy. “What’s the matter?” “Awwww, poor baby, does that hurt?” “Can’t handle it?” “Your girlfriend did fine, what’s the matter with you?”. It is exceptionally rare to have one client jeer another and I think in my entire career I have never seen the entire group gang up on one individual like the attack on Roy. Of course there was never another client who deserved it as much as he did. It was glorious. Instant karma metered out by the hands of strangers.

Roy tries to defend himself to the room. “You don’t know how bad this hurts!!!” (not a good tact to throw out to a group of people currently being tattooed by the heavily tattooed). Laughter… jeering…. it’s a great distraction. Jenna is doing a her best to try to become invisible.

Roy is getting paler and worse looking all the time. Sweat is running off of his head. He is wiggling and moving around. The worse he looks and acts, the more vicious the crowd becomes. He continues to argue with anyone and everyone about how much more horrible this is for him than anyone else could understand. No sympathy. No quarter is given. Roy is at the mercy of the jackals.

He tries again to get sympathy and understanding from the crowd. “You don’t understand!” he blubbers “This hurts worse than when they took out my SPLEEEEEEN!!!” Laughter engulfs the entire shop. The volume and the whininess of the statement are too much. Artists have to stop working because they and their clients are laughing too hard to continue for the moment.

The laughter dies down – work resumes. Roy is quiet for a brief moment (finally!) and then he starts to go at it again…. when Jenna finally has had enough. She stands up, yells something at Roy and follows it with “Why don’t you just shut the f@%# up!”.

Applause. The room actually applauded. Well, and cheered, there was some of that going on as well.

Jenna sat back down. Roy actually shut up. Any remaining protests were muttered much much quieter and Roy managed to sit for the rest of his tattoo.

To this day around the shop we will occasionally ask each other (in a whiney voice) “is it worse than when they took out your spleeeeeen?” and we giggle to ourselves.

You can’t make this shit up.


spleen picture taken from I heart guts

~ by justteejay on December 12, 2010.

3 Responses to “Spleen”

  1. gotta love a post with the title of “spleen”… carry on.

  2. OK, tomorrow’s word of the day will be spleen. It’s actually kind of fun to say! I just hope that I remember that’s my decision when I wake up in the morning.

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