TORONTO — It was shaping up to be a miserable night for Brigit O'Neil. Toronto was still reeling from a record-breaking snowstorm and her streetcar was taking its sweet time. When a replacement bus finally arrived, the OCAD University student had been waiting in the bitter cold for 20 minutes.
Her foul mood was soon vanquished when she saw her bus driver: a 56-year-old man with long manicured blue nails, decked in sparkling rhinestones, which weren't apparent right away:
I had my headphones on, plus that plus a hood, so I couldn't really hear and assumed it was about my payment. I struggled to take it off and asked him to repeat himself and he told me he really liked my nails. He saw I was slightly confused by the compliment so offered his hand.— sugar (@kittybiddy) January 29, 2019
"I was like, 'Oh my god, your nails are amazing," O'Neil told HuffPost Canada. "I was dreading heading to class. It was the worst weather. He completely turned my night around."
She texted her friends a photo of his nails (they "died of the cuteness of it all") and relayed the heart-warming encounter on Twitter, urging people follow him on social media. When Michael Maguire woke up the next day, his phone was dinging non-stop with notifications.
The most glamourous commute in Toronto
Maguire, nicknamed Nails by colleagues, has been stopping Toronto transit riders in their tracks for four years.
"You get the whole gambit, from an odd look or 'Oh my god, your nails are nicer than mine,'" he said. "I see thousands of people a day and most don't notice."
The origin of his manicure starts in similarly bad winter weather. Maguire broke his leg during the 2013 ice storm and when his cast was removed, a nurse suggested he get a pedicure. The driver took her suggestion to heart and has been pampering himself ever since.
Fellow drivers, especially the women in his division, think Maguire's self-expression is fun. Some of his colleagues have tattoos; while he would never get them, he understands the appeal.
"Nails are my tattoos, except every two to three weeks I get to change them," Maguire said. "Be yourself! Why hang with the pigeons when you can soar with the eagles?"
He chronicles the fantastic results of his salon visits on Instagram, where he's been known to rock every shade imaginable. Most of the time, he keeps his nails natural and asks for shellac, drawing inspiration from Pinterest and technicians he follows. He's especially keen on holiday-themed nails and showing support for the Blue Jays.
He isn't afraid of getting dotty with it.
And, he's especially proud of a fluttery set he got last year.
While all eyes are now on his hands, his sunny disposition had many reminiscing of their own interactions with Maguire.
Omg I met him months ago at a Starbucks. He complimented my nails and then showed me pictures of his! It made my morning. 💗— travis & chloe (@__michellecosta) January 31, 2019
This is my uncle Mike! Awesome guy & he would be so happy to know this made you happy ☺️— sloan (@sloaanmoss) January 30, 2019
Just followed. Told my daughter and she recognized him—the day she got fired he was the ttc driver as she went home. He saw she was having a crappy time and cheered her up, showed her his nails, set her up to head home feeling a little bit better. 😘— pipichelle (@pukemoana) January 31, 2019
Maguire has taken the internet love in stride. As long as his nails put a smile on someone's face, he considers his job done.
"When you get on a bus with 200 other people and you're jammed in, it's not the nicest experience," Maguire explains. "For better or worse, we're all in this together, so let's have fun with it. Let's not be miserable. Plus, I like glitter."
More from HuffPost Canada:
Maguire isn't the first to turn heads with his transit-oriented nails. A British jewellery student embedded her Oyster pass in her acrylics.
The TTC has no policy on nail art or length. Regarding appearance, the TTC code of conduct only asks that employees be "mindful of their attire and dress appropriately."
Other transit authorities aren't as lenient. New York women train conductors complained after their transit authority banned long nails, The Journal News reports.
Their employer amended the ban after the conductors voiced concern, Poughkeepsie Journal reports.
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