I go to the salon maybe once or twice a year to have my hair colored. I’m not a high maintenance gal, so this is my one expensive indulgence (forget that you read that I buy designer jeans up above). For a month and a half out of the year, I look like a rock star with my hair all drastic two-tone and spiky and around my face. For the rest of the year, I look like a woman who pinches her hair back with little girl hair clips because she’s too lazy to get her roots touched up.
I have a Guy that I always see for my hair coloring sessions. He is good, My Guy. He is very good.
I have sent a dozen of my girlfriends to see My Guy because he is just that good. And they, impressed with his work, have sent their girlfriends, and they have sent their girlfriends. He is good, My Guy. But he is slow. He is very slow.
He is not slow in that “I’m going to take the next three hours to sculpt the latest and greatest piece of art nouveau that is going to be your hair” way. He is slow in that “I’m going to take a cigarette break every twenty minutes or so, wedge the cell phone in between my shoulder and ear and yak to my friends while I do your foils with one hand, and run from one end of the salon to the other in a wild, unprepared frenzy” sort of way. And this is how it goes every time.
You’d think by now, given my short fuse for bad customer service, that I would have picked another Guy to do my hair. But, My Guy, he is good. He is very good.
My appointment was supposed to be at 4:00. I was running a little late, so I called My Guy from the road and said I would be there by 4:30. At 4:12, I walked in the door.
My Guy is finishing up with some customers. They are French. It is odd to see and hear real French people in this city. I am so intrigued by what they are doing here with My Guy that I almost forget that they have kept me waiting for twenty minutes. It is now 4:40.
My Guy finishes up, the Frenchies pay, and My Guy hugs me hello. He puts on his jacket, grabs his phone and walks outside for a cigarette break. I flip through a magazine while I wait. He returns, and tells me apologetically he has lost my coloring card. I need to fill out another one. I do. It is now 4:55.
He has me sit down and he starts running his expert hands through my hair. In my mind, he is feeling for texture, familiarizing himself with his canvas, imagining the combinations of developer and coloring agent that will turn my limp dirty blond strands into gleaming swaths of suicide blond and deep chocolate brown. In reality, he is probably checking out his tattoos on his arms in the mirror.
He begins the mixing. He has to open a brand new jar of developer and needs to pour the contents from the bag to the jar. The phone rings. He answers. It is now 5:05.
My Guy cannot find his special comb for doing color. He searches. He looks on his tray, on his desk, on his table. He cannot find it. All the while he is muttering and giggling to himself. I cannot hear him because he has turned on his dance music CD and it is fairly loud. He also is out of foil. He is ripping the sheets of foil in half using the edge of the table for leverage. I start to look. I find the comb. It is on his table. It is now 5:10.
He begins. His tiny hands begin the work of separating my hair into almost invisible layers of hair to be colored and hair not the colored. He deftly paints the layers with foamy blue developer and wraps them up neatly in little foil squares. Sometimes he looks away, out the wall length windows and onto the street, while he does this. My Guy is that good.
At 5:20, an elderly woman walks into the salon holding a bottle. She asks for The Other One. The Other One is a woman who works at the salon alongside My Guy. The Other One is a miserable human being. She is always, always late for her appointments. She mutters to herself and has a gruff, cigarette smoker’s laugh. She is short with the customers. I try not to ever make eye contact with her. The elderly woman looks lost and confused. She asks if The Other One is on her way. My Guy says yes. That is a lie. My Guy always, always covers for The Other One.
The elderly woman says she should probably move her car, then, because she is parked illegally somewhere. My Guy smiles at her, whispers something I can’t understand into my foil covered ears, and giggles to himself. A man walks into the salon with a box. He asks if the Other One is around. The boxes are for her. My Guy pauses, brush mid-stroke in the air, and studies the boxes. Should I call her?, has asks the man. The man shrugs. My Guy picks up the phone. I have just one row of foils in my hair. It is now 5:30.
The elderly woman leaves to move her car. There is more talk about the boxes. My Guy takes a break to smoke a cigarette. The elderly woman comes back. The Other One is still not there for her appointment. It is now 5:40.
At 5:50, The Other One blows through the front door like a tornado. She is wearing an oversized coat, her hair has been thrown hastily into a giant clip, and she is red-faced and angry looking. She slams down her purse. The elderly woman stands up to greet her. The Other One is talking to no one in particular about how bad the traffic was. She looks at the appointment book, says, again to no one, that she “can’t stay that late”, and runs out the front door. The elderly woman is still standing, watching the front door. I want to hug her.
At 6:00, The Other One blows through the door again. She is still ranting about the commute. She finally acknowledges the elderly woman. She instructs the elderly woman to get in the chair to have her hair washed. The elderly woman now hands the Other One the bottle she has been clutching. She tells The Other One that she should wash her hair with the contents of this bottle because it is the only thing that doesn’t make her scalp itch. She says, all her life, she has used this soap, this Castile soap, and when her kids were babies, she never used lotion, only pure olive oil on their skin. The Other One snorts and grabs the bottle. The elderly woman is prattling on sweetly about raising kids. My heart is crying for her.
The phone rings. My Guy answers it. The Other One is complaining that because her two kids have to go to separate schools, she has to drive all over earth’s creation to get them where they need to be on time. She says that when she was a kid, her mom used to spend the day in bed. And she had to walk a half mile to school every day. I watch her blow drying the elderly woman’s perfectly white hair with a round brush. She seems to be using excessive force to pull the hair into the bristles. The elderly woman’s head snaps a little each time The Other One releases her white locks from the brush. As she is telling the Other One about the wedding she is going to, The Other One is muttering things over her shoulder to My Guy. They giggle together. The elderly woman is still talking as she pays and then walks out the door.
The phone rings some more. My Guy answers it. Another customer walks in. I suddenly want onion rings, and I tell My Guy. He runs next door to get me some. More phone ringing, more painting with the brush, more muttering and giggling, more me not hearing anything above the noise of the dance music and the hair dryer through the buffer of foil around my ears, but smiling politely. At 6:30, my foils are finally done.
At 6:35, friends of mine walk into the salon. They are here because I recommended this place to them. As My Guy takes another phone call, they tell me nervously that they are here because My Guy has told them that, unless they got there before 7:00, My Guy would not be able to see them tonight. I smile at them. Of course they will be seen.
The Other One has been working on her male customer’s hair now for some time. My Guy cuts my friends’ hair and they both look like gods and goddesses. I tell myself My Guy is good.
Another cigarette break. My Guy checks my foils. It is now 7:15. I am ready to be rinsed. I lean my head back into the sink. I love having my hair washed. I will pay My Guy well for this. It is worth it. I am just beginning to melt into the scalp massage when the phone rings. He answers. The phone is tucked into his shoulder. He pauses. I am hungry. I am growing weary of The Other One’s stories about her lousy day. I am getting a little dizzy under the fluorescent lights. I paw my way out from under my cape and make a dramatic gesture of looking at my watch. I really want to be done. I sigh. It works. My Guy tells his caller he has to go. He hangs up, rinses, and I walk back over to my chair and look at myself in the mirror.
He has done it again. I am a rock star, a celebrity, a bright shiny beautiful thing with platinum streaks spilling from my scalp. I look ten years younger. My skin glows. I am reborn. I am alive. He blows the top dry. At first, I am disappointed that he leaves the ends a little wet, but as they dry in a fuzzy, jagged, stylish shape, just as I demanded they should when I walked in, I understand how his genius works, and I am awed all over again.
It is 7:41 when I leave. I have been in this salon for three and a half hours. I am irritated that I have been here for half a work day. I almost get up the nerve to tell him that I might have to go somewhere else next time because three and a half hours is a ridiculously long time to spend in a salon when I catch my reflection in the mirror and swoon a little. I clamp my mouth shut and pay my bill. After all, My Guy is good. He is very, very good.