poetry for breakfast 12/9/2012
Here's what happened: Last Friday afternoon I called True Salon and made a hair appointment for Saturday morning. I asked the guy who answered how much a color would cost. He said, seventy-five bucks, which I thought was reasonable.
And what about for a cut, I asked next. How much is that?
He put me on hold while he consulted Gigi, the stylist he'd booked. Also seventy-five, he said a moment later.
I just want a quick trim. Nothing fancy. Could I get a discount?
He put me on hold again, and when he came back this time, he said the stylist would discuss the rate with me in person.
Fine, I said, and hung up feeling satisfied.
The next day at the Salon, Gigi introduced herself with a professional smile. She was tall with shoulder length brown hair, and she wore a black dress. When I sat down at her station, we discussed color options. Then I asked her if we could make a deal for the cut, since all I wanted was a quick trim.
I'm sorry, she said, my rate is seventy-five dollars flat. Doesn't matter if it's a quick trim or layering. At most, I could give you five dollars off today.
Okay, I said. Then just color, no cut.
She shrugged her shoulders and went off to mix colors.
Seventy-five bucks for a hair cut at a trendy salon in L.A. is fair, in my opinion, if the cut is complex. I knew the no-nonsense job I wanted would take a couple of minutes, and I didn't want to pay more. I would go somewhere else to get my simple cut at a bargain price.
When Gigi got back and began dousing my hair with dye, she asked me about my week, my life, and my interests, and then I asked her about hers. We talked for a little while, and then she said, how do you want me to style your hair after I wash out the color?
No blow dry, I said. I'm going to go to the little salon next door for a quick cut right after.
It's just that I'm watching my spending these days, I added quickly.
She nodded. I understand.
I liked her. She was friendly but aloof. A good balance between conversational and controlled. She asked enough questions to establish a connection, but not so many that I felt I was being forced to talk.
While the color dried, she drifted off to chat with another stylist, and I grabbed a mystery novel out of my bag and began reading. Occasionally, I'd tinker with my cell, check Facebook updates or take pointless pictures of my feet, but mostly I just read. I liked how the story swept me out of the salon and into nineteenth century England. Once or twice, I glanced up at my reflection in the mirror, and it was odd, but sitting there in the black leather swivel chair, I seemed a stranger to myself. I was so used to the mirror at home. Here with color soaking my hair, I looked like some woman I barely knew.
Half an hour later Gigi ushered me over to the sink for a rinse. She massaged my scalp, and I felt my stress melt away. It was nice to relax. It had been a long and exhausting week.
After the rinse and towel dry, we were back at Gigi's station. As she brushed my hair, I yawned and glanced at my watch. It was almost eleven, and I still had another hour left in the meter. I would have enough time to stop in at the cheaper salon next door.
Okay, Gigi suddenly said. I'm going to cut your hair. You want a quick trim, right? I'll do it free of charge. But just this one time, okay. It's silly for you to walk to another salon when you're here already.
Um...really? I said, uncrossing my legs.
Yeah. It's fine. I don't mind.
Th-thanks. I really appreciate it. But I could pay half--
Don't worry. It's on me.
She grabbed a pair of scissors and began snipping the ends. As predicted, it was a quick cut, but she made an effort to be meticulous. Her kindness totally threw me off. I hadn't expected it, but more so, I hadn't expected how it would affect me. I felt tears forming at the corners of my eyes, and I wasn't sure why. It was generous of her to give me a free cut. And while I could've agreed to the full price if I'd wanted, it meant something that this woman, who was a stranger, would help me out like that.
Are you okay? Gigi said a moment later. She was peering at my reflection in the mirror.
I'm fine, I said. My allergies are just acting up.
She ran her fingers through my locks, drizzled them with hairspray, then dried and styled a bit. All in all, I was pleased by her efforts.
At the cash register, I left the most generous tip I could manage, waved Gigi goodbye, and walked out into the chilly Sherman Oaks air. My eyes were tearing up, and by the time I got into my car, I felt mushy, emotional, and silly, and then I laughed out loud because it didn't make any sense to me.
What had happened? In retrospect all I can say is that kindness can be powerful. It's impact, mysterious. Someone's passing generosity had moved me. And a gesture like that, when it takes you by surprise, can be as evocative as a beautifully written poem.