Sunday, December 9, 2012

373) salon experience

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.