Friday, October 24, 2003

Glamour, Buses and Humans


It has been a while since I had that very bad hair day, and wrote about the Nurse Ratchet creature who managed to make me look like an inmate from an nineteenth century institution (In the Company of Witches).

Since then, I've found GLAMOUR. And no, I don't mean that I've become glamorous - I'm not that sort of gal! But I HAVE found someone who can cut hair. Her 'salon name' is Glamour and she works at Hair Farfalla, 1577 3rd Avenue, New York.

You can get an excellent cut and blow dry from Glamour and I recommend her to anyone looking for a decent hair cut in Manhattan. The cost? A very reasonable $25! And that was the size of the tip that I'd been obliged to give at Frederic Fekkai's.

Glamour is great. She doesn't chat about the weather or ask where you are from. She's amiable and polite, and after discussing your needs and giving her opinion, she sets to work and reforms even as bad a mess as I had after the Nurse Rachet episode.

Which just goes to show that good things CAN happen in New York City.

Buses and Humans

But a new haircut does not a life make. The stress of New York living goes on. And perhaps the most stressful times of the New York day, are the trips to and from work Monday through Friday.

But at least these seat-hoggers are innocent. The real culprits are the gum-chewing, body-pierced teenagers, who sit whilst the workers stand, oblivious of the age or mobility of those standing.

I'm right off the subways here, and so travel, whenever possible, by bus. I get two buses to work, and two back home. Four trips every work day. On the way to work, my bus number-one travels down Second Avenue to the Queensboro Bridge. Yes, that IS how it is spelt... This morning bus is dominated by preschoolers and teenagers. Not the best start to the day, especially when they take up all the seats.

The little ones know no better, and watched adoringly by their parent, put dirty sneakers on the seats, and either scream or eat their way through their daily commute to child-care. As you strap-hang in front of these seated rulers-of-the-future you begin to realize that you will be lucky not to be alive in the mid twenty first century.

But at least these seat-hoggers are innocent. The real culprits are the gum-chewing, body-pierced teenagers, who sit whilst the workers stand, oblivious of the age or mobility of those standing. Last week, a woman on crutches eventually asked one of these creatures to give up her seat. She was greeted with a sulky glare. Eventually this apology for a human being stood up sluggishly , put her backpack on the seat and proceeded to rearrange her schoolwork - the rap magazines, the candies, the bottles of designer water and her music collection. She then moved on with a heavy sigh as the crutch lady sagged exhausted into the vacated seat.

If the United Nations is in recess, it generally only takes me half an hour to get to the bridge, where I change buses to for the final leg to work. If Bush or Chirac is in town, Fergetaboutit!

Well, 'changing buses' is a nice way of putting it. What REALLY happens is that I cross Second Avenue to the bus stop and wait. And wait and wait.

There's a special man there, employed by the bus company,
whose sole job appears to be to inform the multitudes waiting, that the bus will be late again.

When he's not telling us about the late bus, he sits in his RV reading the New York Post. There's always a reason that the bus is late. Usually it is that it has broken down. But sometimes there's a another reason. On Friday it was that the driver had been drug-tested - and failed.

But eventually the bus arrives. The passengers disembark. And then... well THEN the driver gets out and locks the door.

We all wait patiently. Even the local obsessive compulsive who walks to the end of the block and back again incessantly; his head turned at a precise 45 degrees to the top of the Humane Society for Animals across the road (his whole body spins around but his eyes never leave their focus when he turns to walk back), continues his ritual.

The driver has his cigarette. Great, one task over. Two to go and we can get on the bus for our trip to work. He then buts it out, makes a few buddy jokes with the man-whose-job-it-is-to-tell-you-that-the-bus-is-late, and ambles off across to the diner across the road. I assume he has a coffee there, as he certainly doesn't go to the bathroom. That is task three. Watching him return from the diner we see him go through a door between the local Scores - a gentlemen's club, and the Day Care Center for Pets. Presumably for a trip to the bathroom, but who knows.

I was fed up one day last week. Forty minutes and then the THREE TASKS! So I asked the man-whose-job-it-is-to-tell-you-that-the-bus-is-late why was the driver taking so long. I was sorry I asked.

"He's human" was his answer. "We are all human".

"You could have fooled me", I replied, as I saw the driver, followed by the obsessive compulsive, walking toward the bus.

Another day. Another dollar. Same old same old.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

In the Company of Witches

It had been a hard week. But now it was 5:30 in the afternoon on Friday. I was on the way to meet a friend for drinks, and with just over an hour to spare, I dropped in to Bloomingdales to look at the summer clothes.

I picked out a few things and went to the dressing room. The clothes were OK, but shock, horror - those bright mirrors showing one's every angle. I was aghast. Who WAS that person suddenly quadrupled in the bright mirrors of the dressing room? It looked like a witch! That hair - all dried out and hanging straight down. Quelle horreur!
I felt like I was a hundred. And left. What was the point of a witch buying nice clothes? Why had no one told me that I looked like a witch? This state of affairs could not continue. I had to do something FAST.

Would I get into Frederic Fekkai at this late hour? Or Bumble and Bumbles? Suddenly paying $180 for the haircut, that I'd been putting off for budgetry reasons, seemed like a drop in the ocean. I could just not go on like this.
And then I saw it. A walk-in hair salon. Cut and blow wave $25. No appointment necessary.

Did I see the warning lights? Remember I was rock-bottom. Anything would be better than being a witch!

So I took a deep breath and entered. There were some reasonable-looking patrons. Sure they all had very long hair and were just getting a trim, but what the hell.
At reception I asked about availability and was told, of course we can cut it now. I was taken to a woman called "Ethel". I had the queasy and unpleasant feeling that I'd entered the Twilight Zone. Weren't people called Ethel in the servants' quarters in nineteenth century England? Was this mid-town Manhattan? Where was I? Was this a dreadful Ruth Rendall novel ...
She looked like a sloven, was chewing gum with her mouth open and could barely stand up. I half expected her to sip from a bottle of gin.

I still had time. I could leave. But no, the masochist in me held me in her trance.
"I just don't want to look like a witch", I said. But there was no time for chit-chat with Ethel. She slung my coat into a narrow closet that looked like a breeding place for roaches and led me to the shampoo area. The seats were wet. Sloppy I thought, but soon realised why.
After a cursory wetting and washing of the hair with a no brand shampoo, she semi-dried my hair with ... paper!!!

I could still leave. But my hair was wet. How could I meet my friend like this; how could I even enter the little chic restaurant? No, I had to go through it.
It was over quite quickly. A few quick chops. I stared at the hair piling up on the floor. My god. Every now and then she turned to talk to other cutters, at the same time chopping away. I sat in stunned silence, staring at the image in the mirror.

The witch had gone. In its place was someone from an institution, and a nineteenth century institution at that. Suddenly I preferred the witch look. At least that had character.
Still chewing, and turning to her friends (who, to go with my hair suddenly looked institutional) she "blow-dried" what was left of my hair. I remembered the movie Marat Sade. I was in it. In a madhouse. A madhouse in Manhattan.

But now it is Saturday. I don't have to see Ethel. EVER! I am free. I can clean the house, do the accounts. Everything but appear in public.

Every now and then I creep into the bathroom to take a look. Perhaps I dreamed Ethel. But no such luck. A woman stares back at me. Poor thing I think. She is to be pitied. Maybe she should have tried for a role in Dumb and Dumberer. Or in a history channel production, "Madhouses of the Nineteenth Century".

Saji, I am sorry I didn't return to you at Frederik Fekkai! Clay, I'm sorry I didn't stoop to Bumble and Bumbles.

At least it won't take so much time to dry it in the morning. To all those hairdressers I've complained about, I am sorry. No one is as bad as Ethel.

So now I'm taking to bed. I am going to watch "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". It is appropriate. Ethel will morph into Nurse Ratchet.

Life is good.