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.