I know better than to be late for a hair appointment. After all, those ladies have to make a living, too. So if I had followed my own advice I wouldn’t be writing this sad story. I had a hair appointment today. New place, new town. I’d won a gift certificate to the shop in a charity auction event. I had no idea where I was going, but I had the name of the shopping center. How hard could it be?
I drove around the shopping center twice, three times, looking for the salon. Finally I found the certificate at the bottom of my purse and called for directions. Turned out it was at the back of the center, at the truck entrance.
I arrived six minutes late, panting to the stylist closest to the door, “I made every wrong turn I could make finding you.” She was busy blowing someone’s hair, but she smiled and said she did the same thing when she was new to the area. Just then my gal came around the corner and announced in a voice that would have carried in a wind storm. “You had a appointment. I thought you weren’t coming. You can wait until or you can reschedule.”
Several women looked up, their curiosity branding me with shame. My face must have shown my humiliation because my gal added, "Sweetie” in that saccharine tone usually reserved for old ladies in wheelchairs—and they don’t like it either. My face was obviously set in a grim mask of shock because she complimented me on my cute top and called me “sweetie” again in an effort to rescue the appointment.
I murmured something about taking the and slunk out. I was parked in front of the store, so I got into my car and drove off. Fury, aggrieved injustice and humiliation spun around in my head while I tried to decide how I felt. I wanted to call my lifeline number and ask for advice like they do on those reality shows, but this was too personal—a road-not-taken fork. I’d be carrying the memory of this day to my grave
My blood pressure cooled and a semblance of reason returned. The honorable thing to do was to honor the appointment. After all, she was right. I had been late. But it was easy to get hung up on the technical point that it had been only six minutes. And it was her fault for setting up shop in the parking lot.
Part of me wanted to drive home and never think of this day again. My gal's attitude spoke of a long career working with women. An ugly adjective that rhymed with "itch" kept coming to mind. I don’t usually have that thought. I considered my options. I could go back and get my free hair cut without saying anything. Claim the moral high-ground and reduce her to tears. I could leave a tip that would humble her. She would start to apologize, but I would cut her off.
I walked in and the stylist near the door offered me a cup of coffee in a soft, apologetic tone that made returning a whole lot easier. Then my gal called across the room, “They said you phoned that you were lost. I’m sorry.” Yeah, I had. That was nice to hear.
An hour later I had a great haircut. I left with something else, too, self-knowledge. I’m a better person than I was yesterday. I'll be a gentler, softer-spoken person in the future, a metaphoric server-of-coffee-to-stricken-strangers. My character got an up-do by the most unlikely of stylists. I'm grateful.
But if I go back to that shop again, it’ll be to the stylist near the door.