Samantha is in her early twenties and wafer thin. Her straight shiny black hair is so long it can contemplate her navel. She dresses in astonishingly tight black leggings, with no bulges anywhere on her horizon. The tight low cut black tops she wears compete with the leggings for “The Most Strangulating Garment” on her body.
She is traffic stoppingly beautiful.
Most times I go into the shop she is friendly and welcoming, but other times she ignores me and speaks to me only if I speak to her first. Is she moody, preoccupied, involved in her own thoughts? P.M.S.-ing? Her mind seems to be somewhere else.
Her husband, Jim, is a very cool twenty something. His level of cool is demonstrated in his fashionable tattoos. Does fashion dictate this many tattoos? Visible to the naked eye are two tattoos, each starting at the wrist and snaking their way to the top of each workout-induced muscled arm. What tattoos does he have under the T Shirt? My guess is: many more. His face is obscured by a carefully well trimmed beard. Jim dresses in figure clinging jeans, wide studded belts, and boots with elevated heels. The boots give a swagger to his gait. He wears an array of body-fitting T shirts blaring messages only his fellow cool crowd could appreciate.
He knows how to charm customers. If someone’s car meter needs more quarters he says, “Which is your car? Oh don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” And he takes quarters out of the cash register to feed their meters.
“What can I get for you?” he offers. “Chai? Latte? Would you like something to eat from the restaurant next door”? Regular customers are greeted with a warm platonic hug.
Jim’s role in “May I Cut In?” is order supply manager, human resource manager and bill payer. Samantha’s is to cut, style, color and condition hair.
One day she asks me what hair products I use at home.
Get ready for a sales pitch I warn myself. I have researched skin and hair care products and know about false promises and fairy tale claims of some advertisements.
“Oh,” she said, “It’s very important to use products especially formulated for chemically treated hair. They make such a difference. It’s well worth the extra money”. She tries to sell me bottles of shampoo and conditioner before my sales resistance interferes with the purchase but finds she is out if it. “It’s such a great shampoo that the customers buy it faster than we can order it” is her excuse. “I’ll have to remind Jim to order more.”
She makes such an issue of the importance of her brand’s wondrous benefits and what shampoo I should be using, that I am surprised at my next visit. Samantha is washing my hair with a different product than the one she told me was the only one on the planet I should use. While I was leaning back over the sink and she was applying the shampoo I recognized a different scent and asked what it was. She said, “Oh, it’s a men’s shampoo. Jim forgot to order more of the brand I use for you.”
A hair salon without shampoo, the first and most basic product in any shop? That’s odd, especially after the lecture she gave me last time about the importance of the right hair products.
The shop had quite a large staff when I first went in several months ago. There was a receptionist, three hair stylists, a shampoo girl, a make-up expert and a massage therapist. By my next visit the massage therapist had left. “Where’s Bronya”, I ask.
“She left because the commute was too far from her home”, says Samantha.
Didn’t she understand the distance before she took the job? That seemed like a flimsy reason to leave a new job.
The shop is quiet every time I go in. It is never busy. I think, Poor Samantha and Jim. This is a difficult economic time to open a new business.
It seems that the staff is being reduced one by one. The receptionist was next to disappear.
“Oh, Janice decided to go back to school”, I was told.
Some time afterward the make-up lady “decided to go back to her original salon.” So she was gone too.
Wasn’t there a shampoo girl when I first came in? I don’t know what excuse they’ll invent to explain her departure, but unless she is levitating outside of my visual field, she is no longer there.
By now the guessing game became, “Who’s the next to go?” This shop is becoming just like a TV reality show. One person at a time is voted off the show until the ultimate winner emerges. Who is making the decisions: employers or the employees? Is the staff leaving because they want to leave or because they are being asked to leave? Are they quitting or being fired?
The next surprise comes suddenly. Jim and Samantha are closing the business for a week while they move the shop. They’ve been in town only eight months, and they’re leaving their first location. The new space is a few doors down, and half the size of the present salon. Could that be because the two of them are now the only people working in the shop?
One afternoon at a luncheon in town I overhear a conversation that shocks me. Two women are talking about “May I Cut In”?
“Didn’t you ever notice the way one of them disappears into that small room in the back? Didn’t you ever see how they look when they come out? Jim emerges head down, wearing his sunglasses, and Samantha’s behavior changes from a bouncy, vivacious young woman to a sullen withdrawn one.”
This lovely young couple are both drug users.
Looking back, I had noticed the mood changes with which Samantha greeted me different times I came into the shop for my appointment. As for Jim’s glasses, having them on or off so didn’t register as strange to me at the time.
I am truly sorry to learn about their problem. But don’t want to stay around and watch their inevitable decline and ultimate failure. I have already seen, in a brief eight months since they came to town, the reduction from a rich elaborate service salon to a two person shop offering only the most basic services.
So I do what most everyone else involved with the salon has eventually done: silently disappear.