Tales from Beauty School
Back in Town
It never occurred to Becky to look for work at a hair salon until her friend told her about the receptionist job.
"They have four of them and one just quit." Kathy tried her best to encourage her to submit an application at the place where she worked.
For the last few days, Becky had been sleeping on Kathy's living room floor. Becky needed to get her own place. And soon. Living with Kathy had opened her eyes to a new side of her best friend. Kathy had grown quieter, reserved, seemingly subservient to her new husband a foreigner who'd recently moved his mother into their tiny apartment. Becky couldn't stay there much longer. They'd made her feel welcome and the pile of comforters they provided made a nice bed. But she had an uneasy feeling about what Kathy wasn't telling her about her new husband. What she remembered of their time together, as roommates and coworkers was in total contrast to how Kathy lived these days.
"You're sure to get the job,” Kathy assured her. “Besides, it'll be fun working together again."
They'd worked together as bookkeepers in a bank before marriages sent them in separate directions. Now in the same town again she recalled sharing their 21st birthday together. Those were good times. But the hours Kathy worked made Becky hesitate.
One more night on the floor convinced her to give it a try.
Tell Me About Yourself
The interview took place in a windowless office at the back of the salon. Squeezed into the tiny room was a too-large desk cluttered with a layer of hair clippings. An open pair of shears perched on top of a stack of applications. She watched the manager's eyes scan her app, peer over the top of it at her, then dart back to her neat handwriting.
"So you've never worked at a salon before?" he asked.
"No, sir. But I've worked several places as a receptionist."
"Not sir. Call me Arturo," he said. "Everyone does. We're not formal here."
His eyes returned to the form, then back at her. She'd worn her navy-blue pants suit with a crisp white blouse, its ruffled neckline neatly following the lines of the jacket. Her go-to outfit had proved successful on past job searches.
The manager's unlined face was outlined by a full head of stark white hair that had been permed into loose curls. She noticed the wedding ring on his left hand and the photo of his family neatly framed on the messy desk. A red-headed wife and a couple of young boys looked adoringly at the camera in the shot.
"What are your plans for the future?" he asked. Becky launched into her standard response about going back to college to finish the courses needed for her degree.
"A job with flexible hours would work out nicely to . . ."
She was interrupted when the door burst open and slammed into the back of her chair.
"You need to get out here right now!" The stylist at the door sounded desperate. In one hand she held a pair of scissors and a comb while she motioned frantically with the other. In a swift move Arturo grabbed his shears and dropped Becky's application on the pile.
"Walk with me," he told Becky as he skirted the desk and darted out to the floor where two stylists were engaged in a duel.
Dust in the Wind
Grant's eyes were like a wild man's as he screamed, "Don't EVER take my curling iron again!" The gleaming tile floor held an assortment of combs and brushes next to a pool of water from a broken spray bottle.
The customer in Grant's station had spun the styling chair around with her foot to gape at the pair. Her mouth hung open. The row of customers along the side wall craned their necks to get a better look. One stylist across the room rolled her eyes and whispered something to the stylist next to her. They both cackled.
Down the row of occupied chairs were patrons in various phases of salon services, New patrons who weren't familiar with this sort of outburst stared with open mouths and wide eyes. Regular patrons snickered and nodded knowingly, having seen the divas in action before. All were equally engulfed in the pungent smell of perm solution, hairspray and coffee left too long on the burner. In a flash, the shouting and blaring music was interrupted by a crackle from the overhead speakers.
"Grant, your 10:30 appointment is in." The sound of the mic slamming back into its holder returned the sound of music. "Dust in the wind," the singer crooned. "All we are is dust in the wind."
Grant, hands on hips, made an abrupt about-face and stormed off toward the front reception area.
"And that ends that," Arturo said looking over at Becky. "Your job duties would include some babysitting from time to time. Are you up for that?"
She nodded, not having any idea of how much money she'd make, what her hours would be or what other unexpected duties she might have to perform. She was intrigued. After the stoic, predictable environment of finance she knew right away, this job would be anything but boring.
Becky walked out of the salon into a maze of gleaming stores in the mall. Elated at getting hired, she realized there were dozens of questions she should have asked before accepting the job. There was so much to do before starting her new job in the morning.
She'd need to buy some new clothes to meet the dress code at the salon, solid red, white or blue in any combination. Shouldn't be too hard. She scribbled on her list of chores, find a thrift store.
Next on the list was to enroll in the nearby university where she could take some evening classes. Her pat speech about the pursuit of her degree had been cut short by the disturbance in the salon. A momentary twinge of buyer's regret was quickly squashed by her own resolve.
"I'm free to make a change if I need to. I've done it before." For the time being she was on a mission - one that would take her to unimaginable places and unexpected turns in a world filled with opportunity.
© 2020 Peg Cole