Personal services in a foreign land

I love Sean.  He lets me be the person I am at my most unattractive.  He patiently listens to me when I whine, he pays close attention when I express my concerns in excruciating detail, and he assures me everything will be fine as soon as he sees I’m about to freak out.  What a guy.  Sean is my hairdresser in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  He’s beside me every step of the way during my coloring process.  And besides all of that, he’s like a therapist- he’s willing to listen, analyze, gently criticize and generally help with whatever problem we open for discussion during the processing time.  What a guy.  His partner of twenty-six years is a very lucky man. 

So he understood my panic when I realized my roots would be beginning to show around my third week in France.  He painstakingly went over my exact color combination plus the percentage of peroxide and the time to process Antibes 9.22 014so I could give the information to a stylist here.  I’ve texted him about it seven times since I’ve been here.  And through his return texts he has assured me that the salon, Dessange,  is reputable, the color will be ok and just whatever else is necessary for me to hear to keep me from being “a pain in the ass”. 

See, that phrase has come up before.  I used to go to a fabulous shop in Rehoboth Beach, Bad Hair Day.  That shop keeps itself on the cutting edge of everything that makes a salon be a fun experience.  One day, as I was asking my former stylist Jeffrey when the last time was that I was in, he gave me my printed history that he had on his tray.  Apparently they print it out prior to an appointment  and give it to the hairdresser showing the exact formulas, processing times, comments etc, so there is never a question or mistake.  What a place!  Mine was pretty thick because I had been going there for awhile.  I’d never held mine is my hands before, and I leafed back through my pages and started reading from the beginning.  I had originally been seeing a different stylist, but we just didn’t quite hit it off and she didn’t seem to understand or appreciate my concerns the way I felt was necessary.  I mean… having your hair colored, cut and styled isn’t cheap, and since I was paying a lot of money for the service I wanted it done to my exact specifications.  I saw nothing wrong with that.  Hmmm… apparently someone didn’t agree… because there in the comments from my first few visits, it said this customer “is a royal P I T A!”  Well, well, well… what could that mean?   And then suddenly it hit me!  A ROYAL PAIN IN THE ASS!   How dare them to have labeled me that in their records to have it follow me around in their shop for years!  I went over to Dwight, the sweet receptionist and DEMANDED that that be scratched from my record!  He squealed when he read it and apologized profusely, but he hadn’t been the one to pen it anyway.  And I’m sure the owner, whom I highly respect, would’ve taken it out had he seen it.

I’m not sure what happened with Jeffrey, I think his schedule didn’t coordinate with mine a few times and I found myself in the salon across the street, having a coloring process done by a brand new person.  I was truly then a pain in the ass.  If something goes wrong with your hair, it’s bad news from the top all the way down and it changes your entire appearance.  I am so specific, requiring any new stylist to detail exactly what they’re doing and why; analyzing and requiring justification for every decision they make every little step of the way.  Luckily, for me, maybe not for him, I landed in Sean’s chair.  And we’ve had smooth sailing ever since.  Which is why I followed him to the new, super spazzified, so, so current salon when he decided to transfer.  Even though it was opened and owned by the hairdresser who had labeled me the royal P.I.T.A. from Bad Hair Day! Imagine the irony in that.  Well, no hard feelings for sure… I just want to follow Sean. 

In Antibes, I have been in maybe eight different shops asking them if they can match my color based on the name and number of the color product and its mixture.  There apparently is some computer software that correlates one brand of color to another.  That’s a pretty difficult question with the language barrier.  So usually the french receptionist has looked real confused, and finds someone who speaks better English, who listens and nods yes.  BUT then…  I ask a question to test them… you see, I don’t want any mess-up with my hair… and they have no idea of the answer because they DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH!   They were tricking me!  I swear, I think it’s routine to have a token “English-speaking” person that they bring to the front counter who pretends to understand and then say “oui, yes, oui” and you THINK THEY UNDERSTAND!  But I know better because I trick the tricker with my trick question!  Something like… “How would you be sure it wouldn’t look too ash blonde?”  and they nod and say again, “oui, yes, oui”.  Then I know they haven’t understood a damn thing I’ve said.  So I smile and shake my head in agreement like they answered correctly and move on. 

I stopped by a very nice salon close to my house and they got everything right.  I asked the price.  $35 for a color.  Hey!  Not bad!  It is just a root color, I would never do a highlight and lowlight in a foreign country.  But… wait a minute… what was he saying?  Plus $25 for a shampoo?  No shit!  Of course you have to have a shampoo or you wouldn’t get the color rinsed out after the processing time elapsed.  And $35 for a blow dry?  Sean lets me leave his shop with wet hair to save money.  They don’t like it, but he’s ok with it so I do.  How do they feel about that in France?  Turns out it seems to be an odd request, but grantable.  Hello!  $35 for me with my exchange rate is $52 US dollars.  I sure don’t want a style that I may not like anyway, when that plus another $35 will buy me the scrunched-top, just-above-the-ankle leather boots I’ve been eyeing for the last week. 

Ok, I’ll cut to the chase.  I made the appointment yesterday and went in today.  Christian was my stylist.  He didn’t know that today was going to be his lucky day to have me as a client!  He was very Sean-like in assuring me that everything would be fine, easy to match the colors and for some reason even though he spoke almost no English, I felt like I was in good hands.  He seemed to be the sort of person that wanted to be a perfectionist and as he happily pranced around getting my smock, fixing it, mixing the colors I became more and more relaxed.  When he gave me the $25 shampoo I melted into the chair.  He gave me a scalp massage like I’ve never experienced before!  It was so incredibly soothing, everything in my body just turned to warm taffy.  It lasted a good five minutes, maybe longer.  Everything was working out well.Antibes 9.22 010  The color was more ash than I would’ve preferred, but I think I and Sean would be the only ones to notice that.  You see, when Sean does my color it looks perfect every time.  But also every time after the shampoo, I get back in his chair and the red color scares me.   I gasp, “It looks too red!”  And he smiles and says, “You say that every time.  It’s the lighting in here”. 

The part of wanting to leave with my hair wet caused a stir of confusion.  Apparently that’s not a normal request and he had gotten a blow dryer plugged in and had begun drying by the time he finally understood what I was trying to say.  Did I catch a hint of his being mildly perturbed?  I couldn’t tell for sure.  But then…. when I was ready to pay, my $35 color plus $25 shampoo was totaled on the little hand-held register based on the information Christian had just entered into the computer, and then twisted around for me to see and $114 appeared!  What?  Christian… prance your skinny ass back up here!   I was shaking my head NO with that mildly crazed look in my eyes.  I know I must look a little unstable when I have that reaction because I’ve seen people get sort of nervous when I look like that.  Where was the person who told me yesterday it would be $60 total?  I looked around the shop, but all those dark-haired Frenchmen looked the same.  Finally someone came to my assistance and I was babbling in fast English in a higher and higher pitched voice, but he seemed to understand.  Punch, punch, punch numbers on the little hand-held register… voila!  Turn it around to me… and… $95!  NO!!!  No foil processing, no cut, not even a blow dry!  Can’t you see I’m standing here looking like a drowned fucking rat!   Lots of punch, punch, punching on the hand-held calculator again and now no one is willing to step forward and offer to speak English.  It gets flipped around to me and $60!  I assume that was $25 for the shampoo which is the only price that seemed to be a constant.  Which would make the color $45.  Ok.  Ten Euros more than expected but this shop is a place where I walk by easily eight to ten times each day, and I want to feel good karma when I walk past.   They had reduced the price from $114 to $60 and even though hair salons have sliding prices based on who knows what, (hair length or how irritating you are?) they usually are not negotiable.  All in all I’m happy with the new do.  At least there aren’t any gray (or as Sean says, “silver, never say gray”) roots and I’m sure Sean who’s 7000 miles away is also relieved.  Can you imagine if I insisted that he participate in a conference call with me and some unlucky French stylist to instruct the Monsieur how to specifically do my corrective coloring?  What a royal pain in the ass that would be.   


Note:  Hey, Chris… remember that time we were in Paris 10 years ago and I thought it would be fun to get my long hair cut in that cool Parisian salon?  And the guy did the entire haircut with a razor and no scissors and gave me short bangs too?  I think I cried.  I remember you telling me over the 3 hour train trip to Provence that it wasn’t “that” bad.