Guest of Honour – Hair to Dye For

Posted on November 22, 2018 under Storytelling with 2 comments

(This story was contributed (anonymously) by one of my loyal readers- my first Guest of Honour submission.)

There are times when you just have to leave vanity at the door.

In my early twenties, I was shocked to discover wee strands of hair that did not match my normal colour. Yes, shocked and not one bit pleased. I tried to hide these annoying strands by wearing braids, ponytails, and fancy updos. And plucking. In my late twenties, I broke down and purchased hair dye. The process was no easy task for someone who had hair almost to her waist. This ritual went on for a couple of years until finally I made the decision to shorten my hair and ask a professional to colour it.

I want to say that I have one of the most trusted and excellent hairdressers. She is funny, offers me treats and is the perfect listener, three traits that would endear her to even the most discerning customer. She offers suggestions for styling and can cut and style with accuracy and confidence. We are good friends and share common interests.

Well, there are times when things don’t go exactly as planned.

One day, after she put the colour in my hair, I sat in a nearby chair to wait for the magic to work. Things were progressing normally. We chatted, told a few stories and shared a few recipes. About fifteen minutes before the timer sounded, the lights flickered a few times then finally went out completely. I was fine until I noticed the shocked look on my stylist’s face. She announced that she could not rinse my hair as the outage had affected the water pump.

Well, weren’t we in a fine pickle? Initially I thought she was kidding about the inability to rinse my hair. When her face shifted from humour to panic, I knew she was concerned. We both looked at each other with an expression that said, “Well, what in the hell do we do now?”

She said that I did not have much time and that I must hurry home immediately and rinse it out myself. She handed me a clear plastic shower cap to cover the wet mop on top of my head. I put it on and if I must admit, I was a sight for sore eyes. Another wave of panic washed over me as I considered the drive home some fifteen minutes away. The critical path would take me down Main Street. With vanity rapidly coming to the surface, I requested a baseball cap as a clever disguise. In my attempt to affix the lid to my head, I punctured the shower cap. The wet mass underneath erupted. The Three Stooges couldn’t have pulled this off better than I did.

The clock was ticking.

I raced towards my car and as I reached the door, a gust of wind came out of nowhere and blew the cap off my head. The cap could have gone anywhere but when fate intervenes, all bets are off. I looked left and I looked right. I looked high and low and sure enough, there it was sitting harmlessly under the car. I got down on my knees to retrieve the offending object. As I started to get up, a second blast of wind ripped it out of my hands. Any passerby may well have heard expletives. The cap rolled gracefully to the other side of the car. I grabbed it, more forcefully this time and got in my vehicle.

I was about to adjust the front mirror above the dash but chose otherwise. I was too afraid to see how I looked. I hummed a few bars of the popular Carly Simon hit, “You’re so Vain”.

I commenced the journey home. Inching along Main Street, I encountered a Power Corporation truck coming in the opposite direction. I lowered my window and flagged him down, asking him when the power might be restored. If the fix was imminent, I would just turn around and go back to the hairdressing shop. As I looked up into the cab of the truck, I saw a familiar face. In a million years I did not expect the driver to know me. It was my cousin. My clever disguise had failed as he immediately recognized me.

He rolled down his window. The look on his face was priceless. He broke into hysterics. At one point, his body tilted noticeably to the right. He lay across the seat, laughter emanating from the depths of his belly. He came up, gasping for air. Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. His laughter was infectious.

When we had both composed ourselves, he informed me that the power would not be restored for at least a few hours. Apparently a tree had fallen about a mile away, knocking down power lines and preventing traffic from moving forward as it landed in the middle of the road. When I found out that this tree had fallen on the road leading to my house, I could feel my heart palpitate.

I had no choice but to continue along my way. Not surprisingly, I was stopped by a flagman. I was the first vehicle in the lineup. I put the car in park and flipped on the radio. My head alternately bobbed up and down. I didn’t want to face the flagman but I was forced to look his way to eventually get the all clear signal. A flagman’s job is usually filled with boredom but on this day, the young fella had a good laugh at my expense.

After twenty minutes he motioned me to proceed. I could only imagine the discussion around his dinner table that evening!

I finally made it home. I ran up the steps and made a beeline for the kitchen sink and who was standing there but my husband. No words were exchanged. I gave him a threatening look that a smile, a chuckle or a single word would be met with retribution.

“Get me a towel. I’ll explain later.”

I stood over the sink and started applying water, praying that I hadn’t cooked my hair.

I remembered the popular television commercial airing in those days.

“I’m gonna wash that gray right outta my hair.”

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Mrs. Clean

Posted on November 15, 2018 under Storytelling with one comment

 

“Do you remember Grandma’s Lye Soap,

Good for everything in the home,

And the secret was in the scrubbing,

It wouldn’t suds and it wouldn’t foam.”

Cleanliness is next to godliness. While this phrase is credited to John Wesley, its roots can be traced to biblical times. Of course, one suspects that Mr. Wesley was talking about purity of the soul but humans as a species are known to be fastidious when it comes to personal cleanliness. Some of today’s youth take this to extremes with showers that can last upwards of 30 minutes.

Growing up in a large family, learning the ins and outs of cleaning was a part of our education. We learned how to do the dishes, vacuum the carpets and wash and wax the “battleship” linoleum floor coverings. And was there a more miserable job than cleaning the small, individual panes of a glass in a French door?

Sarah and Jane (not their real names), aged 6 and 8, were seconded by their grandmother to go to the village church on Saturday to get it “spic and span” for Sunday mass. Much like it is still today, the cleaning and maintenance of churches in rural locales fell to a group of dedicated volunteers back in the 1930’s.

The girls had been instructed to come equipped for a morning of unselfish labor in the name of the Almighty. They had gathered up cleaning supplies from home which included a cotton mop and wringer pail, Johnson’s Glo Coat, Rinso, Chipso, Oxydol, Red Devil Lye, Comet and Bon Ami and lots of rags. They also came armed with the most important ingredient: elbow grease. Cleaning a church was not a task for the timid.

By any description, grandma was a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t have a lot of tolerance for improprieties. So when the young girls showed up on the steps of the church without appropriate headwear, grandma was not amused. That was in an era that women wore hats inside places of worship. Entering a sacred place without a hat was a sacrilege.

It would have taken too much time for the young girls to go back home. Grandma was not deterred. Women of her ilk were used to improvising. She grabbed the rag bag and pulled out an old cotton bed sheet. She quickly tore it into strips and affixed a piece on each of her granddaughters’ head using bobby pins to keep them in place. She marched her young charges smartly into the church.

The girls were quite small in stature and they wondered if grandma might just grab them, turn them upside down, dip them into the wash bucket and start using them as human mops.

They toiled for three hours without uttering so much as a word such was their fear of speaking in the house of the Lord. Actually, it was their fear of grandma that rendered them mute.

The church was spotless but grandma wasn’t quite finished. She suspected that the children needed spiritual cleansing as well and instructed them to kneel in the pews to say a decade of the rosary.

One can only surmise that they began with the Sorrowful Mysteries.

 

 

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Just Follow The Arrows

Posted on November 8, 2018 under Storytelling with 3 comments

Ikea. Too big to describe.

 

“Follow the yellow brick road”

Glinda. The Wizard of Oz.

Is it possible to get lost in a store? Certainly.  Now, you may not get lost at the 5 to $1.00, Sobey’s or even Walmart, but if you happen to be wandering through the new IKEA store in Dartmouth, getting lost is highly probable as you try and navigate 330,000 square feet of merchandise.

At the behest of my wife and daughter, and against all of my non shopper’s instincts, I agreed to go to IKEA in Dartmouth last weekend. Normally I would have to be shackled to go into a large shopping venue but I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. Having downsized and trying to live by the mantra “slow down and have less”, going shopping for household items seemed somewhat counterintuitive.

We also had our granddaughter in tow so naturally the first stop upon entering the store was the supervised children’s play area. It took longer to check her in than to clear U.S. Customs. A parent has one hour of uninterrupted shopping provided their child makes friends quickly. If not, the parent is paged with one of those locator gizmos that they have in restaurants. After seeing the size of IKEA, it is entirely possible that you could leave your five year old in the play area and find out that they are old enough to enter university by the time you have investigated every item in the store.

I grabbed the Saturday Chronicle Herald expecting that boredom would quickly set in.

I resisted the temptation to accompany my wife and daughter and headed into the belly of the whale.  I was told to follow the arrows on the floor to avoid getting lost. It didn’t take long for me to get the impression that the only thing comparable in complexity to this behemoth of aisles and shortcuts was the Riverbreeze Corn Maze in Truro. At one point during my 30,000 step jaunt, there was a disconsolate lady somewhere in the kitchen section asking a sales clerk how to get out of the store. They suggested downloading the Google Maps app.

After dispatching the ground level in record time, I made my way to the second floor to have a coffee in the cafeteria. The lineups reminded me of those all you can eat buffets in Vegas. However, IKEA is clever and knows that there are people like me who just want a coffee and a cinnamon roll. To my relief, I found out that I didn’t have to get in the large queues. I knocked off a few words of the New York Times crossword puzzle while caffeinating.

I must admit that the signage in the store is excellent. For people like me who are extremely challenged putting furniture together (or anything else for that matter), the most important sign is “We Assemble”.

I am not a shopper and understand my limitations so I try my best to avoid saying or doing anything that might expose my ignorance. Silence and avoiding scrutiny are excellent strategies. Sadly, there are others who don’t recognize their shortcomings and human frailty. While passing through the bedroom showroom, there was a guy trying out a bed. Fully shod (maybe he was a horse or a horse’s ass), he climbed into the bed and tucked himself under the covers. This is not totally surprising. The store is so large that it is possible to develop a romantic relationship during your stay. Maybe this guy was getting ready to propose.

Do you know how to hang a curtain rod? I can hang a load of laundry on the clothesline but DO NOT put me in the line of fire of tools. Apparently there are people more inept than me, hard as that is to believe. While passing through the curtain section I overheard this little gem of an exchange. The salesperson patiently and diligently explained the process and suggested that he put screws in the studs if possible. The befuddled (stunned) male then asked the following question: “Do you have studs for purchase?” I was sorely tempted to jump in and suggest that he contact the Calumet stud farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

I continued to “follow the yellow brick road” (the arrowed floor path is actually grey) and arrived at the checkout area. Have you ever been to Costco around Christmas time? Mere child’s play compared to IKEA’s checkout area on a Saturday afternoon. The only redeeming feature of this terrifying locale is an ice cream stand once you get through.

I reconnected with the gals. I thought my granddaughter had aged. I know I had.

After this experience, I now understand what IKEA means: I Know Every Aisle.

 

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