My training in a real “Beauty School” situation would turn out to be the best time of my life so far. Luckily I went into the training portion with skills beyond most of the other students. I excelled at a rapid speed and soon the teachers became my first clients.
My abilities seemed to come easily and soon I was being asked in school to help teach some of the other students who were not as adept in their
training. A large amount of requested clients soon began to fill my styling chair and because I had a rapid ability to do my work, the flow of people in one day would supersede the other students.
I was learning the ropes of confidentiality and turned a keen ear to listening and remembering the previous conversations. To be able to recall events and topics from a last conversation would always serve me well and it made the clients dispel even more information to me. One thing was for sure, the school was making some nice money as the clients came in droves. I could hardly keep up with the amount of people requesting me to do their hair. Growing up in a retirement city dictated the type of client that would appear at the school. The older women could be charmingly sweet or bitterly mean. It would prove to be a game of chance each day to see who would have the worst client scenario.
I have to be upfront about my dislike of the retiree’s as they had nothing better to do but to bitch and be hateful to most everyone that crossed their paths. I had minimal patience with them and never had a problem letting them know what I thought and how to take their miserable attitudes and step away from my chair. Those were the bad and terribly lonely victims, however there were numerous lovely, kind and exceedingly generous ladies who very much loved to pay to have a young, handsome
(at the time) teenager peruse through their fine hair and listen to the conquests of their lives. It was quite eye opening to realize that these prim and proper older women were quite the trollops in their day. They spoke of everything from, love, lust and seduction. All in glorified detail no less. I was naive and totally blown away with their stories. I became very fond of them as they did with me. The money and the gifts would always grace my lacquered hands every week, it truly was overwhelming.
Lest we not forget the clients that you would have to do that would make you cringe and threaten your career choice. Even then, we called them the “Clients from Hell”. Unhappy, morbidly vapid and tightly wound. Demanding would be a mild verb, as they held the deserved superior attitude that would set me aflame and ready to blow out their candle. When they brought it on, I mirrored them right back and let them know who was going to the “Queen Bee” in my chair.
For every miserable remark, I made sure the yank of the next section of hair to be teased would certainly hurt worse than the one before. It was always funny how that damn can of hairspray mysteriously sprayed them in the direction of their eyes and not the hair…..hmmmm how did that happen? When all was said and done, and as I walked them to the from desk to pay their dollar and fifty cents, I made it quite clear and in no uncertain terms to please make sure they NEVER grace my path again and to stop by the doctor and get a prescription for some happy medication. I spun around on my heels, as I did not want my eyes to look at their shock of disgust; it was no longer my problem. I would find that working with an older crowd, would certainly make you wiser at a young age as they had so much wonderful information to share and many tidbits that could be filed away for prevention.
With their age also came despairing yet hysterical situations that would serve to me as a big large wake up call. Such was the case with “Miss Poteet”. A charming, well mannered, British woman who knew more four letter words than Webster’s dictionary. Each sentence would contain at least six of them, yet it would make for a nice story, unedited. On this particular situation, she arrived looking worn out and exhausted. It seems that she had just spent her previous two hours at the local health spa near the school. After spending some time doing her workout she proceeded to spend the last hour of her visit at the health club in the hot steam and sauna. Not a wise thing to do when you have high blood pressure to begin with and throw in a blood sugar problem on top of it all. Unsteadily she walked back with me to shampooing area and after asking on several occasions if she was alright, she gently lay back in the bowl and I began the process of shampooing her hair. A couple of minutes into it, I felt what seemed to be a body spasm which kind of jerked her entire body a bit and I then noticed that she had relaxed more. I just did not know at that point just how relaxed she really was. I turned the water off and ran to the dispensary to obtain the wonderful True Steel rinse needed to make her hair the lovely shade of blue hair. When I returned I began to notice that her face was turning as blue as the rinse that I had just put into her hair. Having been made to graduate high school with a CPR certificate, who the hell knew that I would have to ever use it, and if there ever was going to be a time to challenge my knowledge, this was IT!
I shook her aggressively and had no response and knew that her time had arrived, but I did not want that on my watch. I immediately began pounding her chest and heard her head pounding against the shampoo bowl, but still the blue in her face was getting darker by the second. I threw myself on top of her and began CPR directly to her mouth and nose and finally I heard a sputter of her drawing a breath. I had brought her back from a quick jaunt off the earth plain and now she was back and coming around. Or so I thought………………. Her eyes fluttered open after a few seconds, as the crowd gathered around she noticed everyone staring and she tried to stand up quickly, which was the worst thing she could have done. Swiftly she fell to the floor and once again I pounced on her to revive her but she checked out of reality and grandly made her exit from the life she once knew. Everyone just stood there watching her life exit the room and I lay on top of her feeling her energy slip away from me. I was too young to have to absorb the disappearance of a life that I once knew fairly well. It was not like the other people I had been a death witness to at the beaches I grew up on. Many a time I stood by and watched several older bodies roll back and forth with the beach shore tide, innocently assuming that they were enjoying the ride of the water coming in and out. Mother explained they had died on the beach and no one had recognized their absence of breath, so most people just left them alone, until someone would call for help, such as Mother did when I told her about the lady I was watching. The memories of those previous moments hit me hard as I watched them remove her body from the school shampoo area. The only remnants that remained of her life were the blue rinse stains that had dried on the floor. Well at least she would have clean hair and the perfect True Steel hair color when she crossed over.
As sad as it sounds it was to become a very common experience to have health crises in the beauty school. It would occur for me a second time, only this time she had at least waited to have her comb out. Lovely Dorothy was once the Belle of Manhattan society. Like a lot of northerners, she and her husband migrated down to south Florida to get away from the brutal winters that held them captive within their homes for the fall and winter seasons. Her husband Randolph was quite a handsome older man and one would imagine what he looked like as a young man. He gave Dorothy everything a woman could want. She wanted for nothing and had always depended on him for everything. While that may appear to be something most people would love to have in their life, no one stopped to think what would happen if that same person was not able to do those things anymore, which was the case for Dorothy. Upon returning from a world cruise, Randolph suffered a stroke which rendered him alert, but unable to conjoin words or to make sentences and unable to comprehend day to day activities. With therapy he became able to function more responsively, but he was NOT the same man she knew. Her world collapsed and she had extreme problems adjusting to not being taken care of anymore. With no children to help them, they were on their own except for the occasional nursing help. He was able to drive after his therapy ended.
When he dropped her off at the school she angrily would shout at him to not come in as she was embarrassed to let people see how hard it was for him to talk. She spoke of her unhappiness to everyone and reminded us that he was no longer someone she wanted around due to his inabilities to care for her the same way. Many a time would occur when he would wander in and hear the unkind things she would say about him. It was very obvious that he comprehended the conversations she spoke about as the hurt would run down his face in tears as he knew what she was saying was his private truth and was obviously painful to hear it from the one he loved the most.
On a very hectic Saturday at the school, a phone call had come in at the front desk for Dorothy. I intercepted that call as she was under the dryer unable to come to the phone. It was the police calling to inform her that his body had been found by a neighbor in their closed garage. It seems that after he dropped her off he drove himself back home and proceeded to park the car in the garage, shut the door, open his car windows and took his life by monoxide poisoning. This would be my first time at bringing bad news to someone, I decided I would not let her know until she was ready to go. I figured that it would be better to wait until she was finished with her hair and then have a cab waiting to take her home. I, shaking, and with great fear told her about the phone call and when I was finished, she sat stone faced and anger grew within her being. She was so mad at her inconvenience of having to take a cab home and how stupid it was for him to be a coward and embarrass her this way.
Needless to say I was stunned at the selfish reaction but would later understand that was a cover-up for extreme shock.
After his funeral. she let me read what his final note said as she kept it with her at all times. She was lost and devastated and would turn to anyone and speak of her despair. She did not know how to drive much less take care of their responsibilities. I was too young to really understand the pain that she was going through but she expelled many hours of sad conversation and showed her flagrant unhappiness with what he did to her.
The end of her newly distorted life would come as easily as his had slipped from hers. She had been arriving for her hair appointments earlier those past weeks due to the uncertainty of the cab timing for pick-up. I almost thought I saw a glimmer of a smile that last day, but I missed the mark on that and the angry talk began as I set her hair. She demanded some coffee and I was told to not make the dryer so hot and to please not put her next to someone in the dryer area. I walked away from her shaking my head and informed my teacher that I did not feel comfortable listening to her every week as it upset me and I felt helpless in answering her morbid questions. At seventeen, I was not schooled on death and misery as she wore the cloak of unhappiness daily it seemed. She informed me that the dryer had made her feel ill and her stomach was not feeling well. She had been complaining of that a lot in the last few weeks, so I quickly disavowed her repeat of that particular ailment and took her back to my chair and began the process of her comb-out. This day seemed different as she sat in the chair, asked for some water while she took an antacid, closed her eyes and did not speak again. While I was finishing the last of her teasing, I felt her body spasm lightly and just assumed she had dozed off while she sat quietly. I remember thinking how nice it was to have silence from her that day. Putting my finishing touches on her hair, I began to notice that she seemed to be sliding slowly out of the chair and before I realized what was happening, she proceeded to slip completely to the floor. Once again, I tried to wake her up and realized that another had bitten the dust on my watch. I jumped, yet once again into CPR mode, yet for Dorothy, this time she really made it over the rainbow, as she did not come around. Death number two in the beauty school…..I began to feel like I was in some kind of Agatha Christie book and I was the “Hair Spray Murderer” or “Murder by Aquanet” (Firm Hold)
I tossed my finishing comb up in the air and left for the day. That would make two deaths in less than three months; boy was I on a roll or what. I feared that I would get the school reputation as the grim reaper but luckily there were only five weeks left of school and my anticipation to not have another event like the last two became my focus. School would finally end without any more problems and I busted through those school doors as if the police were chasing me. I had taken my last communion and as a true Clairol Christian, I did try to save those lives. Now my training was out of the way and I knew I was headed in the direction of my new career and expected great things to come. Little did I know just exactly what I had asked for would come true. It was to be my first awareness of asking the universe for something and having it delivered….special delivery!