The mussed section of the gentleman’s careful comb-over is positively heartbreaking. Only a churl could refuse assistance. I use a subtle hand signal to indicate the problem. He gets it. Hair is smoothed; crisis averted.
His cane is jutting out in the aisle and hits my sandal. The cane slides to the floor.
“Allow me.” I retrieve it, then place his rolling suitcase in the overhead bin for good measure.
“Thank you, erm, miss.” His squint seems mistrustful, although I use the utmost care.
I hope I didn’t insult his manhood. He must be as old as my Grandpa Kimball. It’s only right for the able-bodied to lend a hand. “You’re welcome.”
On the way to my seat, I stow luggage for an over-processed permanent wave, a shaggy mullet, and a bowl cut. Is this flight going to Florida or 1982?
The thanks I receive may be lukewarm, but the universe repays me by placing the most gorgeous hair I have ever seen outside Fresno’s Sixth Annual Wig Convention in my row. A luscious black curtain that falls to his waist. Now that’s what I call serendipity.
Might he be headed to the HairStravaganza too? I never tire of talking shop, but it’ll have to wait until I resolve the more pressing matter of my missing business partner.
No space left in the overhead bin for my own bag after all my good deeds. That’s okay. I’d rather keep my things close at hand. With a conspiratorial wink at my seatmate to initiate the connection, I crane my neck to see around the plodding line of passengers. Still no Candy. Where can she be?
I know the announcement said to turn off all devices, but we’re not moving yet. Anyway, this call is très important.
The stewardess in desperate need of a root touch-up is headed my way again. She probably wants to thank me for helping out, but she seemed a touch hostile toward technology when I tried to make a call while boarding. I duck.
Due to a miscalculation of the distance between myself and Mr. Mane Attraction, I bonk my nose on his shoulder that is apparently made from rocks. Although literally and figuratively on the edge of my seat with my business partner about to miss our flight, I am a professional to the core. With a quick rub to the injured part, I pull out my sweetest the-customer-is-always-right smile. “Sorry.”
He stares at me as if I just told him I enjoy murdering kittens in my spare time. The first person in my twenty-eight years on the planet to be impervious to my charm. No matter. I brought plenty of fashion magazines to study during the flight.
Candy finally answers. We’re hair and name twins. I whisper, “Where are you?”
“Stuck at security. Something about my ionic curlers.”
“Well hurry up already! I’m in seat —” I tilt my head to read the number but that frizzy-haired stewardess is back again. It’s like she has nothing better to do than walk up and down the aisle.
Desperate times. I slip a handful of those tremendous tresses over my face, then separate the strands enough to peek through.
“Twenty-seven B,” is all I have time to say before the stewardess swoops in. She actually crosses her arms and taps her foot like a grammar school principal. Very unprofessional.
“Gottagobye.” I click off but stay concealed in the borrowed hair blind. The scent is exotic, spicy and vaguely savage. Would be sexy if it weren’t for the frown. He’s making the same face as Frizzy even though I’m taking care not to tug. Few people have more respect for hair than I.
Frizzy isn’t doing herself any favors by making that face. Wrinkles already started even though I wouldn’t put her much past thirty. If she doesn’t knock it off and get serious about an age-defying skin care routine, she’s going to have a permanent eleven etched into her forehead. Not a good look on anyone.
The hair blind, while an extremely pleasant place to pass the time, is clearly not working. A few strands stick to my Siren Red ‘Perfect Pout’ lipgloss I wore to prevent dehydration during the flight. A strand gets caught in my mouth triggering my gag reflex, but neither the stewardess nor my seatmate seems interested in helping me. Without a single sign of sympathy over my potentially fatal coughing fit, she extends a hand. Her nails are done in last year’s ‘Checkmate.’
“Hand it over.” Her brassy name tag flashes in the florescent light. ‘Britanni.’
Where was Britanni while I was doing her job loading all those people’s bags into the overhead bins? Not taking care of her hair, that’s for sure. She could use deep conditioning treatment in addition to the touch-up. No wonder she’s in such a foul mood. I wish I had a sample of Tahitian flower oil on me. “What exactly is it you’re looking for?”
She rolls her eyes. Someone just lost a star off her customer satisfaction rating. “Your phone.”
“What’s the number? I’ll dial for you.”
Her eyes bulge. Britanni has quite the repertoire of unattractive expressions.
“The only call I’m going to make is to security if you don’t give me that phone.” She rips the boarding pass from my hand. “And I will, Miz Kane.”
Clearly this woman did her stewardess training in boot camp. As if the condescending announcement of my name isn’t enough of a breach of my confidentiality rights, she actually reaches around my back and yanks my phone away. It’s her fault the man’s hair got pulled. She could have asked nicely. I stand, because being eye to eye is a key component in the art of negotiation.
“Sit down and fasten your seatbelt. We’re about to back out of the gate.”
“But we can’t leave! My business partner isn’t here yet!”
“I’ll be happy to deplane you so you can take the next flight together.” Bootcamp Britanni points at the exit door. I sincerely hope she didn’t pay for that amateurish manicure.
I give it one last shot. “If you let me keep my phone, I’ll bring you a ton of free samples from the haircare conference. They’ll definitely have something to help with your . . . issues.” I use my most professional sensitive tone so as not to offend. “What kind of processing does your stylist use?”
I lean down and pull a freshly-minted business card from my purse that one of the check-in squad had the nerve to call “oversize” although it contains no more than the bare necessities. I even pared it down significantly because of the insane airline restrictions. Razors are an essential tool of any haircare professional. How is this not common knowledge?
Not everyone is blessed with a solid education, but since I know a thing or two about customer service, I offer Britanni a winning smile along with one of my pizza-scented Shear Genius cards.
She refuses it. “Sit.”
Now I’m a dog? Minus another star.
There’s no reasoning with a person who treats a customer paying full price like she isn’t even part of the human race. (Full promotional sale price with an extra 10% discount for signing up for the airline credit card, but you can’t fault a gal for being savvy.)
Eyes are on me. Normally I wouldn’t hesitate to promote my salon. But my instincts never fail and today the vibe I’m getting is alarm. These other travelers must know something about Bootcamp B. Both Candy and myself missing the opening day of the Juno Beach HairStravaganza would be a disaster. I sit.
Angel Hair leans against the window. He must be intuitive as well, and sense that I need some space right now.
BB isn’t satisfied. Should’ve known. Now she has her eyes on my purse. I give it a poke with my toe to better stow it under the tiny seat in front of me. It is nice, a genuine imitation Michel Kors in this year’s hottest pea green. I find the best stuff at the Santee Alley flea market. But just because the woman is employed by the airline doesn’t give her license to steal my bag. What is this world coming to? She already has my phone; my purse is non-negotiable.
Turns out the joke’s on her. She can’t lift it, which she makes a big show of. Her theatrics are ridiculous. I had no difficulty carrying it and she’s got a good twenty pounds on me.
“Definitely overweight,” she says.
If we were on friendlier terms, I might offer some tips on how to tone up while slimming down. As our relationship is strained, my heroism extends only to not pointing out that they make a matched set.
“Needs to go below,” she says.
Sympathetic heads ten rows in either direction whip round but they have no effect on heartless Britanni.
“Sit and buckle. You’ll get both of them back when we land.”
She stomps off-kilter down the aisle, my most precious belongings in tow. I’m breathless. My iPhone and I have never been parted since I got it two weeks ago. The case alone set me back over a hundred bucks, but image is important. I designed it myself: a stunning combination of zebra and neon pink rocker hair, with Shear Genius written in raised, jagged script.
I need something to calm myself. First choice is a head to style. With no tools but my bare hands, braiding will have to do. But my own head is out of the question. I spent three hours coiffing it into the perfect ‘do for my grand entrée at the HairStravaganza. Complex, yet elegant. The marcel waves turned out just right, and I used the perfect amount of styling wax to achieve maximum shine without a hint of greasiness on the upturned tail. Spraying the colors to make feathers was a snap, and the single red Betty Boop curl in the front is the crème de la crème, if I may be allowed to toot my own horn, which I’m sure I do rarely enough.
My seatmate’s luscious locks call to me like a Siren. He really likes the view out the window. It is a lovely vista of LA. The smog only adds to its mystique.
“Excuse me,” I say. “This may be an unusual request, but would you mind if . . .” I wiggle my fingers at his hair.
The man’s expression is blank, a considerable improvement over the previous one.
I hate to have to spell it out. First off, I do not want my question to be misinterpreted as flirtation. My salon is the only thing on the radar screen at this time.
Second, it might make me seem odd, like hair is some kind of kinky fetish. But it’s not. It’s my passion, my love. I never put a pair of scissors to a head without first saying a prayer that this will be the best cut I’ve ever done. Like Momma says, humility is a blessing. I know that which is given can also be taken away.
His hair is so long, he probably wouldn’t have noticed if I just started on a section. Too late now. “Would it be all right if I braided your hair?”
The corners of his lips twitch. When he isn’t scowling, he has a not-unattractive face with a straight nose, full lips and eyelashes no women can achieve without assistance. And those exotic cheekbones. Even nicer than I-will-love-you-forever-oh-
“It calms me down,” I explain, since he doesn’t reply.
“Do you need calming?” His voice is pleasant, like a QVC presenter’s. He seems genuinely interested in my answer.
“After that . . . woman stole my belongings, yes.”
I’m not sure if that’s a “yes,” but as the plane jerks out of the gate, I take hold of the man’s hair reflexively. “This is my first flight, and my business partner didn’t make it onto the plane, but we’re scheduled to be at the HairStravaganza in a few short hours. Is that where you’re headed?”
Too bad. His hair is so silky. And the smell. What is that spicy bit? Anise, maybe?
I have to find out what products he uses. I won’t rush him, however. I will allow the conversation to flow around naturally to haircare, like it always does.
The plane lurches again; I braid. It occurs to me that he hasn’t, in so many words, given consent. I lean forward to check his face. A pleasant grin communicates the answer. I have people skills, unlike some people who work in customer service but should clearly be in another line of work, like prison guard.
The rhythmic twisting keeps my mind off the stomach-churning liftoff. So much beautiful hair. It lasts the whole ascent.
Although it’s unergonomic to twist in my seat like that, I continue even after the ride smooths out. I know all about the dangers of such things: carpal tunnel, trigger finger, varicose veins. I pay attention and am careful to not overdo. I never wear anything higher than a four-inch heel. For this busy day of travel, my gold gladiator sandals with a modest platform sole were the obvious choice.
I’ve never encountered anything like this man’s hair. I don’t know exactly how much it would be worth to a wig-maker, but I’m guessing a couple thousand at least. I run my fingers through the silky tresses to undo the plaiting so I can start again.
The man clears his throat. I pretend not to hear. It can be rude to call attention to such things, like when a person is coughing. I hate it when people ask me if I’m okay. If I’m not okay, I’ll make the internationally recognized signal for choking. Otherwise, I’m fine and I don’t like people staring at me when my face is red and blotchy.
“Are you done?” he asks. “I feel like one of those doll heads little girls have.”
I scoff. They aren’t “doll heads.” They’re mannequin heads, an essential tool in the haircare learning process. I happen to have three in my checked luggage.
But he’s been generous, so I say politely, “Thank you for allowing me to do your hair. If you don’t mind my asking, what products do you use?”
“What products?” he echoes. “Are we in an infomercial?” His teeth are straight and white, but his smile is mocking.
A pity he’s so unfriendly; he’d make a great advertisement for our website. I stay polite for just that reason. “I meant, in your hair. What types of styling products do you use? Like, wax or mousse?”
He pulls his hair out of my reach. My fingers ache with longing. “None, but if I was going to use anything, I would definitely use moose wax.”
I go through my mental catalogue of haircare. “I’ve never heard of mousse wax. Who makes it?”
I don’t recognize the brand either. I remain silent.
“You know.” His large hands form antlers on his head. “Big, hairy things.”
With a polite nod, I turn back in my seat. Valuable minutes have been wasted when I should have been reading up on the latest hair trends from Tokyo.
I look for my bag, then remember where it is. That stewardess was cruel, inhuman, just like this uncongenial person. Abandoned by Candy, tortured by Britanni and trapped with a teasing man with to-die-for hair. What have I done to deserve this?
Out of desperation, I pluck the in-flight magazine from the seatback pocket. It’s mostly a waste, no real celebrities to critique and the regular people, well, like Momma always says, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I would do the sudoku, except I don’t even have a pen. Thanks again, Brat-anni.
As I try to work it out in my head, Lovely Locks pulls a Sharpie from the breast pocket of his chambray shirt. I almost refuse it on principle, but there’s a crossword, too. I don’t like the way crosswords always try to trick you, but Momma says they’re good mind-sharpeners, and staying sharp is key in the realm of haircare where trends change faster than Lady Gaga’s ensembles. I figure if I don’t go too quickly, the puzzle might last me to the end of the flight.
“Thank you.” Even though I make it clear I’m not interested in reopening the conversation, I always remember my manners.
On second thought, it might be wise to stay friendly with him so he’ll let me braid again during the descent. I’ve heard it’s worse than liftoff.
By Sue Seabury
It’s sheer luck when the Queen of Coiffure books the wrong flight and meets Mr. Mane Attraction.
Kandi is all set to open the hottest hair salon in West Hollywood. The only thing she needs is a teensy bit of cash to cover the rent. Should be no harder than trimming up split ends with all the investors headed to the First Annual Hairstravaganza in Juno Beach, Florida.
One minor hitch: she booked a flight to Juneau, Alaska.
All return flights are booked for the next few days, but Kandi is confident everything will work out. In the meantime, fate has placed a gorgeous man with the most amazing head of hair in her path, perfect for promo photos.
Mario can’t wait to leave weird, smoggy LA behind and return to his true calling: building a community center for his tribe of Tlingit Indians. The last thing he wants is a gal with a turkey on her head. But he can’t leave her stranded on the curb.
While Mario fights to stop his uncle from putting a strip mall on the sacred land and Kandi texts her thumbs down to nubs trying to keep rivals from renting her salon out from under her, their growing attraction proves a distraction neither wants.
Then again, maybe each has exactly what the other needs.