Here's a tip worth every cent: when you're providing most of the service, don't tip the "professional."

After I tell this story, the guaranteed question that follows is: “You didn’t tip her, did you?”

“Yes,” I reply, ashamed of myself. “She needed the money and she was going through some rough times. Maybe she was depressed or drinking…”

I stop the justifications. Why bother? In the minds of anyone rational, this is just another example Book-Smart Lorna having absolutely no common sense. I am blessed/cursed with an uncommon sense in which rationality doesn’t just take a back seat, it’s not even in the vehicle.

Want to hear the story? Sure you do.

K was my hairdresser. She ran her small business out of her home, which had a decent-enough salon set-up attached to it. The trouble began for her when her husband, a prison guard, got arrested for something lewd that involved drugs and a minor. She left him and her salon (but not her profession) behind.

Knowing what I know now, maybe she acted too hastily...

Being a woman of true grit and absurdity, K rented a double-wide trailer and created a make-shift hair salon in the middle of it. She called her former clients and enthusiastically assured us that she could provide all services as before, only in a more “homey” setting. I believed her. This is where my trouble started.

I made an appointment for a perm, something she did with great results. It was a Saturday afternoon. K welcomed me in. I never saw the inside of her previous home, but her current residence was a wreck. I know there was furniture because all kinds of junk was piled on top of various things that had either metal or wooden legs.

She said she was too busy to finish unpacking. I think her boxes exploded.

“Lets get that hair permed!” K wisked my coat off me and threw it on top of a pile of other clothes, probably dirty laundry. “I’ve got a party to go to tonight.”

I sat at her kitchen table covered with papers, dishes, and trays of hair styling paraphernalia. My chair was a regular chair. Homey. She rolled my hair in the 943 perm rollers, squirted the vile-smelling chemical compounds all over my head, and set a kitchen timer she found under a pile of rubble. Then she proceeded to apply fingernail polish to her nails while phoning a friend.

K couldn't take a chance on messing up those beautiful nails. Afterall, it was only my scalp that was being eaten away by those stinking chemicals...

The timer dinged. K kept talking and blowing on her nails. My scalp began to tingle. “Um, K, the timer went off.”

“It’s okay, a few more minutes won’t hurt a thing.”

10 minutes later, “Ah, K, my head is starting to burn.”

I wished there was just a bird on my head tap dancing, pecking and pulling out my hair.

“I’ve got a client. Sorry. I’ll have to call you back.” Then she turned to me. “Okay, time to rinse.”

The kitchen sink, in which the rinse was supposed to happen, was filled with dirty dishes. K said, “Would you mind clearing the sink? I don’t think my nails are completely dry.” By this time the chemicals were seeping into my brain. I washed her damned dishes and rinsed my own head just to save myself.

At least she was eating regularly.

K applied another chemical to my rollered-head–a relaxer. I was supposed to sit under a dome-dryer for the relaxer to work on my hair. Her dome-dryer didn’t work and she couldn’t find a blow dryer. Lucky for me, her double-wide trailer had a forced-hot-air heating system. Unlucky for me the heating vents were on the floor–the dirty floor, on which I had to lie down with my head as close to the vent as possible (but only when the furnace kicked on).

What? It's not working? You want me to lie down where? I don't see your floor...

Drying curled up hair using a heating vent takes a while; so K had time to apply another coat of nail polish. This meant that she had gorgeous nails and I did the 2nd rinse and extracted the 943 rollers. She managed to cut my hair, but I passed on having her style it.

Miss Kitty has the right idea, but her hair is short and dries quickly.

I had time to think while lying in the floor waiting for my hair to dry. Would K charge me for this fiasco? What am I doing here?

She charged me full price for the perm. And your question would be,”You didn’t tip her, did you?”

Yup.

At least I never went back.