Today I accompanied Sheela to a hairdresser's in our local mall. The kids are away on vacation, you see, and we're trying to figure out what to do with all this "space" we've got all of a sudden.
Well, the hairdresser's is a trendy place called "Something Illegible Unisex Salon". I am unable to understand the Something Illegible of course - the font looks like WingDings- but I've figured out why they call it a Unisex Salon. All the hairdressers male and female look like they belong to the same sex, which is an entirely different sex from the rest of us.
We entered in and were greeted by The Nice Lady With The Smile. She told us to take a seat while she looked up the appointment diary. She gave us a Smile and told us that we could have an appointment right away. Considering that there were a grand total of zero customers in the shop, this came as no surprise, but these things are part of etiquette.
Presently a bright young person of uncertain gender appeared and delivered a Smile. "Hi! I'm John", said the Smile. "How are we this morning?" I felt a little hot under the collar because all this Smiling was being directed at me and John was pouting a good deal, to boot. I hadn't the courage to turn and look at Sheela but I was sure she was laughing at me silently, collecting ammunition for her idle amusement, the next time she was bored.
I somehow managed to stutter that the patient was this here lady. The Pout turned the requisite degrees and directed itself at Sheela. Unlike me, Sheela has no problems facing Pouts. They chattered away about step cuts and shampoos and which hair color is better and soon I realized that I was a bit like the bride's mother at the honeymoon. Unwanted, if you know what I mean.
I was grateful, of course. I have participated in these sessions since childhood, when I had to escort my sisters to the local hairdresser's. My general attitude in these situations is to agree and keep agreeing with everything and with everybody.
"I think we'll cut it short, like this". Hair dresser.
"What do you think, Naren?" My sister.
"Perfect, perfect". Me, with my reassuring smile.
And after we got home, my sisters would weep bitterly, my mother would join in and all of them would then turn and start frying me. You said it looks nice. Couldn't you see. You should have told me. You were just ogling at that girl in the pink t-shirt. Which pink t-shirt, I would say, feigning ignorance. The tight pink t-shirt. O, you're completely useless. O how will I go to college looking like this and so on.
But somehow, I would get away with it. My relations with my sisters were like Musharraf's with the US. The US keeps telling Musharraf don't do this, don't do that and so on. Musharraf says yes and then goes ahead and does precisely that. The US gets very upset with him and tells him not to do it again. (He's just declared emergency in Pakistan and the White House told him they would consider cutting off aid. And these are the guys who invaded Saddam because President Bush thought it would be a good Christmas present for daddy. Aaarghhh!)
My sisters were like that. I would get away with not turning off the taps, burning the milk because I was watching TV, backing the car into the gate, and they would always support me in front of my parents. Privately I would be told sternly that I must not do this again.
Musharraf will always have the support of the US, because, I think, the US is his sister. He could blow up the White House and the US Government would tell him not to do it again or we will stop the aid. But they won't actually stop the aid because they are Musharraf's sister, so there!
Coming back to the story, I took the opportunity to make myself scarce for the next hour or so, lest I be subpoenaed. I went walk about in the mall, which houses a rather nice food court on the second floor. Here I pottered around and did my bit to kick start the economy by increasing the national spending on food and food products.
About an hour later, I returned to the Salon and found that ma'am was ready and waiting for me. It took her 15 seconds to figure out what I had been up to and I had to listen to a small but acerbic monologue on how foolish it is to stuff oneself when one is not going to the gym and one hasn't had one's cholesterol checked in the last year. Then I told her that the haircut was terrific and that she looked like Rani Mukherjee and she blushed a bit and dropped a few degrees in temperature.
Flattery, dear children, flattery. It will get you everywhere.