We're into our third week of recovery. The physical therapist says that Mom should get up and exercise some more, and that short walks would be a nice idea -- so long as we don't over-do it. This dovetails nicely with Mom's re-discovered ability to shower on her own (she still needs a little help into and out of the tub, though), which she says gives her a feeling of being a"decent human being, again". She is regaining mobility at a rate which is greater than expected, which means she gets to do things that she hasn't been able to do for the last few weeks: like look in the bathroom mirror, and notice that them stubborn grey roots have returned.
With the pain and anxiety gone, for now, she can turn her attention from harassing me to an inhuman extent to paying attention to her personal appearance.
So, a trip to the Beauty Parlor is in order. The one she normally uses is within walking distance, so why not kill two birds with one stone and get her a little exercise while she engages in the futile battle to hold the ravages of Old Age at bay? I'll accompany her (despite her protests) because I don't want her falling over in the street, and because there are two public high schools in this neighborhood full of bussed-in Urban Aborigines who's only apparent contribution to campus life seems to be to make the white kids look physically un-coordinated by their superhuman ability to break tackles, or dunk a basketball.
When some of these...ahem...students...aren't under the direct supervision of their zookeepers, they're notorious troublemakers and petty criminals. A fat white lady on a cane who moves at a snail's pace with a nice, plump pocketbook is simply too tempting a target. Low-hanging fruit. So, I decide the best thing to do is to ride shotgun, just in case.
The first indication that this is an exercise in futility is that you realize that there is very little correlation between the name of the place (i.e. Beauty Parlor) and the activities going on within; You know you're in trouble when the "beauticians" are all misshapen lumps who seem to have put their make-up on with a spray gun and spackle trowel, and none has a coiffure that can be considered "attractive" if it wasn't on a Shetland Pony. It seems the only purpose of a Beauty Parlor is to give the high-school dropouts within the opportunity to gossip all day and experiment upon each other's hair and faces, mostly unsuccessfully. I could see before we even entered the establishment that this was going to be an interesting ordeal.
The second indication that something is cosmically wrong is that smell. If I had to describe it, it's somewhere between dead skunk and burning muskrat, with just a hint of decomposing possum. This is the odor given off by the myriad of toxic chemicals that will be combined to give my mother that Cesar-Romero-Redhead color that is so popular with the over-60 set in these parts. You can't spit without hitting one of these bottle-redhead seniors, these days.
So, there I was, sitting silently and impatiently in this heady atmosphere: my mother is getting a hairstyle that I would describe as "butch", and having it tinted with some godawful mess of chemistry that will probably ensure that the patch of ground this place sits on will be declared a Superfund site by the EPA any day now. There isn't a thing to read...well, there is, but you'd have to be Gay to find it of much interest, and since I could give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about "Jennifer Anniston and Chelsea Handler: Budding Romance?", or the problems of getting your sexless marriage restarted with 101 new applications for chocolate syrup and Vick's Vapo- Rub, or whatever they're selling this month, I'm bored out of my skull. (It is somewhat funny to note from the covers of the magazines just what the current mental state of the American Housefrau is these days; if the magazine isn't all about selling fantasy to them, it's all about the sexual desires of the Average Man, As Told by Another Chick. Strange).
I go outside to smoke. I go out for coffee. I amuse myself by looking at the puppies in the pet store two doors down (I'm asked to leave, as this store has experienced a rash of attempted puppy-nappings in recent months). Finally, Mom has had her head re-enamelled and her female crewcut trimmed, and it's time to go home.
Except that it ain't. One cannot get a hairdo, and leave things at that. Only a barbarian would do something like that.
Part of this "feeling human again" ritual involves a second stop at the manicurist's. Point out that this place that just wrecked your hair also gives manicures, and you get a look that could curdle maple syrup; One comes here for a really bad, overpriced hairstyle, but for a really good manicure, you need to go some place else. Some place where there's Koreans, you fool. Some place a further two blocks away.
And so we shuffle off at approximately 0.001 miles per hour because now her knee is stiff, to the manicurist. If I was bored to tears before, I'm about to be bored to death. The only consolation was that at least the Korean chicks look better than the ones in the hairstylists. Except that that there's not that many Korean chicks to look at.
Because while the proprietors of the manicurist's shop may be Korean, the workers within are Hispanic. The American Dream in microcosm; the former labor class, Korean immigrants, are now the Industrial Overlords, and the new generation of immigrants, the illegal ones, have taken their place. If you thought the process of a woman getting a hairdo was an ordeal by fire, try sitting around waiting for one to get a mani-and-a-pedi! The truly disgusting part of this hell is that the air is full of fine dust, and it's the particulate matter that has has been scraped, sanded, rubbed, cut, and otherwise stripped from a multitude of feet and fingernails. Every woman in that place wore a surgical mask, and I can see why: I had to wash my coat just as soon as I could, for it was covered in a fine layer of unsanitary dust from some oversized bag of skin's hooves.
Needless to say, I spent the majority of this time outside, in the freezing cold, just to avoid picking up whatever pathogens are in the air in that place.
Eventually, the whole thing is over and we go home. I've had three hours of my day completely wasted. I'm covered in the dead-skin-dust of perhaps 12 strange women's feet. My nosehairs have been burned down to the follicles by the noxious aroma of hair dye. I want to shower and scrub myself thoroughly with a Brillo Pad just to get all that crap off of me. Oh, and it all cost me $75. Don't ask me how.
But Mom feels "human", so I guess that's something.