Stories From Behind the Chair-Part Deux
So this is the second of my stories behind the chair as a hairstylist. You know it is quite intriguing to think that people who do not know you tell you the most intimate of details about themselves, having just met you. It has always blown me away how human that is, and I never blamed them or held that against them in anyway, most people were simply very honest and engaging as they told their innermost details.
I often kept a journal of my customers, such as what we did that day, what their next appointment would entail and a little bit about their personal life, this was an idea that one of my beauty school instructors gave me, and I did it so that I could remember something unique or important about the customer so that I could ask them about it later. It always made the customer feel better that you remembered them and cared about their life and managed to recall a little something from their last visit.
There was a special lady who became my client in one of my first jobs. I worked at an Air Force Base Beauty Salon. It was like my second job behind the chair and I enjoyed it despite all the politics that went with it such as the 'officers wife”. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my clients for the most part and your noncommished officers wives were the best clients, the friendliest people, the best tippers and most importantly, the most loyal. That’s not to say that all officer’s wives are a pill but most of them wear their husband’s stripes on their sleeves and expect to be treated as if they were the ones behind the medals. Many times the “regular” people would get bumped because the Base Commander’s wife had to get in for an emergency do because of some function, oh don’t get me started.
On a particular warm day in June, I was outside having a cigarette break and when I came in I was told that someone had given me an appointment with a lady that I will call Mrs. Beard. They said she was in a wheelchair and that she was going to need her hair colored and cut and washed and set. My coworkers sheepishly told me that her husband made the appointment for her and that he was an ex Colonel, and was very rude. He was bringing her in and they all thought that I would be the best one to handle them. I thanked them profusely (being sarcastic) and got ready for my appointment.
About 30 minutes later, I noticed a man in his seventies or so and he was wheeling a lady around in a wheel chair. I held my breath for a minute getting ready for whatever was to come. Mr. Beard brought his wife in and told me what he wanted me to do for her, without letting his wife speak a word. They were the most adorable couple. I mean him in his military style demeanor that hadn’t left him even if he had probably retired some 30 years ago. I found that humours. Mr. Beard said he would promptly be picking her up at 1500 hours, which is 3 p.m. I greeted Mrs. Beard and we talked some as we were getting ready for her appointment.
I asked her what color she would like for her hair and she said.’ she wanted a nice dark blonde for the “Colonel” and she spoke with the most adorable southern accent. I thought it amusing that she called him the Colonel instead of his name. Here was a lady of about 80 years of age and she started telling me the story of how her and the Colonel met and she was older than him, which was quite controversial back then and proceeded to tell me that she always did what the Colonel told her to do because he took such good care of her. She had nothing but good things to say about the Colonel.
The Greatest Generation
While she was still under the blow dryer, the Colonel walked in and asked if she was ready and I said that it may be a few more minutes, and I expected him to blow his top but he was very cordial and said that he would just wait and read a magazine.
While he waited he said that since he retired he didn’t come to the base very often, only to get medications and to get his wife’s hair done. He looked over and noticed a Lieutenant getting his hands manicured and said Geez, in the same indelible style of Archie Bunker, he said, “boy they sure don’t make soldiers like they did back when I was a soldier”. I thought oh hell, here it comes. But instead I tried to stir the subject away and asked him if he and his wife had seen any new movies of late? The big movie at the time was “Saving Private Ryan”, but instead I asked if he had seen Shakespeare in love just to move the conversation into a new direction . Then his eyes lit up, and said no but he did see Saving Private Ryan and drew closer to me and started relating stories to me about the war. I told him that my father and several of his brothers had been in WWII together and the movie reminded me of them, and he told me it was people like my father and uncles and the story behind Saving Private Ryan why they don’t or try not to send family in the military to the same place, especialy during a war; so that there aren’t as many casualties in one family as there used to be. I concurred with this and then he told me that he indeed had seen that movie and that he had actually been one of the many people who had been on Omaha beach during D-day.. He wasn’t an officer at the time, but just a young soldier who was scared to death. I looked into his eyes and he had tears running down his face. He said if you see this movie and you look at all the men scattered dead on the beach, and the horror depicted in this movie, that it wouldn't come close to the actual reality of the events as they unfolded that day.Yea, he saw the movie, he lived it and he saw bloodshed from his fellow soldiers and inevitable death from the bloodied sand on the beach that was to take his fellow soldiers and sink them into the abyss of the unknown soldier. He had seen many of his friends who had been shaving together a couple days before, who now had limbs missing and had their faces blown off.
It’s strange about older people and maybe its why I love them so much but a man like the Colonel probably couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast that morning but he sure could tell you what happened back on June 6.1944, that although was such a risk that caused so many lives was a triumph because of young, brave soldiers like the Colonel.
The Colonel took me by surprise that day and when I was finished with his wife he seemed very pleased. Mrs. Beard said in her so elegant accent, “Do you like it Colonel”? He just smiled at her and said that she was still "his girl". Yes the Colonel was pleased. He paid for the services and said he enjoyed our talk and more importantly how I treated his wife and that her hair looked great, he said, that he had a hard time washing it and so he asked if it would be alright if she had a standing appointment with me? I said that it would be alright and was touched and got the mental picture of a man washing his wife's hair, yes it was obvious that he would do anything for her, so it began, I did Mrs. Beard’s hair for a couple of years until she missed her appointments’ a couple of times and then never showed up again. I tried several times to reach them but was unsuccessful, I felt sad that I hadn’t seen either one of them but I thought that maybe something happened and I probably wouldn’t see either one of them again. I was right, but never forgot Mrs. Beard, and of course how could I ever forget the “Colonel“. From the Greatest Generation that ever was.
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