08 April 2008

Bad Hair Day & Closing Out Accounts

The best thing about living in the hotel is the bed. For two and a half years I have awakened in various states of lower back pain discomfort. After a year, I told the owner that I wanted to buy a new one and they offered to pay for it. The real estate agent said she would take care of it and get me a really good one. That was not the case. I still was never able to sleep-in because it was just too painful. I think maybe it is because Vietnamese traditionally have sleep on the floor, or on a flat wooden platform, with only a straw mat as bedding, so they do not know what a good mattress is. But the bed in the hotel is the most comfortable I have ever experienced. My back no longer hurts in the morning.

However, even though I was comfortable, I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I was so upset about the expensive, botched hair cut I had gotten earlier in the day. About six months ago, a friend turned me on to a fantastic stylist who has a salon both in LA and Ho Chi Minh City. He consistently gave me the most incredible cuts, and did what I’d asked for with a few of his own suggestions thrown in. I’d switched from the other guy I had gone to because he, stylist number one, had starting making executive decisions about what my hair should look like. Just when I would finally get the length and style I wanted, he’d hack off five inches and I’d have something close to a mullet before I realized what had happened. Then I would need to wait another 6 to 8 months before it grew out.

Once again, I got complacent with the constant vigil that needs to be observed when getting ones hair cut in Asia, no matter how well one knows the stylist. I should have learned my lesson five years ago in Malaysia where I ended up with a true butch haircut that was hideous for almost a year. Yesterday, not only did this guy destroy the best haircut I had ever had in my life – which he had done – but the two sides are completely different lengths, and I’m talking about three or four inches different.

My first warning should have been when they told me he had appointments starting at 8:30 in the morning. I knew this was not true because I had come in for 9am appointments and he would run in at 9:30, sweaty and tired. I figured 10am would give him enough time to be well awake to work on my hair.

He came rushing in at 10:20, just having finished his gym work-out. Great, I thought, he just pumped iron for an hour, drove through 300 degree heat on a motorbike, dropped his gym bag and now has grabbed a pair of scissors. I really should have left at that point. But since he was so good, I trusted his trust in himself.

I actually asked him to cut off an inch, and he said I only needed half an inch. That was simple enough. My already short, one length, blunt cut, with a few long layers, would be easy to trim up. He had started in when his cell phone rang and one of the assistants handed it to him. He popped it between his ear and shoulder and kept cutting and talking. This happened three or four times. At one point while he was on the phone, I watched in horror as he angled the scissors and chopped the side portion of my hair at a severe angle. I started gesturing with my hands and he seemed to understand. The rest of the time I was talking and thought he was doing a little more snipping than he should, but it has been a long week and I was not on my game. When he finished, I looked in horror at the results; he had cut short layers all over, lopping off the long layers by four inches. Worse, the sides were drastically uneven. I pointed this out and he snipped a bit more. It wasn’t until I got home, washed all the mousse out of it, that I saw how bad it was.

Apparently at the point where I told him to stop with the angle cut, he did. The left side is blunt cut. Now I am faced with leaving it lopsided, which makes me feel better since only one side will need six months to grow out, or having to part with four inches so it matches the right side. The worst part is all the short layers which are ok in the heat and humidity of Vietnam where my hair is full of body, but fall straight and look like a dead chipmunk in the cold and damp of the San Francisco Bay Area. It has been years since I have been this upset with a haircut. As I always say: hair grows. I think what bothers me the most is that he was so fantastic and, previously, so consistent, but then went into a brief state of dementia while cutting my hair. And folks, his prices are very high. This was the first time in my life I did not leave a tip.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, towards the end of the scissor-wielding atrocity, my old hairdresser walks in…… I sort of figured that they would know each other, seeing that they were Vietnamese, had gone to Los Angeles in their teens, and had owned salons there for years before returning to Vietnam, but thought better than to ever bring it up. I turned to first stylist and said, Where have you been? I have been trying to reach you! Total lie, but what was I to do? At least the stars were on my side for this uncomfortable situation; he had been in California for three months.

I am still deciding what to do. Do I call and say “you totally trashed my hair”? Do I wait for another two weeks because I do need him to color it and then say, “you totally trashed my hair?” Do I trim it myself? Do I go back to cutter number one to fix it and color it?

I really am beginning to think that I have completely screwed up something since the karma ain’t been too great these past few months. There are those who swear that you bring negative circumstances to yourself. But I just can’t quite get my head around what I did to self-inflict bad landlords and bad haircuts. I’d do a deep meditation on it but really, why bother? The apartment is gone and so is my beautiful hair cut. So I’ll look like a rodent who’s been freed from a trap for awhile. I’m hoping the winning personality will see me through the dark days to come, until I look like I spend money on my hair and not like someone who cuts it with toenail clippers.

But that was yesterday, and after a night of checking my hair in the mirror every five minutes, I resolved to never look in a mirror again for three months. I even thought of dumping my handheld mirror so I couldn’t see the back, which is the worst part. My resolve dissolved as soon as I awoke. But I had things to do this morning, mainly wiring most of my bank account to the US and closing out a second account.

I left the hotel at 7:30 and it was already steamy hot. Fifteen minutes later I was at the first bank which didn’t open until eight, so I continued down to the second bank. By the time I got there I was dripping with sweat and decided to stop by Highlands Coffee, the Vietnamese answer to Starbucks, to get a frozen coffee drink. As I sat there, I looked across the street to the new mega-mall going up.

As with everything in this area, nothing was there five years ago. If you look at a picture of my neighborhood on Google Earth, it is all pretty much empty acreage. I still can’t figure out who will utilize all these new shopping centers, and who is building all the expensive homes. Everywhere you go, you see people who earn $60 to $150 a month, yet to look around at the building going on in my section of town, you’d think you were in the US. There are still a few reminders that there are rivers and jungle-ish landscape, but I fear that it will soon be a thing of the past. A lovely river bordered by twelve lanes of modern highway.

After once again feeling revived and cooled down, I walked the block back to the bank. It was dead easy to get the bank transfer and only cost $28. I then needed to truck back to bank one and close my account that had maybe $2 in it. That took nearly forty minutes. Had I known that I only had $2, I probably would have forgone the bother.

One last stop before heading home, and that was to the supermarket. The worst part of hotel living is no kitchen, but I do have a small fridge. I bought canned beans, tuna, a few sodas and soy milk. I already had carrots and cucumbers. I think I can survive for three weeks without having to eat out for every meal. The only problem is that even though I wash all eating utensils as soon as I finish with them, I have an ant problem.

Actually, I have a cleaning-room problem. As one of the only foreigners I know that never hired a maid, I was sort of looking forward to having other people clean for me. There really isn’t much to do other than dusting and cleaning the bathroom. The first day here, when all my bags were all over the place, I told them not to bother. But then no one came day two so I asked that someone do the bathroom mostly because the shower drain was clogged and the ants had invaded the trash can. I was gone a good part of yesterday, yet no one touched my room. I had to go downstairs and explain that I did want my room made up; it had only been the first day that was an exception. I got one of those “Please Make-up Room” door cards last night and when I left this morning, I hung it on the knob. I also asked the maids to clean my room. When I came home, the young lady at the reception made sure I knew that my room had been done. I was thrilled, until I walked in. They had emptied the trash and given me clean towels, and that was it. Damn, I’d been hoping they would fluff pillows and wipe off the inches of dust and clean the bathroom floor. This is one of the main reasons I never hired a maid. If you want it clean you have to do it yourself.

Tomorrow’s a shopping day; like I really need to buy anything more. I know I have already exceeded my luggage allowance, but I really need to have fun for the next few weeks and that may involve retail therapy. Who knows if I will ever again get back to Vietnam.

Time to take out the garbage.