I saw a poster recently to the effect that the rush on toilet paper a few months ago wasn’t a patch on 25 million women trying to get a haircut this week when hairdressers opened. I wasn’t desperate but I was on the hairdresser’s list and he emailed me some time ago asking if I wanted an appointment – in the manner of bestowing a favour. I did.
What a performance! Before you cross the threshold your temperature is taken – after being asked to lift your hair from your forehead (fair enough). Through his spectacles, the visor and over the mask the man is not sure what he is seeing. I sympathize. I assure him I do not have a temperature. He takes it again to be sure (so far, so good). Nobody is allowed in without a face mask and at the door I am asked to put on surgical gloves and a plastic gown. All these had arrived from China only the day before (I would have thought the UK could extend itself to manufacturing such simple gear).
The staff are wearing face masks as well as plastic visors and surgical gloves. If I didn’t already know them, I would never be in a position to recognize them again. I have been going to the same place for years and get on very well with the owners. We usually have spirited conversations about politics – although we vote very differently. This time I don’t have on my hearing aids (they quarrel with my mask) and he is incapacitated by all the gear he has on. It is uncomfortable for him and he is still getting used to the whole thing. Very little conversation. He did manage to say he didn’t think much of Joe Biden. What did I think? “He is not Donald Trump,” I say. “He will do.” “Oh!” he said. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.” My heart sinks (for reasons unrelated to him) – and so does the conversation. Too difficult through all the masks and whatnot. It is a pity. I used to enjoy our conversations.
The whole salon has had to be reconfigured to accommodate the distancing measures. Much carpentry, electricals, plumbing and paint work. Expensive – and done before the government changed its mind about the distance to be observed (from two metres down to one metre). Really.
Colour applied, hair washed (holding face mask over my mouth and nose), much desired cut done. He makes a remark about the cuts my husband has done. “He won’t get a job here.” “He neither trained for it, applied for it or wants it,” I say (the cut was rather good in the circumstances I thought). He was amused. Before I paid, my contact details had to be recorded for tracing purposes (yeh, right!).
I realise that face masks make human interaction minimal – only doing what need be to get the transaction done. Quite apart from not being able to recognise each, no smiles, no frowns, no facial expression at all registered. It completely changes the small pleasures that social interactions provide in the normal course of events. The hairdressing salon was one of those places where people chatted – with the person cutting their hair, with the people in other chairs, people waiting, people providing tea and magazines (the latter two a thing of the past). It wasn’t high society but it was pleasant. That is no more. Sad.
My hair can go grey again, my husband can cut it in future and I can get used to both very easily. One more thing I really don’t need.