William Collier: Synopsis of a Memoir, pt 12 - The Very First Client

October 28, 2015

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My space was carefully prepared, all my tools were organized on a tray which I could move as needed. There was a shelf just below the mirror where I placed any additional products. The shampoo area that I shared with Loretta, Mr. Bennett’s assistant, was well stocked with a variety of shampoos and conditioners. I acquainted myself with these products prior to shampooing my first client.

I shared a room with the salon owner, Duane Bennett, who was a nice man. There was a glossiness about his personality --  he was genuine and sincerely dedicated to pleasing everyone.  Mr. Bennett participated in local theater; I suspect there was some gray area between his professional and stage life. I always had the impression that he was gliding as he moved and spoke. He just wanted everything to go well...there is a dilution that occurs when we try to please everyone, it can be quite exhausting. I was not at all uncomfortable or intimidated being in the same room with him and Loretta, who was also quite pleasant. My first client was due to arrive at 9:00 am.

Earlier that morning I had looked at the appointments to acquaint myself with the time, service, and name of my first client: Dorothy Bullitt, 9:00 am, shampoo and set. Not one person said a word about who she was, which in retrospect was just fine. Mrs. Bullitt arrived promptly at 9:00 am. I greeted her and introduced myself. She was aware that I was new to the staff and was very gracious, seeming comfortable with me right away. I escorted her to my work station and brushed her hair prior to shampooing. She was dressed beautifully -- simple navy blue transitional wool crepe suit, a cream colored blouse with billowy ruffles and a slightly high collar, with a lovely broach perfectly placed below her chin. It was the high collar that got my attention. It can be difficult to avoid getting the collar wet, and I was certainly going to make every effort not to get a drop of water on my very first client. As I moved her to the shampoo chair, I made sure that I had her head situated in the bowl to optimize my effort to keep her collar dry. She had a newspaper folded neatly to give her access to a particular article, which I respectfully honored by not engaging in small talk. After applying a setting lotion, I set her hair in a manner that would come close to duplicating the style she was wearing when she arrived. She was then directed to the area where she would sit under a hair dryer for approximately thirty minutes.

As I was engaged in the process of shampooing and setting my clients hair, I had a distinct sense that Mr. Bennett was paying close attention. Knowing Mrs. Bullitt was a regular client of the salon, I’m sure he wanted to be sure she was attended to properly. There was nothing complicated about Mrs. Bullitt’s hair style, in fact it was a very basic process. I understood on my first day that I was being somewhat monitored; Mr. Bennett, of course, had a certain expectation. At the prescribed time, the dryer automatically shut off. Prior to escorting Mrs. Bullitt back to my styling station I unrolled a roller at the lower back of her head making sure her hair was dry --  we then returned to my work station. Mr. Bennett was with a client cheerfully engaged in conversation, at the same time I felt his curiosity about how things were going to turn out with my first client. Beginning to remove the rollers, I noticed that the newspaper was lying in her lap and we made eye contact in the mirror. By this time I’m sure she was as curious as everyone else. She was so amazingly intuitive and for some reason I was totally relaxed. She had an air of confidence, which seemed to be guiding the outcome. That experience with her, in some manner or other raised my expectation of myself to a level that took me years to come to terms with; it was like an infinite source of energy patiently availing itself as needed. Anyone that knew Dorothy Bullitt I am sure had a similar experience….



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