i have figured im averaging about one strange korean incident a month these days and ive decided thats pretty infrequent considering how bizarre this little country can be. recently, i decided to head to seoul for the day to have my hair cut and highlighted. i should confess that as nervous as i am about all that can be lost in translation, the one that scares me the most is the horror that could result from a bad salon experience. it could come out 10 different shades of scary and then where would i be? thousands of miles away from an aveda salon with a man named pedro dressed in black and willing to work his gay magic on my disastrous do.
however, desperate regrowth calls for desperate measures and with that mantra playing in my 2 inch roots, i went forward to a place americanly named 'clippers'. take everything you think of an american salon and toss it. make it louder, busier, more crowded with a slight smell of kimchee mixed with hair color and youre beginning to get the feel of a korean salon. there were so many people working in there, i felt like a giant trying to avoid an ant farm or a moped trying to navigate my way through targets parking lot the day after thanksgiving. the trick is to find the one korean who speaks english which requires a keen sense of listening because everyone is shouting in korean and occasionally an individual will transition instantly from shouting in korean to asking you what you need. if youre not ready for the transition, you end up looking like the idiot who not only lacks an understanding of the korean language, but cant seem to understand english either. ah yes.
i arrived at the scene, located the one who looked most capable of assisting me and was asked a series of questions that i cannot remember and did not understand. what i did figure out after some hand holding, nail pointing and foot gesturing is that i was being offered a manicure and pedicure as well. this was looking up. i was about to make the most of my time without my peach attachment and indulge in a relaxing manicure and pedicure as well. how nice. so there was no cucumber water or tea being offered, so i felt like a stuffed animal being sent through a high speed build a bear, but i was going for the works and i was only moderately afraid.
it became perfectly clear in an instant why there were an insane amount of workers there...i had a korean or two on every limb. not exaggerating, there were at least 10 petite women all working on me at the same time. two at my hair dissecting, discussing, foiling, painting, more discussing. two on each foot rubbing, polishing, picking and the same on my hands. it was about as relaxing as trying to make a connection in the airport with 27 minutes between flights and a change from terminal A to terminal F. where was my tea? how i miss pedro.
the good news is the end result was the same at a fraction of the cost. sure, i could have used a cocktail on my way out to take the edge off, but the hair is the right color, the nails are the right shape and my piggies are fresh and ready for spring.
one last observation, all 236 workers had american first names on their name tags before their korean last name. and while i really appreciated it when it came time to track all 10 of them down for tip time, i realized how stupid they must think we are that we cant even remember or pronounce their given name. i felt dumb and ethnocentric for a moment before i realized that it was the name recognition of maria, lynn, lisa, kelly, amber, suzy, sara, amy, heidi, brooke & carol that ensured i remembered to tip them. there is no way i would have remembered all the korean names. so, maybe im not that dumb and theyre willing to change their names for the day to get tipped every time.