Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Intensive care

The owner of a particular hair salon in Savin Hill asked that no revealing details be told in this report. We respect his wishes. By naming the shop's neighborhood we are not letting any cats out of any bag. Like everywhere in Boston, Savin Hill is flush with hairdressers as well as barbers, manicurists, convenience stores, pizzerias and Chinese take-out joints. To say that one catagory of establishment is in any broad jurisdiction is not a secret; there are dozens within blocks of each other.

The salon in question doesn't have any remarkable features if one looks through the front window. It is clean and stylish enough to entice women and metrosexual men to stop in for a hair cut. The receptionist at the desk looks welcoming and unintimidating enough. There is a special room in back, however, that maintains its sterility through positive air pressure, where a few special clients are admitted access. As the owner told me, "We don't like to advertise our services. We already serve clients beyond capacity and, really, the facilities are for emergencies only."

Before we started our tour his cell phone rang. He listened intently and barked a few questions: "How long has this been going on?...Mmm hmmm...How rapid are the contractions?...Mmm Hmm...Do you feel you can drive? Should I call an ambulance?...Okay. Get here as quickly as you can." Then we started our tour.

I was ushered past the chairs and mirrors and sinks and that make up the main salon through a locked, panel door that opened with a whoosh that blew my forelock back on my scalp. What greeted me was what may be Boston's premier intensive hair care unit. It was empty at the moment and this allowed the owner to show off and demonstrate all the equipment. The room is about the size of a typical pantry and most the wall space is lined with shelves holding bottles and polystyrene bags of exotically colored gels and small, mad scientist-style machinery. At the rooms center is a typical barber chair covered with a foam, egg crate mattress to prevent clients from developing pressure ulcers while they undergo treatment.

We proceeded clock-wise. The owner explained, "Here we keep our nutrient protein-enhancers and on this shelf we store the collagen formulae. Down here are the coco butter and lanolin for easy access at hip level in the case the patient, I mean client, goes into split arrest." He directed my attention to a device that sprouted a kaleidoscope of telephone wire tipped with alligator clips. "This is our follicle defibrillator," he said, "And over here is our parenteral conditioning unit." His tour was full of descriptions about micro-sebaceous pumping mechanisms and trans-dermal vitamin infusions and cytogenetic dye spectrometry. I have to admit I didn't follow most of it but he seemed to know what he was talking about.

As we wound up my visit a young woman wearing a turban burst through the front door. "You have to help me," she exclaimed, "I'm going to a party tonight and I can't go like this. I tried to do a touch up job bleaching my roots and now my hair is falling out!" The hair stylist on call took her pulse for thirty seconds and then fetched a flashlight out of his pocket to check her pupils. He turned to me and said, "I have a serious case here. Do you mind if you show yourself out? I'm going to be very busy for the next hour or so and I can't be disturbed. Lock the door behind you, if you don't mind." I said I understood the gravity of the situation and I did as he requested. As I closed the door I heard the stylist call to his assistant, "Fire up the autoclave. We've got a case of acute, achromatic alopecia here!"

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