Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Visit to the Kommoterio

That’s “ko-mo-TEE-ree-o”, hairdresser.

Mena has a cold today, so she didn’t want to take me. Instead, she told Demetrios where it was and he went with me. We arrived right around 10:00.

Soula and Demetra were there, together with their cousin, Petros, and Soula's husband, Christos. I was just kissing Demetrios goodbye when they all, from within, called out, “No, stay a while!” He did not feel inclined to do so, but after much urging, came in.

Apparently, you do not just come in and get to work straightaway. No, you have a little civilized coffee first, some conversation, some koulouri (“koo-LOO-ree”) which is something like a large, soft pretzel coated with sesame seeds (not to be confused with the sweet cookie called koulouraki).

Conversations with Demetrios usually turn medical fairly soon, and nobody seems to feel much delicacy about discussing his or her (usually his) ailments, either. As a result, I’m learning how to say any number of embarrassing things, like “large intestine”, “colonoscopy”, “pee in a bottle” – and I could probably pass a test in both internal and external male anatomy in Greek. The trouble with this kind of vocabulary is, it isn't particularly useful to me. I mean, I might often need to ask someone to call me a taxi, but when will I ever ask, "What color is your urine?"

Eventually, Demetra raised her eyebrows at Soula, who nodded, and Demetra put on her smock and took me to the back room to be shampooed, while the others continued their conversation.

Next came the question of how to do my hair, everyone present being consulted. Demetra, having correctly understood my poor Greek, said I would like it just like hers and Soula’s. (They both have the same hairdo.) Soula said no, hair that short wouldn’t look good on someone as tall as I. More discussions, negotiations, and she proceeded, I know not why, very carefully to cut it shorter than hers or Demetra’s!

I remembered my son’s question: What’s the difference between a good haircut and a bad one? Answer (to be given with a shrug): two weeks. Okay, make it three or four for a woman. It’ll be fine for Christmas, in any case! So I relaxed and let Soula do her thing.

A gypsy came by, begging. Nobody gave her anything. Soula said there is a whole family of them; a different family member comes by every day for about 8 days, then they go elsewhere for three months, then they come back and start all over again.

A man came by selling lottery tickets. He read to Demetra this week’s results; nothing for her. “But three times out of four you get something,” he pointed out. “Not bad.” She gave him her weekly five Euros. Once, years ago, she won 3,000 Euros, she said.

The ticket man briefly joined the conversation and Demetrios asked him to say, if he didn’t mind, how much he earned from selling lottery tickets.

“Eleven percent of whatever I sell,” was the answer.

“And is that enough to feed your family?”

“Oh, yes,” said the lottery man. “I usually make around 1,500 Euros a month. Some months you can make 10 times that.” (December is one of those months, as buying a lottery ticket “for luck in the New Year” is a custom here.)

The perm rods were put in and the fluid, instead of being squirted on from a plastic bottle, was applied by means of a rag wrapped around the end of a comb. Then came the plastic cap. Five minutes more of waiting, during which another cousin of Soula’s and Demetra’s dropped by, a woman.

Then, to the back room for the rinsing (5 minutes) and neutralizing (15 minutes.) The neutralizer was sponged on.

Christos called on our cell phone and Demetrios wondered how much longer we would be here. An hour and twenty minutes was the answer. (It was by then 12:40.) But if Demetrios wanted to leave, fine, because once I was done, they were going to close up shop and they would be glad to drive me home. (They live on the same block we do.) So Demetrios departed to go to a coffee shop with Christos.

Soula put tiny rollers in my hair and sat me under the dryer. I spent the time leafing through a Greek fashion magazine. European fashion is as ugly as American, or at least almost. See-through skirts and slacks are in style, worn with very fancy, ruffly, lacy, sequined thongs.

Half an hour under the dryer, then the styling. Soula used a blow-dryer and a round, metal brush to enlarge my curls. Using small rollers and then stretching the curls this way, she said, would make the curls “stronger.”

It actually looks good, except for being too short. The style is just as I had hoped. By Christmas it will be perfect.

The final touch, as always, is to add the lak. I decided that must be short for “lacqueur.” Spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz…the puffs of spray just kept coming. I’m sure I will not have to style it for a week.

When I asked how much I owed, Soula looked surprised, but after a moment said, “Fifty-five Euros.” Now I have looked at prices elsewhere, and I had expected to pay about ninety. I gave her sixty. I had been the only customer all day.

Then they rolled down the shades, put up the “Closed” sign, locked the door.

On the way to the car, the proprietress of a neighboring shop stepped out of her door and called out, "Is that Anna Maria?"

"No," said Soula, "a friend."

"Anna Maria; she's Anna Maria!" cried the woman, and blew me a kiss. I smiled back at her, having no idea what she meant, other than to flatter me somehow. (That would be the thing to do when a customer leaves your friend's beauty salon, yes?)

Christos and Soula drove me home. We parted with kisses and hugs and their wishes of Kalo taxidi, bon voyage, because we are going back to the States so soon, so very soon.

Demetrios says Anna Maria is the Queen. Greece no longer has a monarchy, but there is still a royal family.

I always knew I was born to be a queen. It's just hard to convince most people!


DebD said...

What fun! I don't do small talk too well so I would probably have troubles with the first part of your visit.

I can't wait to see your Grecian hair-do!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Deb, it looks the same except shorter. Won't even be shorter by time I get to see you again, probably around the new year.