Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another Visit to the Kommoterio

Thursday, 14 October
A kommoterio is a beauty salon. I’ve only been to a kommoteria once before. It was downtown. Relatives by marriage of Kostas and Mena owned it, a man and his wife and her unmarried sister. (I recounted that charming little adventure in this blog here.)

Well the man died and his wife Soula and her sister Demetra moved in together, and they now run their salon out of their apartment, which happens to be one block from ours. The sisters are wonderful people, hearts of gold – literally, too, in the case of Demetra; she has a gold-plated valve in her heart. So of course I called them up when I could no longer do without a cut and perm, and this morning at 9:30 was my appointment.

There’s a small waiting room that could seat as many as six people, but a certain Kyria Maria was the only other customer there, just finishing up a koulouri, a piece of crusty bread baked in a thin roll and coated with sesame seeds.. There are also two chairs with built-in hair dryers in the waiting room, and a television.

The shampoo station, one of those sinks you lean back into, is in a tiny bathroom with bright, flowery tiles all over. And the chair where you sit to have your hair curled or combed or blow-dried is in the hallway, in front of a chest of drawers topped by a large mirror, and having the bottom drawer removed so the customer has a place to rest her feet.

First there were ten or fifteen minutes of socializing, then it was K. Maria’s turn to have something done I didn’t understand, but it had to do with color. Maybe a root touch-up or something. I looked through a Greek magazine full of gossip about Greek celebrities. I don’t know who they are, but I do know, now, who had a romantic weekend with whom.

My turn came after about forty-five more minutes. Demetra did the shampoo; Soula, who is the actual cosmetologist, cut my hair alarmingly short. I don’t mind as it will be easy to maintain and Demetrios, who always gives his honest opinion about such things even when you wish he wouldn’t, says it looks great, and in any case it’ll be just right for Christmas.

The haircut took a long time not only because Soula is very careful, but mostly because of our talking. Somehow, we managed to have considerable conversation despite my broken and very basic Greek. She told me about her spiritual father, who knows things about her before she tells them; e.g., “Why have you stopped saying your morning prayers, my child?” and about a beloved schoolteacher who is still alive and spends all her money feeding the poor, and about the day of her husband’s forty-day memorial service, when the apartment was ransacked and the television stolen.. “But I had 800 Euros in the house they didn’t find!” she said.

She has a little stand of wire that looks like a plant stand, but it is topped by a circular plastic tray containing rollers, hairpins, perm rods, and such, and she now keeps it in front of the door to the apartment. That way, if anyone opens the door, the cart will be upset and perhaps the noise will frighten away any intruder. In any case, the new security door is going to be installed next month; then she and Demetra will feel safer.

Demetra told about the time immediately before the replacement of her heart valve, when she died and was resuscitated. I didn’t understand any of the details, unfortunately.

Kyria Maria was finished by about 11:15, but she was in no hurry to leave. “She wants company,” whispered Demetra, who obliged by chatting with her in the waiting room while Soula put in my rods. (At 11:45, the cab driver telephoned to enquire whether K. Maria were ready, and Soula said she would be ready by 12:15. How’s that for kindness?)

The perm itself, once applied (with a rag) takes exactly one minute. You sit there with a plastic cap on while Soula stares at the clock, and 60 seconds later, you’re ready for Demetra to rinse and neutralize, while Soula keeps K. Maria company.

Soula has a krayoni (“crayon”, like a fat tube of lipstick) she daubs around your hairline just after the mousse. This krayoni comes in various shades and hides your roots until your next shampoo. (Note to self: Brand is Roux “Tween Times”.) Then she rolled my hair and put me under a dryer with a timer and a switch so I could choose either hot or warm air. Then Demetra brought us all treats, tall glasses of water and candied figs served on tiny glass plates. I never had such a delicious fig!

Kyria Maria, departing, told me I had beautiful teeth (!!????) and asked, “Are they your own, or are they dentures?” Demetrios says people in Greece didn’t have adequate dental care until very recent years, and when he first came to America and visited a dentist, he had 32 cavities! So for someone my age to have good teeth is somewhat unusual, he said.

At last my hair was styled and sprayed with half a bottle or so of lak (think “lacquer”). It feels like steel wool or a Tuffy pad. That’s okay, too. I won’t have to do anything to it for some days and it will rinse right out.

Whereas last time Soula seemed reluctant to charge me anything, in this difficult time, with business down a lot, she didn’t hesitate to name her price, and it was very reasonable.

I walked out of there, quite pleased, just after 2:00.


Anam Cara said...

sounds to me like 4 1/2 hours well spent!

margaret said...

"Demetrios, who always gives his honest opinion about such things even when you wish he wouldn’t..."

Love it! :)