As some of you may know, I had my first official OFF day yesterday.

Had one whole day all to myself. Started with coffee with my friend Mia, you know, the lady I’d blogged about who adopted a beautiful Taiwanese girl. And then shopping – didn’t buy anything, just browsed. Went for a hair wash and cut (twice in three months, woohoo!) and then a late lunch (Vietnamese noodles at Bella Botega – not really nice). And then I spent two hours in front of Lake Washington by Waverly Beach, which was surprisingly empty even on a weekend, with my book and a blanket. Ended up falling asleep in the car after because it’d gotten really cold.

Glorious!

My highlight of this restful day was perhaps my hair salon experience. I didn’t really know the ‘protocols’ of visiting one in the US. I’d decided on a whim to stop by because I was walking past one, and my hair was getting kinda out of shape. Didn’t know if I had to make an appointment or not, but apparently there was no need.

The tiniest little Vietnamese man by the name of Tam became my stylist. He looked more like an accountant who barbers on his weekends. Totally unlike the male stylists we have back home, you know, those campy ones who walk around with each other’s experiments on their heads.

First was the hair washing experience. I’m not sure if this is standard practice in the US but they wash hair over a sink. In Malaysia, we first get shampooed at our seat, and THEN rinse off over a sink, but here, they do the whole thing there, which is great. So much more efficient. And he was fast too. Wet, shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse. It took only five minutes. No painful massages. No making of shampoo sud towers. No idle chatter. Short and sweet.

He did, however, condition me and THEN asked if I needed to be conditioned.

“Conditioner for you?” Tam asked, while pouring the conditioner.

“Um, yea?”

Maybe he was just being polite.

“So what can I do for you today?” Tam asked as I was returned to my seat.

“Um, just a trim.”

“Same stai?”

“Yea. Just maybe cut off an inch.”

“You know how long one inch, rai?” Tam showed me an inch of air between his thumb and index finger. Evidently, Tam has had experience with customers who didn’t know how long an inch was.

“Yea, that’s about it,” I reassured him.

As Tam gently threw a cover over me, I looked at my bag. My book was inside, but my hands were already trapped. Don’t you just hate that?

Ah well.

Turned out I didn’t have time to be bored. It took him only 20 minutes to do the job.

“Your hair is goo and sof. You look goo wif stray hair!” Tam complimented me as he prepared to style. Even in its flat, wet state, I could tell that my hair didn’t look very different. Which was good.

“Really? It’s always been straight,” I answered, if only to be polite.

“Yea! It’s not dry, very sof and stray!” he said, nodding in approval as he readied the hairdryer

“Could you give it some volume?” I asked, hoping I was using the right hairstyling terminology for a nice layered blow, and not a hairsprayed beehive.

“Sure! You want on tarp or all ovar?” he gestured at the mentioned places over my head.

“Yes, all over,” I answered, crossing my fingers.

Fortunately, noone uses hairspray anymore. Not in this salon anyway.

“Thank you very much, come again!” Tam rang me up and proceeded to tackle another customer.

And so ended my first visit to an American hair salon. But I did forget to tip the guy though. It’d hit me as I was sitting by the beach, letting the wind mess up my ‘stai’.

How much do you usually tip hair stylists in this country anyway?