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  • suzannenorquist

My Life in a Stranger’s Hands

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

I watched the hot wax come near my eye. What had I agreed to? The warmth touched my skin, so close to the lid. I stared into a stranger’s face. She’d said her name was Ramona. She’d said I would look so good. She’d been horrified by the unkempt state of my eyebrows.

Then, ripppppppp. She peeled off the wax.

How had I ended up with a perfect stranger putting hot wax near my eye? Not a doctor with a pile of degrees. Someone who admitted she had trouble getting to work on time. Yes, she has a certificate, and that should give me some comfort.

Since I moved to the suburbs, I’ve been getting my hair colored at one of those walk-in, no-appointment salons. (I went grey for a while, but my grey is more of a freakish glowing white. A story for another time.) The salon does an adequate job and the price is right.

On a snowy morning I took my fru-fru coffee into the warm shop and asked for a color. Ramona, a little older than me, was new at the salon.

“You have selected such a beautiful color, perfect for your skin.”

“You look so pretty.”

I wanted to look pretty.

“This color would look even better with some highlights. We’re having a sale on highlights.”

I’d never done the aluminum foil highlights thing before. Why not? I could sip warm mocha, as I watched the snow come down and have someone tell me how good I looked.

My hair looked great. Everyone in the salon confirmed it. Beautiful.

“We must do something about those eyebrows. Doesn’t cost much.”

And, that’s how I found myself looking past the hot wax applicator at Ramona. My life in her hands. Or maybe just my eyesight.

No tragedy befell me that day, but it brought to mind all of the times I’ve dropped my life into the hands of a stranger. It’s particularly true in a new town or city. . . or the suburbs. How do I even choose a hairdresser or auto mechanic? (See my blog post about the overwhelming choices in the suburbs.)

I love massages, although I don’t get them often. I lay on the massage therapist’s table, in a most relaxed and barely dressed state. Not much danger in working the arms and legs and back. But then comes the neck, where I hold my tension. She moves my neck from side to side and stretches and turns it.

And I realize, this is the stuff action movies are made of.

She could snap my neck. I had given the therapist the power to paralyze me. How well do I know her? How much do I trust her?

Perhaps it’s the novelist in me that creates these “what if” scenarios.

I can make a similar case for restaurant food, the brakes in my car, and especially big city taxi rides. This is why I write novels. An active imagination.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my service providers. Maybe I don’t appreciate them enough when I consider that my life is in their hands. Thankfully, we live in a society where the risk in hiring professionals if relatively low.

Will I go back to the walk-in no-appointment salon? Of course. Will I let a stranger wax my eyebrows again? Probably. Especially if everyone in the salon tells me I’m beautiful.

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