Last week it felt like I had a million things to do before my vacation. I needed to pack, shop, clean. Of course, I had everything scheduled out — listed by priority and approximate time, because I am that person. One major task was making sure that I got my hair done. I am still fairly new to my city and I am trying to find the stylist that works for me — one who is on time, attentive and an expert with my tresses. I arrived to my appointment, early of course, and was told that my stylist was running a few minutes late. I immediately thought, here we go! How late is a little? So unprofessional. Awful first impression. She is NOT getting a tip. Those that know me, know how extreme I can be when it comes to time. I know it’s value and I don’t like to waste it, so my irritation was a little heightened.

When she rushed in, she stopped and apologized and let me know that she would be right with me. It had been a long fifteen minutes but I softened a little. I promise you that fifteen minutes felt like an hour. She quickly came to get me and ushered me to her chair. She smiled and started running her fingers through my hair. She grinned and said, “You’re a teacher.” I thought she may be a prophet, but she knew I had something to do with education because I had on one of my writing shirts (I kind of collect them). The small talk began. I talked about my current role. We talked about the pandemic and if students would be able to catch up since many had been learning virtually for so long. She seemed to know that I could talk about education all day. As the soap lathered, I could already tell that she was an expert. She massaged my scalp only the way that a skilled professional could. Deep conditioning. She told me about her family and how she arrived in our city. The more she talked, the more we seemed to have in common. Both born in the south. Both with long careers. Both passionate about instilling values in our children — pride, tenacity, excellence. We laughed over the same phrases that we shared with our kids, “Don’t let that school call my house!” I also observed her interactions with her co-workers. They swamped stories. They sought her advice. They laughed. They lingered. She seemed to be a magician with each lock of my hair, effortlessly flat ironing and flipping and curling. When she finished, I looked in the mirror in awe, definitely magic. I could have easily been mistaken for a Pantene model the way my hair bounced and swayed as I dramatically turned my head. She had put her whole heart and soul into her work. She made genuine connections with her customers and co-workers. She checked to make sure that I had her number saved and that she had mine before I left. She apologized again for the tardiness, but I had long since forgotten about that. I complimented her on her level of skill before I left her chair. I noticed that the receptionist had her coded as “master” when I paid my bill. That she was. No matter the circumstance, you can begin again. Things can turn around. She got the tip. I got the lesson.

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Tanesha Russell Yusuf

T.R.Y. Life learner, mother, daughter, poet, teacher, rights crusader. Always on a mission.