Adaptable

Life changes all the time:  the environment, the weather and people change their minds constantly. In order to survive happily, as far as you can go in History,  human beings have become highly resilient to the always variable conditions of living. Today, the fast pace of the world around us had pushed us to be even more flexible.

Looking back at my life, I see an on going pattern: my life is constantly testing my adaptability skills.

When I was younger and studied to become a hair dresser, I was able to do my 3 year course in 1 year. The down side of that short cut was that when the exam day came I had almost no models to do hair styles on or haircuts, perms and colours! Everybody else had been working on the same friend or family member for 3 years. My family was 500kms away from the capital and building my model capital wasn’t my priority back then.  All my peers knew what they were doing… Out of the 5 models I needed for the big day, I only had 2.

On the morning of the exam, one phone call: cancellation of my only male model. That should have taught me a lesson by the way!! lol.

Really … that was an absolute sure bet that this day was turning into a tremendous disaster!! lol.  I never lost heart though, and gave it my best shot: I drove more than an hour to get there and I still turned up, full of hopes.

I had to find a way. Rather quickly for the exam was starting at 8am that day!

1)      The first “test” was easy because I had a model! Someone from my far blood related family travelled from the other side of Paris to lend me her head so I could perform a perm on her. I had never worked on her head. She said the result was a bit curlier than usually but was very happy with my job. And at the time, that’s all I needed to hear to make my day.  She had been so generous with her time I will be forever thankful.

2)      The next one was a woman’s hair cut. Which had to be transformed in a medieval hair-do for the second part of that test.              gloups…    (heavy swallowing)… here I am …  no model. The infernal chaos is starting, run for your life people , I need hair!!!

I went to speak to the judges (which was a disqualifying mistake, like in any exam, you are not to talk to anyone at all.  I knew that. But since I had nothing more to lose, I simply tried anyway.) They told me to go down in the street and fetch some “head”…

…   /   …

Lucky me, eventually a young girl gave in! Her hair was as thick as a horse’s tail and probably also as long, for it was reaching her bottom! The challenge was getting more and more interesting! lol. If there are hair dressers out there, you’ll know what I am talking about. Up we climbed the stairs, 4 by 4, walked in quietly where the “surveillance people”  guided us to my station. The task had started 15 mns ago, I had to catch up, only 30mns left. Talking to the model was also a disqualifying act of course, but I had to ask her what she wanted, it was her hair after all. And what hair… wow… length, volume and health, she had it all!  Simply beautiful…  Since all was lost except for my eternal positivism, we only went for a light 2cms trim in one straight line! I didn’t have the heart to do a proper hair cut for the sake of some exam. She was thrilled! lol. I don’t think the judges were very impressed with that but exam 2 was ticked off!! And in time too!! Easy peasy… By then, I am starting to enjoy the challenge! This is kind of fun!

3)     Well I had a ball for that one!!! I had so much hair to play with, it wasn’t funny! So looooong and soooo heavy… and no hair spray (either because I was broke or because I had forgotten it or even worse, the can was reaching its end!! lol. My luck hey… lol). That was tough but since she had the perfect outfit and face, beautiful clean hair, in such a healthy state, the result was an absolute miracle! To this day, I am amazed that it actually held until the judges walked around to give us the required points for our test and become an accomplished hair dresser! She walked away, her head proudly high up like a queen, with a beautiful hairstyle. I never saw her again but surely she had never had 2 hours so entertaining in her life!! lol

4) Round 4: Man’s hair cut. Oups… Where’s my model????!!! Oh year… that’s right , I don’t have that one either… lol. I can feel the adrenaline levels escalating again…Ok, back down the streets I guess. I don’t need the approval of the judges any more, they know me now, I am quiet, respectful, cool and happy, polite and controlled, they just trust me to do whatever I need to do. They have realised I am different from the rest of the students and I think they were enjoying the show to much to stop me! lol . Took me longer to find someone but eventually he ran up the stairs with me. I showed him the 3 pictures available, he picked one, (remember that no one is to talk to anyone). I had 10mns left out of 45. And then, one of the judges came out of their office, walked towards me and told me: “The next exam (woman’s hair cut) is part of this one,  you can combine both times to cover both haircuts.” No one in the room knew nor paid attention to who had just walked in, but I did. That’s when I thought I must have done pretty well so far because they were actually giving me a chance! I had a chance! My other fellow students had started their next model already and I was still working on that kind man’s hair… I worked fast and focused, then quickly thanked him and said goodbye to my model, running down the street that had been so good to me so far.

5)     As I am walking through the crowd of children in the school I realized it was afternoon recess time. Yay!!!! I had had no lunch break and nothing to eat or drink since 6am in the morning when I left my studio.  So many heads to choose from!!! My head was spinning from ecstasy! lol Would my luck stick with me and let me take one crazy soul along with me for the last draw?

Believe it or not, a young 14 year old trusted me enough to skip the afternoon class and miss her bus for a free haircut. No Mobile phones back then, she couldn’t call her mom. I assured her I’d drive her home. The deal was done! Once again I ran up the 2 storeys into our exam room. Everybody was working steadily, almost finished, adding the last details to their master pieces, and getting ready for the last part: blow-drying, shaping the style. We walked rapidly through the chairs and settled in my empty space. 3 pictures on the table.  As usual, still risking to be disqualified for talking, I gave first choice to my model and here we go…  I finished on time, blow dry and all. I roughly remember this young 14 year old girl, she was really cool. We left the room together, we talked about each other’s lives and experiences as I drove her back home, somewhere in what seemed the south of France!! It was so far, in the beautiful countryside of the outskirts of Paris, somewhere so refreshing. Her mother was quite happy as far as I can remember. Thinking back at it, she was under 18, had missed school and ran away with a stranger in a car… I could have been in so much trouble… but those were the days… we’re in 1994…

A few weeks later, the exam results were published on the board at school. That was a great occasion to take a day off ; I didn’t turn up. I had had a great experience, an absolute ball, it was so entertaining, so much fun, people were so respectful of me, kind and generous but since I had blown all the rules, my chances had sort of melted in my hands to a non existent state. I thought I’d rather keep it as a good memory. I had learned so much that day. My usually quite reserved and shy nature came out of its shell, and I realized that when needed I had the potential to explode and find resources I had never suspected in me. What an achievement! I wasn’t too sure how I was going to explain that to my parents back home but hey… lol!!!    I wouldn’t give up that day on my life for anything today.

So here I am, home, in my little studio, when the phone rings. It’s the top of-the-class girl. I pull the wire to the bed and sit, (the phones back then were still attached to the base but lucky me, my studio was small enough for the wire to go anywhere around it!lol). And then, I hear my red head friend’ voice yell:

” you’ve got it!! You passed!!!!”.

Today, I am so glad I was seated on the bed! I was so confused that I asked her if she was sure. The choir behind her was echoing :”yes you did , we all saw it!”.  All my friends are there, gathered around the phone booth, in front of the school. I can’t believe it!

They all checked the board, looking for their names. I hear such and such got it and such and such didn’t… so much excitement and effervescence in their voices. The phone sounds like a swarm… In the quiet of my comfy “home”, I am happy genuinely for them.

-“What about you? How many points did you get? Surely you got the best results”. She was the best in the class, very pro, very hairdresser like, a kind and steady friend, hard working too, pretty and smart too…

Silence for a while. One of the longest in my whole life.

Gloups… I would have eaten my hat…

-“No…   I didn’t make it”

I was devastated. How unfair was that? Out of all of us she really deserved to own her hairdressing salon, she would have been so good, she was made for it, but didn’t cut it that day…

 

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