It was the beginning of a new year; the salon wore a new look. It was supposed to be white but the wood orange stain it wore last year intermingled with the white paint leaving us no doubt that a painter’s apprentice had just gotten his freedom and this was the result of his first project. A near fail.
Apart from the paint, nothing else had changed. The seats were still worn out, the floor littered with thousands of hair strands, a set of large loop gold earrings similar to the ones I bought a couple of months back still hung there; I wondered if any other person in the room knew that after a couple of wears the gold would give way and a darker shade would surface, the meter box was yet to be fixed, occasionally it would trip off leaving us all in a state of darkness but after a few hits the blades of the fan would pick up its pace again.
My friend smiled at me; even with her untidy cornrows she still drew a person in with her distinct jaw structure; Beautiful would not describe her. She was making a wig for a customer and her daughter who looked more like her every day and was now a head taller was busy making a braid wig on the head of a mannequin she stood up and curtseyed to acknowledge my arrival. I concede again that I am getting older!
I knew it would be a long evening when my friend told me she had to finish up a pedicure job just across her shop. Even though I had called to book and didn’t particularly like to be delayed, my friend’s customer service was quite deserving of 5 stars. Moreover she was understaffed and I did not have a choice but to make my hair that evening; a friend had respectfully asked that I change my look- ouch! I continued to stare at the advert playing on her TV screen; it took me a while to recognize that the same set of adverts were on display- her GoTV subscription must have expired therefore we were stuck with watching the home channel. It definitely was better than the agony of watching Telemundo.
She came back in as I started getting uncomfortable- “Sorry Aunty comman sit on this chair”. She beckoned on her daughter to join her to make the process faster. I picked a style from a number of pictures stored on a white phone; it was the first time they had a catalogue of styles and I was really impressed with the energy of the younger girl to promote their work. As they started, they discussed her last pedicure job. It was for a guy who just came from some “abroad” place. He had been making videos for the “gram” as she attended to him- her daughter asked if she smiled for the camera and she responded with shock “No na” both of them laughed. She wore an embarrassed look- what could she possibly be doing on Instagram!
“Madam could you please paint my nails with transparent vanish?”
It was the abroad guy from across the street. Both mother and daughter exchanged a look they both understood and they both looked down to avoid being caught in the act of eye gossip. My friend quickly layered each toe nail with a coat of vanish- even I could not help but stare at his feet and his face. He didn’t pay her for the service and she grumbled as he left; when her daughter asked why she had not asked for a payment she just mumbled something about not knowing how. Her daughter chuckled she knew her mother had been intimidated by the abroad story she almost seemed awestruck! I couldn’t help but love the chemistry between them. They must have spent a huge part of both their lives within the four walls of a salon. They no longer seemed to have a parent child relationship but one between sisters and colleagues.
They were about half way done when the other lady who had been making a wig weave poked her head in and called my friend into a private conversation. A couple of minutes later a young man joined them, handed some cash over to her and left. She spent a bit more time with her customer before she walked back into the shop and pushed some naira notes into her gold shiny purse. I could bet she got that purse from a party- most likely a burial party for a great-great-grand mother. As she picked the wooden comb to cut through my hair she told her daughter how the lady had called her privately to ask her to tell the young man that her hair had cost NGN7,000. Upon payment she would take NGN3,500 which was the actual cost of making the hair and stealthy sneak the balance to her. The younger lady looked at her in shock- “That is lying” she said “you did not oblige right?” she added. My friend immediately turned her nose up to remind her daughter who the parent in the house was. She had not done anything wrong she retorted at least she was not the one who carried out the act of fleecing. The young lady looked up as though to weigh whether it was her place to respond “It is called aiding” she said quietly.
I felt so proud of her! Beyond the fact that she spoke really good English grammar, she was filled with values she may not have picked from home or the salon and to top it, she was business savy. The air in the salon remained slightly tense until this slender creature with multiple artistic marks on her face poked her head in the door. You could tell she was a chatter box from her greeting; she asked about the girl with “dada”, the salon trainee who liked to close too early and my friend’s set of twin boys. She soon turned to me and offered a greeting in English her 32 grinning at me awaiting a response. Before I could respond, my friend looked at her and told her “o gbo Yoruba” meaning she understands Yoruba. “Ha” she sighed in relief “Why did you now allow me almost break my teeth speaking plenty English to you” I was yet to respond before she continued
“you know you look like igbo”
“your hair is very fine o, you will buy me coke for this hair!”
“sssss” she beckoned on the lady in the shop across the street “e fun mi ni coke aunty yii fera coke fun mi” meaning give me coke this lady has offered to buy me coke. My friend and her daughter looked mortified. I was in a state of shock and irritation, thankfully more of shock. She was still bearing her 32 teeth in front of me. I slowly nodded in the direction of the sales girl to acknowledge her request. Her 32 almost turned to 42 “Orobo ni ko fun mi” she barked at the lady- There was no point drinking a 65cl bottle of coke when she could drink 100cl free she said. She had not taken a bottle of coke since last year she continued- did we know that coke was now NGN120 for a glass bottle, the plastic would soon be NGN200 and Nigeria will just end she declared!
“Everything is now expensive” my friend answered sorrowfully even smoked fish has doubled in price. Just the day before she had planned to refill her gas cylinder and she was told gas was NGN7,000 can you imagine she said N7,000 for cooking gas!
“You use gas” her friend asked in-between her rather loud gulps
“Yes o! I have left the suffering of stove and black pots a while ago”
“Ha where do you now keep it”
“In my room now under the bed just like the kerosene stove- I bring it out when I need it and place it back once done”
“I still use kerosene- gas is too expensive it is for the rich but even kerosene is over NGN300 per litre- you know it may be cheaper to use petrol or diesel to cook!”
“It is cheaper over the long run to buy gas once you do not have children that would play with it”
At this point I asked if the gas could not be placed outside
They both looked at me and laughed!
I understood and kept my mouth shut. My hair was almost done, I was not sure I would like it but both women kept convincing me that it would be fine. My friend’s daughter was mute. I was worried still.
“Aunty when you wake up tomorrow it will be fine” she still had her 32 on!
“You know tomorrow na good day. MMM go unfreeze accounts tomorrow; everybody go smile”
I was not sure how that information was relevant in the scheme of things however after the conversations on smoked fish, coke, kerosene and gas I could understand why it was relevant. I was really interested in their perspective of the scheme. My friend said she knew someone who put her last NGN30,000 into the scheme.
A whole NGN30,000 she exclaimed! She did not understand how it worked she continued she could not find the point of value creation so she never “invested” but she knew so many people some who owed her who put their last into it and were waiting for the breaking of tomorrow.
Are we not all waiting for the breaking of that tomorrow I sighed.
My hair was done. It cost me 70% more.
Yet every morning I wake I hope it would look better tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Nairaland