I place a high value on personal relationships. Whenever possible, I prefer to interact and do business with people I know and trust rather than random strangers.
The reason I bring this up is that I got my hair cut today. I’ve been getting it cut by Rosalinda for around 17 or 18 years now. She and her husband Alfredo originally hail from Mexico. They moved to the U.S. when he got a job with a large technology company as an engineer. Rosalinda started cutting my hair back in the early 2000s.
Anyway, my hair used to be thick and unruly when it got longer (before it started thinning), and getting someone who could cut it right was always hit or miss. This proved to be a problem at walk-in chain salons like Master Clips or Supercuts. With stylists coming and going, it turned into a game of Russian Roulette. A good haircut or an effed up haircut? Which would it be today? So every time I found someone who didn’t leave me looking like I’d tried to cut my own hair after a night of binge drinking, I’d request that stylist the next time I went in. But invariably, they’d leave after a short time for a better gig.
That’s how I met Rosalinda. I showed up at the mall for a hair cut to find my previous stylist had moved on. By the luck of the draw, I got Rosalinda, and we hit it off. She did a great job on my hair, so next time I wanted a haircut, I called in to make sure she was working. Then on my third trip, she told me about her imminent departure from the salon. Noooooooooooo! Not again! But hang on, she was leaving to open a boutique at Signature Salon Studios a mile-and-a-half down the road. She handed me her new business card, and of course, I became a client.
I enjoyed getting my hair cut at her studio, a small one-barber chair room with a door and soothing yellow walls and tasteful decorations. I always felt relaxed in there, unlike when I got my hair cut in a busy mall salon humming with activity as shoppers glanced in as they walked by.
It’s been a great relationship
Over the years, Rosalinda and I have chatted about the world in general, our families and lives, and given and received advice.
As the years passed, with all her stories about her children, I began to feel like I knew them. She told me about their graduations, new careers, marriages, and babies. And a few years ago, I did get to know some of them. Her daughter, Cecilia, even became my boss for a year back in 2015. We’d never actually met until that point, but we had emailed back and forth about potential contract work. Then one week, she asked me if I knew any available copywriters because she needed to fill a position and I told her I’d put feelers out. That same week, half-an-hour after I got laid off, I called Cecilia back and told her, “I think I’ve found a writer who needs work.” Now I count Cecilia and her husband John as friends.
A watchful eye
Over the years, Rosalinda has always looked out for me. She has given me free haircuts on my birthday and accommodates my schedule. Once, I called her on a Saturday morning to see about the possibility of squeezing me in for a quick haircut. She told me to show up in half an hour. So I got there at 10:30 a.m. but oddly, her studio was locked up. Then she showed up and let me in. It turns out she had taken the day off to leave for Mexico — she had come in just to cut my hair! I thanked her and told her I could have waited till next week, but she told me not to be silly, she didn’t mind. After she finished, we walked outside, and Alfredo pulled up, and they headed straight out on their road trip.
And when I’ve been out of work, she’s refused to let me pay, giving me free haircuts until I’ve landed a job. When I got laid off during the Great Recession, not only did she give me free haircuts, she called me at the crack of dawn about jobs she thought I could apply for.
Her kind-heartedness reminds me of my mom, who I loved dearly, but lost to cancer when I was 33, right before I met Rosalinda. And there are some parallels between our families. Rosalinda and my mom were both born in other countries. Both had three children, the eldest a boy, followed by a daughter, and the youngest a son who turned out to be gay. From our conversations, she knew my brother was gay and asked me questions when she first suspected her son might be too.
Probably the most touching thing she’s ever said to me was when she told me she thinks of me as a son and wants good things in life for me.
End of an era
Last year, Rosalinda finally retired and closed her salon. She’d been talking about it for a while because her husband had retired and wanted to travel more. I got one final hair cut, her last customer before she turned the lights out for good. As I sat in the comfy studio with its soothing yellow walls, I felt a twinge of sadness. I didn’t relish finding a new stylist to cut my hair. Or, God forbid, having to go back to the mall. My Spidey Sense alerted me to future bad haircuts lurking around the corner.
But it turns out I didn’t have to find a new stylist. Rosalinda set up a barber chair out in their garage to give garage haircuts. Luckily, I’m one of the few who qualifies. Rosalinda didn’t want to accept payment for the garage haircuts, but I insisted. I didn’t want to feel like I was taking advantage of her time and charity.
Sometimes, she and Alfredo invite me in for dinner after a haircut. This past Christmas Eve, they invited me to spend time with their family. Initially, I meant to make that a Christmas post because, in typical Land Manatee fashion, I got the day wrong so had to rush over and was late, but, well, you know, procrastination. So I didn’t post about it, and that’s why you’re hearing about it in July. (Read this other post for more details on how pathetic of a procrastinator I am).
Anyway, that’s why I don’t care where people originate from. I only care about whether they are a good person and treat others decently. I’d take that over a miserable, mean-spirited person with a pedigree that dates back to the Pilgrims any day.
P.S. Turns out Rosalinda and I are both learning a language on Duolingo. She’s taking Italian, and I’m studying Spanish. One of these days, I’m supposed to go over for lunch with her and Alfredo so I can try out what I’ve learned– we’ll see how that goes!