When I was small, and my family lived in the community of tiny half-dilapidated apartments, my mother used to visit a hair salon every few months. She was never a fashion-conscious person, but since she liked to keep her hair short, it was necessary for her to have her hair cut regularly.
It was always the same place she went to – one of the cheapest hair salons in the city centre. I often accompanied her to this salon on her appointment day with some toys to keep me entertained while waiting for her.
The hair salon was located in one of the buildings inside a shopping arcade. There was a beautiful water clock in front of the building, which used to be a very popular waiting spot for the local people. My mother and I would pass by this water clock, walk inside the building, then take an elevator to get to the hair salon.
The elevator had a transparent design, and we could see outside while travelling upward. I always liked to stand by the glass window and observe the way the water clock and the people around it became very small very quickly, eventually looking like ants.
Once the elevator door opened, we were inside the hair salon. I remember it was quite spacious. The floor of the waiting area was checkered, equipped with many bright red folding chairs.
While I admired the colour contrast between black, white, and red, a lady came to welcome us, and she soon led my mother to the back room, to one of the washing stands. Before going inside, my mother told me to wait on one of the red chairs.
“It won’t be long. You can play with your toys. If anything, you’ll find me in the back!”
Once they were gone, I would sit on one of the bright red folding chairs and start playing with my toys. Sometimes, I also browsed through the hair and fashion magazines displayed on the table in front of me. Despite the large number of chairs in the room, it was usually just me who was waiting.
Most of the times, I played on my own. However, once there was a lady staff who loved young children. Since she did not have a customer at the time, she started playing with me in the waiting room. She showed me a few toys they had at the salon for young children. I had never known about their existence, so I became curious as she explained to me about each item.
One of them had the shape of an alligator. It seemed that I could press its teeth.
“This one is a lot of fun,” said the lady excitedly. “You press its teeth one by one. But you have to be careful because there is a trap in one of them. When you press it, the alligator will bite you!”
“Really?” I laughed.
I then started pressing the teeth one by one. Sure enough, I came upon the one with the trap, and the alligator bit my hand. I was surprised and excited at the same time. I wanted to do it again.
The lady and I took turns in pressing the alligator’s teeth, laughing and forgetting about everything else.
“You’re having a lot of fun, Sweetie?”
Suddenly I heard my mother’s voice. She had finished her haircut and came to the counter to pay. She thanked the lady for playing with me and told me that it was time for us to go home.
Just before leaving, I asked the lady what this toy was called. I wanted to remember what it was so that I could find it later myself.
“The Alligator Dentist,” she said to me.
That was the only time I saw her or played with her. Yet, the fun time I had with her that day at the hair salon never seems to fade in my memory.