Seven is the first client that I have to worry I might kill.
She’s 70 and she’s never had a facial before. We ask every client to fill out a consultation form, letting us know any contraindications for their service, like blood pressure medication, asthma, diabetes, and so on. There are a whole slew of reasons why a spa service could be problematic with one of those things, but it usually boils down to either steam (makes them sick) or bleeding (more prone to it).
Seven checks practically every box. I lead her back to our curtained area and show her how the spa wrap works, and she starts undressing before I can even close the curtain. I don’t mind — old women in their bras don’t really faze me — but I feel instantly protective of her, because I’m worried she doesn’t realize the door is open and everyone out on the salon floor can peek in. When she gets the robe on, she looks at the bed doubtfully. “You want me to get in that?” she says.
I’m doing the Spa Voice, which is a kind of super smile-y, impersonal, hushed tone we all adopt when we’re talking to clients. “Absolutely, go on and get under the covers and I’ll be right in,” I call.
“This bed is kinda small,” she replies.
When I come in, she’s sitting on top of the covers. “Should I lie down?”
I decide it’s probably easier to just tuck her in, so I start to pull back the blanket and guide her legs underneath. They don’t move.
“Those are my second knees,” says Seven cheerfully. “They don’t work as well as the first pair.”
We get her settled and I dive in to the facial. Seven doesn’t quite understand the lie back and enjoy it part. “What’s this now?” she asks every time I touch her face. Then she tells me how, at her job, her boss brings his dog in even though she’s allergic. “So I’m always having trouble breathing,” she explains.
She sounds like she’s having trouble breathing now, but when I ask if the steam is too much, she says it feels good. Through the curtain we can hear Seven’s friend, who is receiving a body treatment from Meg, start to snore. That gives Seven more of the idea, and as I move into the massage, she falls asleep too. On the one hand, I’m relieved because it’s actually very hard to give a facial when somebody is talking — you can’t exactly “flow with your hands” as Miss Jenny would say, when their jaw is moving.
On the other hand, as she starts to snore, Seven also starts to wheeze. The kind of scary death rattle wheeze where the person sort of stops breathing, just for a second, just long enough for you to worry that something has gone very wrong.
But don’t you worry, she doesn’t die. Instead, she wakes up when I finish and begins laboriously pulling herself off the bed before I’ve even managed to slip out the curtain. Maybe once you’re 70 and have asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and fake knees, privacy just isn’t so much of a concern. You’ve had to get used to doctors poking at you, so some esthetics student getting a peek is just more white noise.
As she leaves, Seven pulls open her big, black leather purse and painstakingly picks out three singles for me. I admit, I’m disappointed. She was a lot more work than the average facial, and tipped just a little over ten percent. It barely covers the McDonald’s Snack Wraps that Meg and I run to grab for our 8 pm dinner after we see them off.
On the other hand, I think price is the main draw for Beauty U’s clientele. And a senior citizen who still works part-time for a guy with a smelly dog probably needs affordable skin care. So I end up feeling good about this one. Very “it’s not about the money.” I make things up when I fill out her client form, claiming to have offered our fancy anti-aging facial even though I didn’t because I could tell this lady wouldn’t want to spend another $25 on a fancy facial and would have felt pressured if I pushed it. (This is quite contrary to Beauty U lore, by the way. “Never presuppose what your client can or can’t afford! If you make them want it, they will find a way!” screams the PowerPoint.)
So I’m feeling very Zen about the whole night, Snack Wrap notwithstanding. Except Meg’s client forgot to tip at all, so she pays for her dinner out of quarters she scrounged up from her couch.
Because it also is about the money. So there’s that.
[Photo via my iPhone.]