A few days ago, I posted about the worst thing I ever did to my hair. Perhaps now it might be worth mentioning the best haircut I ever had.
Sometime at the end of high school, I was at a baby shower for a friend of my parents. We were on the west side of town on someone's farm. The people were really nice and I knew not a soul. Being the youngest there, I mostly listened to conversations instead of partaking in them.
A man spoke about picking up some lunch at "the Pumpkin Center," apparently it was really tasty. Someone else mentioned that they popped over to "the Pumpkin Center" to pick up a few groceries. An older woman mentioned something about how "the Pumpkin Center" just repainted the sign.
I ask, "Is this place a real pumpkin patch?"
No- it's the only place to shop on this side of town between here and Thomson.
Okay, fair enough. Place to shop. Got it.
It seems like "the Pumpkin Center" was a central hub to this side of town. I wonder if they have a Blockbuster there?
Turns out, that nope- no Blockbuster, but someone did check out a video over there and had to pay a $2 late fee. Allegedly, the people at "the Pumpkin Center" really gouged on late fees. Another woman mentioned that the gas station at "the Pumpkin Center" dropped the price fifteen cents and she filled up both her car and her husband's truck.
"The Pumpkin Center" sounded like a hopping place and was certainly the center of life. Amongst all these people and conversation, there was a woman there who had the very best haircut I had ever seen. It was cropped, layered with a little Jennifer Aniston shag, and a wispy bangs.
It was beautiful.
And I'm always in the market for a new haircut.
Ever shy, I asked her when she walked away from the conversation, "Where did you get your hair cut? I love it!"
"Actually, my partner cut it for me. We have a beauty parlor over at "the Pumpkin Center."
I get the name of her salon and make a plan to get my hair bobbed in the coming days.
Thumbing through the yellow pages a few later, her salon is listed with the address "Pkn Ctr" -- I called her and asked to make an appointment. She said they weren't busy right now and I could head on over. A pencil in hand, directions on paper-- my car is hitting I-20 heading back to the west side of town and looking for exit 189.
Off I-20 at exit 189 and a left turn, I am on a two lane road with cracked asphalt and no site of man's imprint on this green earth. Trees for miles. I drive.
I fly past a tin roofed gas station on the left side without a second glance. A few miles later, I start to think about that gas station. Maybe I should turn around and ask for directions. I do not want to be late, nor do I want to miss this haircut. Someone might get there before me and take it.
A U-turn on a dirt road and a few miles backtrack, I pull into the back side of the gas station. Rounding to the front, I pull into a makeshift parking spot and step out.
On the windows were signs painted for "Fresh Bait" and "Best Fried Chicken Livers" and "Back Room Movie Rental."
There were four pumps with inexpensive gas and cashiers behind the yellow counter with 40 teeth between the two of them and coordinating shade to the counter. One had a cigarette dangling from her chapped lips and the other had blush from her nose to her ears.
Cars zipped by this forgotten gas station and upon closer examination, there was a beautiful orange pumpkin freshly painted on that tin roof. Somewhere in the distance, a banjo was being tuned.
"The Pumpkin Center" was not a shopping center that thrived on this side of town. It was a gas station in the middle of nowhere- and I was there in the middle of it.
To get my hair cut.
Most people would have turned around at this moment, but y'all-- you should have seen this haircut. It was perfect.
To the right of the convenience store was Betty Lou's Barber and Up Do's.
Okay, the name is an exaggeration. I think.
$15 on fried chicken
$12 on a haircut
$11 to fill my gas tank
I have spent less than $40 and got more compliments on that cut than I ever have before. When asked which fancy, overpriced salon I went to, not a lie was shed from my lips:
"Don't you know? I have to go out of town to find a girl who can help me with my hair."