“If you don’t buy the package, I know you won’t be back to see me”

I can count on my 10 fingers the number of people I have been in touch with for over two decades. AY, my senior whom I met in my university days. 33 years. BP, my ex-gf’s elder brother has become my brother-in-law. 29 years. Had I kept in touch with his sister, my ex-gf, that would have been a 32-year relationship. Unfortunately, we don’t keep in touch. The last time I saw her was at a funeral. RC, my ex-manager during my first job. 28 years. Believe it or not, I just met him earlier this month. He found a new job. And he is doing well. As someone older than me, in today’s market condition. I am impressed. Consider the fact that I am still in touch with my ex-wife, due to the joint custody of our dog … 26 years. ML, my partner-in-crime from video gaming to web hosting and all things in between, my ex-bandmates JL and JT, all of whom I still keep in touch with, thereabout 20-ish years.

So, where does my hairstylist SE, or rather, ex-hairstylist as of this moment, stand? 28 years.

I was in my late twenties, renting an apartment at AMK. Back then, the nearest mall was Bishan Junction 8. It was a walk-in, at Jean Yip, when I first met SE. I was single back then. And I was, and am still a habit of routine. I didn’t quite like my first haircut. But I know how stubborn my hair is. To find a hairstylist who can do a perfect job on the first attempt is difficult.

I kept going back to visit SE. Over time, she perfected the job. And she delivers a very consistent outcome for close to three decades. She is not the talkative type. But when we were in the mood to chat, we chatted. Through the decades, many things happened. She moved from Bishan Jean Yip to Thomson Plaza Jean Yip, and I followed. She kept a log of all my visits. My customer record ID is W007, which was kind of cool: double-o-seven. I was aware that she had a sales quota to meet. At times, I bought a package of 10 visits ahead of schedule. Maybe even two. Looking back, in today’s menu, a walk-in visit for men is S$45. The package I had was $22 a visit. The value was great. I love her work. However, ever since I moved from YCK to town, I have been thinking of a change of scene.

Traveling from my home to Thomson Plaza in the evening takes about 45 minutes without toll. And with a toll of S$3, half an hour. It is the hassle of making such a trip almost every month. With car prices going up, and how unlikely I will buy a new car, it is daunting to think of taking a train regularly for such a distance.

Or perhaps, I need a change in scenery.

SE knew what was to come today. We chatted as normally as we could during my haircut. Knowing that I had no intention to extend my package, she awkwardly tried to make another sales attempt. I know it was more than a sales number. She was the one person I saw often (besides my ex-wife). She was holding back her tears. I could see that. I joked that if I am in the area, I could walk in. She commented on the high walk-in price and said, “If you don’t buy the package, I know you won’t be back to see me.” It was a statement and not a plead.

Knowing that I won’t be back in the near term, she said there was something she had always wanted to ask, “Are you OK?” I knew what she meant and knowing that time was running out between us, I didn’t beat around the bush and told her that I am divorced recently. “Two years?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. She told me that she sensed the change in me and intuitively guessed that. Shortly after, she couldn’t hold back her tears and cried.

I suggested that we keep in touch, have a coffee, and chat like good old days. I am not sure if that will be a reality. I hope that I am not merely another customer. And she surely is not just another hairstylist. After all, 28 years is a rather long time.

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