At 18, I had long since dropped out of highschool (because I found other teenagers annoying), got my equivilency, and was awaiting starting at college in Denver in the fall. So meanwhile, I had to have a job because my mother was refusing to buy my beer.
I had already worked at a Mc Donalds, at 16 (Sheer Hell - I gained 20 pounds in a month); an Exxon Station, pumping gas (My immediete supervisor was a practicing Satanist - long story); and a dry-cleaners where I had been in charge of going through the pockets of all the clothes being brought in - the highlight of this was when I found about a quarter ounce of cocaine in the pocket of a suit...my supervisor insisted I hand it to her so she could "turn it in"....oddly, we never did hear from the police.
So when I got a job working at a local clothing and accessories shop, I was thrilled. This was class, this was sophistication. I'd be able to casually lean on the glass countertops and flick my hair back with all the other cool girls who worked there.
It was the morning of my first day at work and I wanted everything to be perfect. This meant waking up extra morning to blowdry my hair straight. And way back then, that's what we had to do, kids. We didn't have those high-fallootin' ceramic straighteners or smoothing serum. For us it was an hour-long blowdry at close range followed by half a can of AquaNet, extra strength. For a frizzy girl like me to have straight hair back in my day, we'd have to shellack (sp?) it to the hardness of a marble coffeetable. Low-flying birds had to watch their step. You kids today don't know how Goddamned easy you've got it.
And besides, this was Virginia in the summertime, meaning the humidity is on a par with a rainforest - a rainforest where all the exotic birds have really frizzy hair. Straight haired people just don't get the humidity thing. They try to commiserate with me saying things like, "Oh, I know what you mean! In humidity my hair gets so lanky!".....Lanky? You don't know from pain, sistah. Us frizzy girls step into the humidity, people are looking at us saying, "Is that a clown wig?"
So, given the humidity, I was having to take extra time blowdrying my hair into something smooth and flickable. I was worried I was running a bit late, and it was hot and I hate hot weather, and on top of that having had the hairdryer on for an hour it was even hotter. Damn. I was not in a pretty mood. Then the hairdryer kept shutting itself down (probably to save itself from meltdown)...I'd have to wait a few seconds for it to cool off and then resume, and it was slowing things down and making me even more frustrated. THEN, while this was going on, the mirrored medicine cabinet door kept swinging open. (Had it expanded because of the heat?)...Ugh! I slammed it shut, then went back to blowdrying. It opened again. Again I slammed it shut. Then the damned hairdryer sputtered off. No! No! No! The mirrored cabinet swung open once more, and with all my anger, I slammed it shut. Crash! The mirror shattered under my hand, shards of glass imbedding themselves in my wrist...I stared at it for a horrible split second, suddenly becoming aware that one of the shards had severed a main artery. Blood was gushing out. I mean absolutely squirting out, in an arc. I went into a panic: Oh God, I'm going to die. These are my last moments...
I ran around the apartment searching for the phone - Must get help. Must get help. My mother had just recently had cream-colored carpeting installed all over the apartment. I had told her she was crazy, but she had insisted, and consequently life had become a take-your-shoes-off-at-the-door Hell. I paused briefly at the bathroom door thinking twice about the damage I was about to do, but this was my life, here, and if I politely died in the bathroom, blood would have leaked into the hallway anyway. So I ran down the cream-colored hallway, spurt spurt spurt spurt.....Into the livingroom ....spurt ....spurt ...search...search, spurt search search...finally I found the phone and dialled emergency services.
"What is the nature of your emergency?" A voice answered.
In my panic, I could barely form a coherant sentence. "I'm bleeding all over the place! I'm dying! Send an ambulance!"
"Why are you bleeding?" The voice calmly asked - how do they stay so calm? Are they just bored because this is all they hear all day? Was she flicking through True Stories magazine while pretending to be interested in my problems?
"I've cut my wrist!" I screamed, "I've cut my wrist!"
Suddenly she became inetersted. She told me to try to be calm, to use something to stop the bleeding. Help was on the way.
Try to be calm? I was dying. On my mother's carpeting.
In practically no time at all, the paramedics arrived. They observed the bloodbath, cleaned the wound and put a sealing thingy on it. Through all the drama, I barely noticed the arrival of two police officers. As the paramedic was winding gauze around my wrist, I looked at them. Why were they here? Did they think I'd been attacked? One of them walked over to me.
"How are you doing, dear?" He said in a kindly voice. "Can you tell me why you did this?"
I didn't understand what he was getting at.
"My hairdryer stopped working." I said, "My hair dryer just shut off and I've got really frizzy hair."
He looked concerned. "You did this because you don't like your hair?"
"Well, yes." I responded. He was right in a roundabout sort of way. "Yes. I hate my hair."
The two police officers exchanged looks.
"We'd like to get you some help." The first officer said. "Would you like that?"
"Yes, absolutely." I said, wondering why police officers would have hair straightening equipment.
It took quite a few pointed questions by the officers for me to figure out that they thought I had attempted suicide. In order to get them to believe my version of things, I had to walk them through everything. I showed them the shattered mirror and clicked the dead hairdryer on and off several times. But I think the clincher was when they considered my hair; half straight, half Bozo.
But by now I was late for my first day of work. I could hardly be asked to walk what with the considerable bloodloss and all, so I convinced the policemen to drop me off there. I think they kind of wanted to anyway, just to check out my story.
So that was how my first day at work started. I emerged, half an hour late, from the back of a police car with frizzy hair on one side of my head and smooth on the other, and sporting a heavily bandaged wrist. Two weeks later I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. When I returned to work a few days later with a swollen face, I accidentally took a triple dose of pain medication and ended up collapsing in the middle of the shop. They got me to go to the stockroom where I lay on the floor alternately giggling and crying until the paramedics arrived. It being a small town, the same police officers were with them.
The police officer from before walked over to me and stared down at me where I was laying on the floor with my chipmunk cheeks, laughing with tears streaming down my face.
"How are you doing?" He asked. Then he just sighed.