The stylist tucks a towel into your collar, then administers a brisk neck-and-shoulders massage. She slips a plastic sheet over the towel, much smaller than one might expect, and suddenly you feel a cool squirt of shampoo dribbling down your scalp, right over your dry hair. This is perhaps the best part, akin to plunging hot feet into an ice-water bath: it feels both wrong and more tantalizing than it should.
It would seem the women who work here have retractable claws that spring from their fingertips: their long, hard strokes rake your hair, and there doesn’t seem to be a fleshy part to them as they plow furrows into your hair, pushing the hair back and forth rhythmically, both hands in sync, scrubbing around the ears, tilling the neck, pressing the temples. During one visit, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” happened to be playing in the background, and the shampooer synchronized her kneading to the music. Your head rocks back and forth like on a fast-moving subway. The stylist’s hands whip, press, scratch, delve, swoop. The shampoo and hair rise to a creamy bouffant, and not one dribble runs down the neck. It’s a miracle.
Fifteen minutes later, your head tingling, she leads you to an alcove of sinks. Water! At last! Somehow it seems a shame to deflate this foamy creation. Instead of the conventional chair, these sinks feature horizontal beds, and the neck cradle does not feel like draping your head over the edge of a toilet, as it does in so many other places.
For the record, you can also get your face professionally washed for $5 following your rinse-out. This is a sensory experience in its own right, but suffice it to say your shampooer’s claws transmogrify into fluttering butterflies, flapping up and down your cheeks and tickling your jaw, and the wash ends in a startling curtain of water over your face.