A red-headed woman popped her head through the salon door with a jubilant announcement.
“That stuff for thin hair is a miracle! I just love it!” she hollered over the jazzy music and the lull of salon chatter. Everyone in Arizona, plus a few people in Texas, heard her.
I’m seated in the stylist chair, in the process of having highlights, lowlights, and any other available lights, applied to my hair.
“I WANT TO BUY ALL YOU HAVE,” the woman thundered, making me wonder why I don’t carry ear plugs with me when I go to the salon. She added, “I CAN’T BELIEVE WHAT A MIRACLE THIS STUFF IS. GREATEST THING EVER.”
“I only have three cans left,” said my stylist who I’ll call Kenny G although he doesn’t play a clarinet as far as I know.
“I’ll take all three,” she said and flew out the door in a blur.
Kenny G explained she worked as a dog groomer at the business next door and loved the dry texture spray he recently sold her.
The red-headed dog groomer returned with a whoosh clutching a fist full of dollar bills, real cash like people used to have in the olden days.
Ken, I’ve decided to call him Ken for short, pulled a box off a shelf and gave her three cans.
For the first time I noticed the red-headed woman’s short-bobbed cut and how nicely it bounced when she moved. She looked stylish in her cowboy boots, tight-fitting bling jeans and full head of bouncy red hair.
“I have thin hair also,” I said, “I could use some myself.”
Ms. Stylish Bouncy Hair said to me, “Oh, you will love it. It makes your hair so floofy and poufy.”
She fluffed her hands through her hair and I noticed how it sprang back into shape.
“Oh look, I have an extra can,” Ken said to me. “Do you want it?”
“Yes,” I said, thinking how fortunate for me to get in on this miracle.
Back at home, I decided to try out my new miracle spray. Let the miracle begin. The can sounded like an air compressor as it blasted my hair with shooting force. Shoosh, shoosh, shoosh. I sprayed all the places where volume would be appreciated.
Then I fluffed. Fluff, fluff. Floof. Floof.
My hair fell flat. I blasted more spray. Shoosh. My obstinate hair stayed flat.
Where’s my miracle? Why did it work for the red-headed lady and not me?
Maybe I sprayed it on wrong. I read the tiny print on the can, most of it inscribed in a foreign language I never studied in school.
I don’t like disappointments. They almost always occur when I expect something good to happen and then it doesn’t.
Maybe this is why I prefer pleasant surprises. The kind that make you smile when you have no expectations.
Scientists have discovered why most of us (exclude Jerry, however) like surprises. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists can measure the brain’s activity in response to pleasurable stimuli in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens−a region known as the brain’s pleasure center. This is the part of the brain that holds a party when someone offers you a Godiva chocolate. Or sets tiki torches ablaze when someone offers you a free trip to Hawaii. Research has shown the brain responds in a party mood when an event is unanticipated.
Dr. Gregory Berns, an assistant professor at Emory University in Atlanta, explains this part of the brain associated with pure pleasure really cares about getting something unexpected. “So if you get a present for your birthday, that’s nice,” he said. “But you’ll like it a lot more if you get a present and it’s not your birthday.”
This makes me wonder if we should cancel all birthdays and just surprise people on a Thursday while they’re piling dishes in the dishwasher or taking out the trash. “Happy Birthday” we say while holding a candle-lit cake and presents stuffed in gift bags with protruding colored tissue paper. We then place the cake and presents near the garbage cans or inside the dishwasher. After all, that’s not expected. When was the last time you were given a cake while taking out the garbage?
After the so-called miracle spray disappointed me, I took a walk. After about a quarter of a mile, I decided to focus less on disappointments and look for pleasant surprises.
Just then I noticed some plants nicely sculptured like giant teacups without handles. Some had buds in preparation to bloom. Further on, I noticed strangers strolling with their dogs on a leash. The dog walkers will often stop to let their dog greet me. They don’t care to greet me themselves, but their Scottie or Lhasa Apso cares and wants to meet me, wagging his tail and offering wet nose kisses. This is always a nice surprise.
I never know when I’ll see egrets, cranes, Great Blue Herons, or gorgeous swans along the way. Okay, the swans are plastic. Still, they surprised me as they kissed while adrift in the lake in front our community center. I’m told they have the sole purpose of scaring geese away. And really. What goose wants to share a lake with kissing plastic swans?
I haven’t seen any geese lately, so maybe the ploy works.
The biggest surprises happen out-of-the-ordinary, like a camel in someone’s backyard. I once noticed a camel in the backyard of a suburban home. If it had been a duck, chicken or goat, I would have kept on driving. But the camel made my nucleus accumbens say, “Stop! That’s a camel!”
I also like to stop whenever I see a rainbow or magenta sunset, snow at Christmas, or beautiful wildflowers sprouting in my yard. (And you thought they were weeds!)
Here’s my proposal. Keep our birthdays as they are, because people like to have deadlines and a birth date helps them to remember. But also look for the fun surprises in everyday life. For some reason, our brain likes unpredictability.
I’m going on a lot of walks these days, looking for life’s surprises, greeting dogs that love me, and dreaming of a miracle day when my hair really is floofy.
Just thought. Maybe I didn’t shake the can well. I’m going to go try again.
p.s. Jerry does not like surprises, he said, because it usually involves waiting. He emphasized his displeasure by stating, “And I HATE waiting.”