Saturday, February 5, 2011


A friend of mine just posted on Facebook that he's in a noodle restaurant and he that he loves being "the only Caucasian in the place." That reminded me (your time's comin' you'll see ... when you get older, everything "reminds" you of something) of the groups of Asian tourists and businessmen that stayed at one of the hotels where I was a banquet waiter. At least at that time, in the 1980s, that thing about Asian tourists taking a lot of pictures was completely true. Our hotel was the first place in the United States these folks would see after arriving at the airport, so whoever happened to be working when they arrived usually wound up posing for a lot of photos.

One evening, I did give a group of Chinese businessmen plenty to laugh (or be alarmed) at. I had decided to bleach my hair blonde that afternoon, but the processing took longer than I expected and I didn't have time to put a toner on it. I had also spent a little too long in the sun the day before, so my skin was rather pink. It looked especially pink next to my very yellow hair. For those of you who have never bleached your hair, it's a two-part process. When you take the color out, your hair is pretty brassy, so you need to add a color back in to soften it to a more natural looking shade of blonde. What I had was the color of a hi-lite marker.

I didn't know ahead of time who I was gonna be waiting on that night or consider, even after I knew the group was Chinese, just how conspicuous I would feel being so much more brightly colored (and at least five inches taller) than all of my guests. Every time I walked in the room, flashbulbs would go off - way more than usual - and every eye was on me. And, of course, they were laughing.

I fixed my hair the next day, and the sunburn gradually eased into a tan, but my moment of shame lives on in the rolls of 40 men's rolls of vacation film, someplace in China. No doubt some of their children are now traveling to the United States, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of our pink and yellow giants. I've seen the colors kids are putting in their hair these days; I'm glad they won't be disappointed.

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