We're walking through the Mall of America and can't move 10 yards without getting pounced. Kooka and I both get hit. "You like pretty jewelry?" Of course she does. "Miss, miss - I make you smell soooo good." She likes to smell good. "Are you a model? I am going to make you a Supermodel." Give me a break.
But the guy at "Magic Hair" has refined his technique. He doesn't even bother with me. Instead, he kneels down to Kooka as we walk by. His eyebrows raise, and in a thick accent he coos, "You such a pretty girl." Much to my horror - she smiles. She should be running away - she should be grabbing my leg and shouting "stranger danger". But noooooooooooo. She grins, hypnotized by the stranger who says, "I make you even prettier with curls - you like that?" Her eyes glaze over and she nods, hopping into his chair like a migrating lemming.
"What is your name?" he asks.
"Beautiful name. I, Tony - and if you wonder of my accent - I Israeli. I work hard here and we have no dental insurance, so I make you good deal." Actually - his teeth look fine - it's not like he's a pirate or anything. I steel myself for the pitch.
He begins to curl her hair. "Now, Kooka's mom. This is space age hair curler. One hundred percent ceramic - not just coated with ceramic - one HUNDRED percent."
"This not ordinary curler. It can straighten and curl, and it uses far - infrared technology."
"NO! FAR-infrared - much better than infrared."
"Like robot eyes?"
"Yes just like robot eyes. Sends waves deep into hair. Made of same stuff as Space shuttle." I watch Tony spin her golden locks into perfect spirals. They will all fall out by the time he's finished.
"You see this?" Kooka's hair is starting to smoke and sizzle - it's pretty hard to miss.
"Yeah - I see it."
"That not steam - that natural oils, that protect hair. Natural oils are soo good, they keep hair shiny. That not steam - that natural oil."
"Well - where is it all going? I mean doesn't she want to keep that natural oil? Sorta looks like it's all escaping."
"What is escaping? Nothing is escaping!"
"That - that vapor - her natural oils."
"Oh - that stuff not natural oils - that just steam." I do not even know what to say to that. Luckily I don't have to say anything, because Tony keeps right on going. "Now - normally we sell this for 220 dollars, but just for you - and because I have no dental insurance - I sell for sixty-five dollars."
"Ooooh," Kooka pipes in, "That is a good deal."
"Yessssss," he purrs, "Now you try Kooka's mom. It sooo easy."
It not so easy. In order to make it curl, you have to hold it at the base - and the top, and the infrared technology burns my fingers - not once - but twice.
Tony takes it back and scowls. "It not so hot," he says. His fingers are calloused. Looks like he's been herding wild dragons for the past 6 months - no wonder he can't feel anything.
Needless to say, we don't splurge on the space-age hair curler. But Kooka leaves feeling fabulous - and for that, I leave a tip. Not enough for dental insurance - but maybe enough for some burn ointment.