I’d already finished my nap, eaten the contents of the soggy paper bag full of soggy airplane food, read a couple of pages of that slick airplane magazine, stretche, and began to look idly around at the other passengers. We were all flying to San Antonio, Texas.

With nothing better to do, I became very interested in all those heads stretching out before me like rows of hairy bowling balls. Loads and loads of heads. No necks or shoulders. Just heads.

And what a variety there was. Have you ever noticed heads in airplanes? Fascinating. Absorbing. On this particular flight there were a lot of fresh, shiny, clean, razor-pressed and very, oh so very young military guys on their way to Fort Sam Houston in San Antone. Their heads, shaved to the skull, sticking up from the rows of seats ahead of me like so many kiwi fruits, were really quite intriguing. It was obvious those kids had had a scuffle or two in their lives. There were a vast variety of scars all over their young skulls, some tiny, some long, some round, some not, all somewhat white-ish. One guy had a row of scars that looked exactly like the Aleutian Islands, running roughly from the crown of his head down and behind his right ear. Another kid had obviously been blasted with buckshot, but only a little. Another had a couple of scars shaped like Maine and Idaho, another had a scar shaped like a headless ostrich, another like John Barrymore’s profile, and another had a group of scars that made a rather credible smiley face. It all got kind of funny in my idle boredom up there in the clouds, and I smiled as I began to see lots of faces and small mammal shapes (and a couple of reptiles) in the scar designs on the backs and tops of the heads of those kids sworn to protect our flag.

Tiring of that, I began to wonder how many people on that plane colored their hair, and was surprised to discover that it appeared many did, or seemed to, and some of them, of course, were males. I’m not talking about the token green and vivid blue, yellow and pink clumpings on the heads of the younger passengers bent on “expressing” themselves. I was more interested in the large group of adults who had added color to their locks, for reasons known best to them; change of personality, search for eternal youth, hide the grey, witness protection program, or ego.

And why not? What nature can’t do, one’s hairdresser most certainly can, after, of course, one crosses his/her latex-clad palm with silver. (Or better, paper.) And one can even change one’s hair color one’s self after the tedium of selecting the perfect color after a long session in a store standing before hundreds of boxes of hair color choices. (As for me, I’ve always hankered toward the Farah Faucet mane. I think it’d look very smart on me.)

There were so many colors of hair on that plane, but I’ll say that a reddish cast was the most popular, with outright blonde a close second. Shoe polish black on some, shoe polish brown on others. Lots of folks are dying their hair these days, all the sexes, and most people are very open about it, but when I was growing up, to hit the dye pots and to color one’s hair was just simply scandalous. And, truth be told, if a woman did that everyone thought she more than likely had, shall we say, a checkered past. Or present. I mean what self-respecting woman dyed her hair? No, back in the day only the self-unrespecting women changed the hue of their crowning glory, well, except of course the white haired grannies. They’d been convinced that a blue rinse would make their white do’s dazzling and blindly white. It did not. They became known forevermore as “The Blue Hairs” and still are.


The proper people who gossiped about those who were secretly hitting the dye pots often called it “assisting” one’s hair color. And only women did it and many assisted their hair with colors far past the years when those colors, had they been natural in the first place, would normally have faded into obscurity. Or just faded.

I so well remember little old ladies in (and out of) my family, many barely able to stand, most unable to blow out even one of the dozens of candles on their birthday cakes, but still having vermilion hair. Or glowing auburn. Or school bus yellow. Or charcoal black. Or mud brown, all colors garishly contrasting with their ancient, pale, creased and wizened faces. But you know, it made those ladies very happy and it made them feel young, so so what if they looked pathetic and weird to the rest of their purist peers who “wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing”? When those old gals back then, or even now, look into their mirrors and see someone youthful looking back, I say “you GO girl!”

Women back then, I remember, would often go on a long vacation and would frequently return with tightened skin, vanished double chins, and a brand new hair color, and if anyone asked if they’d had a little work done, or assisted their hair while away, they always answered with, “oh heavens no! I guess I only look different because I got a really good rest on my trip.” Right-e-o.

Try “listening” to the crania in front of you, next time you’re on a boring plane to somewhere. In many ways it beats a good book!

LC Van Savage is a Brunswick writer.

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