At the Procter & Gamble Bad Hair Day Laboratory

Procter & Gamble has mobilized a team of researchers to determine by scientific methods when a woman will have a bad hair day.

                                                      The Wall Street Journal

Don’t laugh–it could happen to you.

We had just ordered pizza for the night shift at Procter & Gamble’s top-secret Bad Hair Day Laboratories buried deep beneath the surface of the earth in an undisclosed location at 301 East 6th Street–between Sycamore and Broadway–Cincinnati, Ohio 45202, you can’t miss it.

Shhh–it’s a secret.

I could tell we were in for a rough night on the “graveyard” shift.  We took on all cases, regardless of a patient’s lack of tonsorial insurance, as part of P&G’s “Quest for the Cure for Bad Hair Days.”  We were in a race against time; for every day that went by without some way to detect nascent bad hair days–before they developed into full-blown 48-hour “category 2″ bad hair disasters–women would suffer untold anxiety, lost wages due to unnecessary “personal” days, and “skank profiling” by construction workers and law enforcement personnel.

Subject #1 was a woman known only to us as “Amy”–an emotional red-head whose career as an actuary at Modern Moosehead Insurance Co., Inc. was stymied because she could not control her unruly locks.  God, I felt for her.  I know we’re not supposed to become attached to the human victims of bad hair days, but the pain and anguish she suffered through the night were palpable.  The sounds that emanated from her as she slept were a cacophony of moans and whimpers, sometimes even a scream.  When she wasn’t snoring, I mean.

Amy had tried everything to perfect the spit curls that were the de rigeur style of the successful female actuaries at the firm–Scotch brand Magic Tape, corn starch, White Rain Hair Spray–all for nought.

White Rain Hair Spray and “mall bangs”

I took “Amy’s” pulse, adjusted the quotation marks around her head so she could sleep better, and wrote out a scrip for the night nurse.  “She needs to be put on Prell Shampoo,” I said as I tore the piece of paper with my illegible handwriting off the pad.

“Prell Concentrate or Liquid Prell?” the nurse asked as she looked at the paper, her brow furrowed with concern like the rumpled sheets on the bed that she’d slept in with one of the interns last night.  “Instead of telling me what you wrote, why don’t you just try writing more neatly.”

“I’m a doctor!” I snapped.  “I deal in life and death, not the Zaner-Bloser or Palmeri-Milligan methods of penmanship.”

“Sorry, doctor,” she said, her eyes downcast.  “I forgot my place.”

“Liquid Prell, but I want you to test it first,” I said.  “You drop a pearl in it, and if it reaches the bottom of the bottle before the end of a sixty-second commercial, use concentrate.”

Ceramic straightening iron

“Okay,” she said, as she turned to minister to the ailing woman with a straightening iron.  “I’ll take care of it.”

I moved between the beds to a woman named “Vicki,” who had come to us because of a history of bad hair days in her family.

“How ya doin’?” I asked in the most affable tone I could muster in the face of her face, which was surrounded by a head of hair that looked like Phyllis Diller after a ride on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

“Better,” she said, and I had to admire her courage.  She’d been with us for a week, and during that time she’d missed bridge club, golf and book group, but somehow she had found the inner strength to carry on.  “Is there anything I can do for you?” I asked with the trumped-up sincerity that Alan Alda used to manufacture for his role in “M*A*S*H.”

“It’s getting . . . harder,” she said.  “I . . . don’t know . . . if I can hold on.”

“Nurse,” I called out, and an angel of mercy appeared at my side as if by transubstantiation.

“Yes, Doctor?” the man said.  I found it difficult to look at hairs sneaking up through the v-neck of his scrubs instead of a couple of Indian mounds of heaving boobs.

“Get me some Alberto VO5,” I said sharply.

“Are you sure?” he asked timidly.  Probably flunked out of med school because he spent too much time trying to become the next Cat Stevens.

“Don’t question my professional judgment,” I said fiercely.  “Get it–STAT!”

“I’ve always wondered what exactly that means,” the guy said.  A real wool-gatherer–too much pot was my guess.

“It’s from the Latin statim, for immediately, but here’s a good way to remember it:  SOONER THAN ALREADY THERE!” I screamed.

“Okay, I’m on it,” the guy said and after I watched his bald spot disappear down the hall, I turned to console “Vicki.”  “We’ll do everything we can for you okay.”


“I mean that guy will do everything he can.  I’ve got to keep moving.  Nice talking to you.”

“Her black roots are lengthening–better get Spray-On Blonde.”

“Argalarga,” she said as she downed two Perfect Hair Vitamins with a swallow of water.

It was time for the toughest part of the evening–the Critical Care Ward.  Some people find it hard to look at the victims of the most serious cases we handle, but I have to.  I took the Hippocratic Oath as a follicularologist:  The first rule–do no harm, unless someone has been “rat-combing” her hair and needs to have a hairball removed.

I greet a young woman named “Brenda,” who has allowed a stylist to give her “mall bangs” on the eve of her junior prom, and now can’t get the tidal wave of her hair to crash down on the beach of her forehead.

“Hi there,” I say, and “Brenda” forces a brave little smile.

“Hi, doc,” she says with affected cheer, but I can see right through her facade.  I know she’s in agony, what with cheerleading camp next summer looming ahead.

“I . . . spoke to your parents,” I say cautiously.


“They’ve approved the procedure,” I say.

Her eyes light up like the burning of Atlanta.  “They did?”

“Yes,” I say, trying to keep an even tone in order to manage her expectations.  “You realize it’s still experimental, and there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to . . .”

“I don’t care,” she says, her cheeks reddening as tears begin to stream down her face.  “I just want . . . my life back.”

I look in her eyes, and I sense that she understands the risks.  “All right,” I say, and the nurse brings a pair of latex gloves and a jar containing a substance that was used by women ages ago, but which has only recently come back into fashion as a possible antidote for the more exotic and intractable forms of bad hair that have grown resistant to other cures.

“This isn’t going to hurt,” I say, as I slather Dippity-Do on her hair.  “Or at least it’s not going to hurt me.

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