I had the L’Oreal in my hand. Poised for the quick toss into the basket, wondering if we
needed more toothpaste, when the sweet young clerk approached me waving an unfamiliar box. Unfortunately, she sported long shiny hair the color I wanted.

Beware! When you go to grocery or department stores in Costa Rica, clerks are stationed throughout to tell you about The Brand of the Day. I made up that title because I’m not sure exactly what they are telling me, except they are very excited about whichever product they are holding. Usually it’s coffee, sometimes cereal or crackers. Cookies. Hot dogs. Tortillas.

Today it was haircolor.

I like L’Oreal because I’m worth it. But this other product was $2 less and the clerk promised (lo prometo) it was the same as L’Oreal. PLUS it was de Alemania (German). Are Germans known for their haircolor? I don’t know. I only know the clerk was earnest and maybe gets a promotion if she sells out the whole aisle.

How bad could it be? There’s a picture right there on the box. Besides, I’ve had my hair every color under the sun. Bleached blonde was the most fun. Last fall, right around turning 50, I did a lovely purple rinse. Awful at first, but then it kinda grew on me, especially as it faded. So even if this was not exactly "Dark Auburn", it’d surely be close enough.

Despite the little voice in the back of my head screaming "DON’T DO
IT", I felt compelled to put the L’Oreal back on the shelf and brought
home the Dark Auburn from Alemania.

"Dark Auburn" my ass. When I rinsed off the color and looked in the mirror, a very loud "OH NO" escaped my lips. I really didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Hal, not knowing what I was up to, said "That sounds like a really big bug ‘oh no.’"

"Oh no," I said. "It’s worse," and opened the door. I thought the man was going to faint.

I haven’t colored my hair in awhile so I had about 3/4 of an inch of gray roots. Gray, in case you don’t know this, takes color REALLY well. What I saw when I first looked in the mirror was 3/4 of an inch of bright orange – I’m talking Cyndi Lauper transluscent hard Halloween orange. Followed by dark auburn with hints of the orange and traces of hot pink. Shaving my head crossed my mind.

Dark_auburn_my_assHal and the boys and I all sat around watching my hair dry, muttering "oh no" every now and then. Fortunately, when it dried, it seemed to almost blend ok. Not the punk look I feared. And when I have on make up, my eyes look really green, and you might even think I did it on purpose.

PinkYou know, I’d overheard two women talking at a gathering of expats about tintas here, that it was not reliable. That’s putting it mildly. But I couldn’t refuse the clerk – she was so nice. Ticos are the nicest people on the planet and they would not offend you ever. So when you buy tinta in Costa Rica, make sure there are no clerks in the aisle because I’m telling you saying no is impossible.

Here’s the upside to clerks in the aisle. From Friday afternoon to Sunday night, you can eat free at grocery stores, malls, and department stores because there are clerks everywhere handing out free samples of some food item or other. Even ice cream – "si, gracias" – and wine – "no, gracias, he tenido bastante para hoy" (I’ve had enough for today.) Hot dogs, ritz crackers and wine. Could make me forget my haircolor.

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