Best-laid plans

By Mir
June 15, 2010

In the continuing saga of You Can’t Take Me Anywhere which is, in fact, MY ENTIRE LIFE, I had a bit of a situation here yesterday morning.

And I’m not even talking about the fact that the water in this hotel tastes so horrendous that the coffee I brewed in the little machine they provide tasted like I’d brewed tea using old underpants in place of teabags.

Look; I’ve never had to head straight to a conference after spending a week on a ship, and if you think I didn’t agonize for WEEKS over what and how to pack, given these circumstances, you must be new here. What we finally did was manage to pack my stuff and Otto’s stuff into one large and one small suitcase; although my stuff filled most of the larger suitcase, this would allow me to take just the smaller one with me, post-cruise, when heading off to be all professional while sending Otto home with most of the laundry. I thought it was a brilliant plan.

In fact, it was TOTALLY brilliant because the smaller suitcase is actually small enough to be carried on, and you know how I hate to check luggage. I all but patted myself on the back for working out such a genius solution.

The only problem was that I had brought a full-size bottle of hair product with me on the cruise. Because it doesn’t come in a smaller bottle, and because going to the Caribbean without your magic curl-and-frizz-taming products makes the baby Jesus cry. I had tossed it into the checked luggage on our way out, and totally forgotten I’d have to deal with it on the way back.

Well, given my history of smuggling contraband through the airport, it didn’t take very long for me to decide that I’d go ahead and carry my bag on, anyway, and hope the hair lotion would make it through without getting caught. The good news is that I was indeed successful (again!) and my Curls Rock and I had an uneventful trip to Philly.

The bad news is that while packing up to leave the ship, I realized that I was having several issues with my toiletries. For one thing, I’d brought a small container of my Super Extra Special Tea Tree Oil Face Wash, and the lid had since cracked, which meant the bottle was leaking and now couldn’t be repacked. Oh, well… I could make do with regular soap for a few days, I supposed. For another thing, between my various cleansing liquids and some liquid vitamin supplements I take, my quart-size ziploc bag was turning out to not actually be large enough for all of the liquid things I wanted to take, even when excluding my illegal hair lotion.

What to do, what to do?

The ship we cruised on had thoughtfully provided a small bowl of freebies in the bathroom, and among them was a trio of John Frieda hair products in foil—you know the kind, single-use packages of shampoo, conditioner, and some sort of smoothing lotion. Ah! I could take THAT, and give Otto my little bottles of shampoo and conditioner to take home. That would save some room, and suddenly I could zip my ziploc again. Perfect.

I’m in Philadelphia for two days. Because my hair is finicky I tend to be picky about hair products (but I generally like the John Frieda stuff), which is a minus; but on the plus side, because my hair is dry, I only wash it every other day. Those slender foil packets would be plenty for a two-day trip, as I’d only have to wash my hair once. And this would save me from Mystery Hotel Shampoo.

Yesterday I got up and did some work and eventually took a shower (shocking, I know). I took the foil packets of shampoo and conditioner in with me and washed my hair. The products were pretty nice. I got out and did my post-shower stuff (lotions, deodorant, etc.) and then came to my hair.

I actually use two products on my hair; I mix the Curls Rock with another product that’s meant to be a smoother. The third John Frieda packet was something that was labeled as smoother. Now, I had a small bottle of a second product with me for that purpose, but I had just used two of the three products, so it seemed logical to try the third, right?

I put some of the Curls Rock in my palm. Then I added the John Frieda product and rubbed my hands together the way I always do.

This is the part where I desperately want to tell you that I just didn’t NOTICE what happened. I want the next sentence to be “I failed to see what happened when these two products came into contact with each other.” Because the two products I NORMALLY mix are unremarkable together and I rub the result into my hair and then I have bouncy, shiny curls and really, if I hadn’t noticed, you wouldn’t blame me one bit.

But the truth is that I pulled my palms apart and I saw EXACTLY what had happened. I don’t know what the hell is in that John Frieda smoother stuff, but the mess that was now on my hands was white, sticky balls of… glop. Rather than blending together smoothly, I had somehow combined two liquids to make a truly disgusting, gloppy semi-solid.

And maybe it was the bad coffee, or maybe I just WANTED to wish it away, but I looked at the mess in my hands and I truly thought, “I’m sure this will just dissolve once I put it into my hair.”

Yes. Because my hair is magical that way.

So you already know what happened, right? I put that mess into my hair and I rubbed and rubbed and no matter how I rubbed, it did not dissolve, on account of I’d just made my very own homemade flubber, and then RUBBED IT IN MY HAIR.

No problem, I thought, panic rising. I will just rinse this mess right out. I stuck my head into the tub and ran the water and rubbed my hair and rinsed it all out.

Except, of course, none of it came out. NONE OF IT. My hair was still full of sticky white balls.

No problem, I thought, actually panicking, now. I will just wash my hair again!

Except, of course, I had no more shampoo and conditioner. Fortunately the hotel had thoughtfully provided Mystery Hair Products for my de-glopping pleasure.

So, basically, the hair catastrophe that I had on account of the special little packets of hair products I brought specifically so that I would not have to use the hotel’s Mystery Hair Products were the reason I ended up washing and conditioning my hair with Mystery Hair Products.

It worked fine, and—more to the point—removed the mysterious glop from my hair. It also smelled pretty good.

Needless to say, I did not so much as TOUCH my hair, this morning. I apologize for the wild look I’m sporting, but you have to understand, I was just plain SCARED. Or maybe I mean scarred.

Probably both.


  1. Jean

    You kill me! I love your escapades and the way you write about them. Chuckling away here at your life stories…

  2. Leandra

    That happened to me once, too. I won’t tell you what the result actually looked like in my hands, but it was gross. Just gross.

  3. Brigitte

    Hee, Leandra! Visions of “There’s something About Mary.”

  4. Megan

    Oh deary me. I don’t think those sleekly straight and shiny people know what we curly haired types go through – the PAIN man, the PAIN.

  5. dad

    I love the way you always rise like a phoenix to solve these really monumental problems.
    Its so…life affirming.

    Now go forth and be brilliant!

  6. Tracy

    Isn’t that just perfect! Thank goodness for the mystery products. Those hotels, well, they just think of everything, huh? The only thing missing….pictures. ha!

  7. Javamom

    Dear Mir and anyone else who travels and spends time in hotel rooms;

    I used to be a flight attendant. And other flight attendants have told me what happens to those little Mr. Coffeemakers in hotel rooms. There is a reason why the coffee in those machine tastes like ick. Please please treat yourself to a $10 room service coffee next time you are about to deal with a hair situation. Or any situation. And avoid using Mr. Coffeemaker. The hotel coffee may not be the best but it will be less ick.

    Or wash the coffee maker out with bleach. Which you can get from the hotel, if you beg nicely to a maid.

    You crack me up.

  8. Tammy

    As a fellow curly haired woman, I empathize with you. I’m also LOL-ing at your Dad.

    But, the selfish part of me is wondering if I can find the Curls Rock product in a store near me? Off to the internets to find out…

  9. Hally

    oh Mir,
    I can imagine this so well, because you’re such a taleted writer. I’m the best girl friend of a curly haired gal and the woes we had in college because of the wrong ‘product’. :D

    Alas you can not wear the collegiate baseball cap everywhere though.

    Props to Otto for taking the moster suitcase of laundry home!

  10. Becky

    Not being able to carry on my toiletries without ‘planning the Normandy invasion’…exactly how the terrorist have won… : )

    …just a humble opinion from someone who tries to figure it all out the same way, but generally doesn’t….

  11. Aimee

    Oh lordy, fellow curly-haired warrior! Do I ever feel your pain. I dread having to use the mystery shampoo in hotels, and I will NOT travel without my magic curly-hair goop.

  12. bad penguin

    The TSA really does not understand that curly haired women have hair product needs that cannot be ignored. Also, those products generally do not fit into a quart sized bag.

    I combine my Curls Rock with Bumble & Bumble Curl Conscious Creme. It works great, even in DC humidity.

  13. Summer

    I work in the travel industry, and thus read travel industry media, and in the past few months I’ve been seeing a lot of reports that the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule (3 oz liquids in one baggie) is pretty much defunct. It hasn’t been officially revoked, to the best of my knowledge, but it sounds like it’s being ignored in most airports.

    So my advice would be to try to get that Curls Rock back home with you… the worst case scenario is that they make you throw it away at the airport. Just don’t terrorize anyone with your hair products, mmkay?

  14. Kathy

    Oh I feel your pain! I also have very curly hair but I’m usually not too very picky about products. Well, I’m not picky about price – if Suave works then I’ll use it. But I was getting ready for a wedding last year & had just bought a new Garnier curl product. It seemed to leave my hair a little too crunchy the first time I used it so I thought I would add a smoother (Suave). I did not mix the products but put one on after the other. When I added the smoother it looked like I was spreading cottage cheese throughout my hair! Emergency re-wash required, almost late for the wedding. But all’s well that ends well.

  15. Chuck

    For a straight male, I’m actually somewhat picky about my hair products (I have various kinds in my shower, including Silver Shine shampoo I periodically use to make my salt and pepper hair more…sparkly or something.) Still, I’ve never had horrible results using hotel shampoo/conditioner. Now, my hair styling products are another thing…I can use regular styling gel when I have to but I *love* American Crew products and if I don’t have their pomade with me, it always feels like I’m settling. Good thing I wear my hair short, huh?

  16. Aly

    That reminds me of the time I went to a conference with a coworker. When I got to her room to pick her up to go downstairs she was all freaked out about how greasy her hair looked. I asked her what she had done differently and she said she had just used the hotel shampoo and conditioner. What she failed to realize was that the shampoo was a 2 in 1 and the “conditioner” actually said “Conditioning Lotion” as in put me on your hands and body – not in your nice clean hair. No, she didn’t have time to re-wash it. Yes, I held that over her for years.

  17. Laura

    I also have naturally curly hair that is dry. When my husband attempts to mock me for packing a large bag when we go on a trip I pointedly stare him down and say: “My suitcase is bigger because I have naturally curly hair.” While that might not make sense to some, I suspect it does to the rest of us curly haired folks.

  18. Kristina in SD

    I laughed so hard I almost cried! (ok maybe a tear or two ran down my face) I have very curly hair and I NEVER, NEVER use anything besides what I use daily. I have had too many bad things happen to my hair and me!!!! Thanks for a great laugh!!! I needed it.

  19. Priscilla

    I am so glad I was NOT drinking anything as I read this, or it would have been snorted out thru my nose!! Thanks for a much needed laugh! I could so visualize this as you described it!!! I recently cut my curls off to a very short length as the 90+ degrees and humidity here in the South got to me. I also decided to stop coloring my hair (after 42 years ) and the only way to get the color off was to cut it very short.

  20. Katie in MA

    Poor thing! But that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to thinking my mop of curls is somewhat manageable. Thanks for that!

  21. Heather

    Well, THAT was amusing. For us, anyway. Sorry about your part, though ;)

  22. Mary

    I can hardly type because of the tears of laughter! I was picturing you every step of the way.
    Enjoyed your vacation. Thanks for taking me along.

  23. Cele

    Thank goodness for ponytail. I don’t care if I’m 54 and wearing a ponytail.

  24. Haley

    Curls Rock is such a lifesaver. I have my own curly hair dilemmas and it has saved me!
    I have noticed though, you have to be very careful about what you mix with it or else it gets all chunky and disgusting…which you apparently figured out! :)

  25. Genevieve

    Another product to suggest: Curls Rock doesn’t work that well for me (though apparently I should try combining it with something), but what really works well is Tresemme Curl Care Bouncy Curls Defining Gel. (Could that name be longer?) I get it from and it leaves my hair so much better, and non-crunchy, than other things I’ve tried.

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