The magic of a travel hairdryer no 'idiot male' will understand

2017-08-04 12:30 - Darrel Bristow-Bovey
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Picture: Istock image

“We have to go back,” she said.

No way were we going back. We had just arrived at Heathrow after a hellish, unending tube-journey on a wet summer’s day with two large suitcases. We were on our way home, and when you’re going home from London, half the journey is just getting to the airport. The tubes had been full and I’d been standing for the last hour, squeezed and jostled and wrestling with sour-faced Brits, trying to stop the suitcases from sliding around on their little wheels. I just wanted to sit down somewhere and sob for a while.

“I don’t have my hairdryer,” she said, and then I knew I’d have to go back.

She has had this hairdryer since 1991, the first time she ever travelled overseas. It came from the Clicks in Sandton City and it was one of the first appliances she ever bought for herself with money she’d earned.

It’s a Conair EuroStyle 1500, if that means anything to you – a cheap lightweight travel dryer in black and white plastic with a handle that folds up next to the central casing like a James Bond gadget to save space in your suitcase. It has travelled with her on every single trip, foreign and domestic, ever since she bought it – all through her 20s and her 30s and into her 40s, through five continents and three careers and two husbands and however many boyfriends.

It has never broken down, never lost its heat or blowiness, never given her a moment of concern. It comforts her to know there’s some thread of continuity in her hand luggage, something she can always rely on.

Just that morning, as we were packing up in the hotel room, she had told me about the dryer. I had taken it from her and lounged on the bed inspecting this miraculous item. It didn’t seem that special to me.

“There is literally nothing in my life, other than my mom and dad, that has been with me longer than that dryer,” she’d said. “I love that dryer. I’ve never even once left it behind in a hotel room.”

And that must have been the moment when I thought it might be funny if I hid the hairdryer under the duvet, so that later as we were leaving the room I could say, “Haven’t you forgotten something?” and then produce the hairdryer and she would be shocked and relieved and we would have a laugh about it. This is the kind of thing that some women have to put up with when they decide to share part of their life with certain kinds of idiot men.

It would have been a pretty lame joke, even if I hadn’t then promptly proceeded to pack up and check out and completely forget that I had hidden the hairdryer.

It would be impossible to make it back on the tube to the hotel and then back in time for the flight, so I had to take a cab. Have you ever taken a taxi from Heathrow to central London at the end of your holiday, just as the rand is taking another dive? I sat in the cab feeling very grateful that I don’t have children, because after I’d paid for this taxi they were definitely never going to university.

I ran into the hotel and belted up the stairs to the room. Of course, the door was locked. I belted down the stairs to reception. Someone from the hotel took me up to the room. They did not walk very fast. “Come on, come on,” I begged. “I have a plane to catch.”  

The room had been made up already. There was no hairdryer. I hurtled back down to the desk. No hairdryer had been found or handed in.

“Someone has stolen the magic hairdryer!” I yelled.

The cab was still waiting outside, ticking over in pounds. I’m not exactly sure why I’d asked it to wait. I climbed back inside and closed the door and it pulled away from the cruel London kerb and I stared into space, feeling the dawning horror of being the person who has caused someone to lose their good-luck charm for nearly three decades, their constant companion, just about the only reliable thing in their life. It had stuck by her side for all this time, it had survived airlines and age and airports, but it hadn’t survived me.

I knew what she’d say. She’d say: “It doesn’t matter, it’s just an object. It’s only a material possession. Don’t feel bad.”

That made me feel worse.

As the cab pulled away, someone came running out of the hotel waving a black and white plastic object. They jogged beside the car beating on the roof until we stopped. They’d found it wrapped in the bed linen. I took it, gratefully, babbling, almost tearful. As the cab pulled off into the traffic I clutched it tight, and swore never to let it go again.

“Wow,” said the cab driver. “You must really like washing your hair.”

Darrel Bristow-Bovey is a columnist, screenwriter, travel writer, author - follow him on Twitter

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