For as long as I can remember, there are three things I’ve wanted in life:

1. A dishwasher that can clean pans.

2. Children who go to bed and stay there for eight hours.

3. Light brown hair with blond streaks.

These days, life being what it is, I’ve pretty much given up on numbers one and two, but recently I decided to make one more stab at number three.

I went to the hair salon and said to a hairstylist we’ll call Bob, “Light brown hair with blond streaks, please.”

Bob nodded solemnly. He looked at my hair, which was sort of light brown already but not the right kind of light brown, if you know what I mean. Then he made one of those mystifying statements that hairdressers are always uttering.

“You know, you have some ash in the lower part of your hair.”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said again, “Could I please have light brown hair with blond streaks?”

Bob looked in some books and charts and said we could “counteract the ash,” whatever that meant. It sounded like a call to arms, and off we went to the hair color chart, where he painted goop on my hair and I read magazines.

The first inkling I had that we had crossed over into Hair Color Hell was when he was rinsing out my hair.

“Uh, how comfortable are you with a little red in your hair?” he said.

This turned out to be a euphemism for, “How would you like hair the unearthly color of a brand new fire engine, never before found in nature?”

Let me just stop here and tell you that I find it very difficult to criticize hairdressers, especially those who seem to be taking an interest in my well-being.

I actually once sat, immobile with a frozen smile, while one guy cut my hair to within a quarter-inch of its life. But this time, just as I was slumping into the chair, feeling the life force ooze out of me, I heard Bob’s boss behind us.

“Bob?” he said brightly. “What exactly is our plan here?”

So Bob again got out his color charts and his books and started telling his boss about the ash in my hair and how we were counteracting it, and then his boss put his arm around Bob and they walked to the back room together and closed the door.

When Bob came out, he had some new goop, and we made jokes about my brief life as a redhead. When he rinsed the new goop out, we both nearly fell over backward because my hair was now Bozo-the-Clown Orange.

Back came the boss, wanting to know about a plan again.

This time a Hair Color Expert was called in. He said my hair had some very hot tones in it, which was nicer than saying I looked like a warning lilght.

“We have to cool down this hair,” he said. Then the boss, Bob, and the expert all went into the back room and closed the door.

The expert came back in a few minutes and told me that hair color can always, always be fixed. He said this loudly, in case other customers were thinking of running out the door.

“This is no problem,” he said. “No problem at all. Now waht did you have in mind when you came in here?”

“Light brown hair, blond streaks,” I said weakly. “Could we send out for a wig, do you think?”

No wig. They applied brown goop, which almost–but not quite–took away the orange. I had a leave then, because my 6-year-old needed to be picked up at day camp.

“It really looks fine,” the hair people told me, and I said it back to them, just to make us all feel better.

I got to the day camp and my daughter said, “Your hair is really interesting today.”

So I went back to the place the next day. They did not look happy to see me coming in the front door, but they handed me over to yet another hair color expert, who said she knew just what to do. She put on a different kind of goop, then streaked blond and brown into my hair–and when she was done, I hugged her and kissed her because there was not one particle of orange or red to be seen. Just brown and blond.

As I was leaving the place, now that we were all chummy again, they said to me–just to make polite conversation, “So! What do you do for a living?”

I felt sorry for them, I really did, but of course I had to tell them. So I smiled and said, “Well, I write a column for the local newspaper about weird things that happen to me.”

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