One night after work last week, I had to stop by the salon where I buy my shampoo and conditioner. My coif is somewhat particular.

As one of the ladies was ringing up my purchase, she said to me, “This is great stuff. Have you ever used it before?”

“Every day,” I said. “I love it.”

She proceeded to tell me how to use it, as though I didn’t just convey that I was more than familiar with said product.

“You’ll want to use only a quarter-sized amount, at most, because it’s pretty concentrated.”

I nodded and added a “got it,” acknowledging and accepting her direction.

“And it helps if you wet your hair first,” she continued. “Otherwise it won’t lather.”

Really? People try to shampoo without wetting their hair? In that case, yes, I can absolutely see how wetting one’s mane first would be a good idea, because I imagine that quarter-sized amount wouldn’t go very far otherwise.

“And be sure to rinse the conditioner out completely,” she said. “It’s not meant to be left in.”

Again, more direction even though I’d told her I was a fan of the stuff, thereby implying that I’d used it before.

On my way out of the salon, I checked out my hair in every mirror I passed, convinced that something had happened to my ‘do during the day to have prompted the woman to give me pointers about how to properly shampoo and condition. Nothing seemed amiss, although I supposed it’s possible that my idea of normal hair is someone else’s cringe-worthy cause for concern.

When I got in my car, I replayed the entire — though brief — conversation. Was my answer of “Every day/I love it” heard as something else, specifically something that indicated I’d never used that product — let alone shampooed a day in my life? I didn’t think so. She was a sweet woman, so I was by no means irritated, but I was completely confused. All I could figure was that her head was somewhere else…and then my confusion turned to complete amazement that despite her brain being in another dimension, her customer service skills never faltered.

Sometimes people will respond to us with a bizarre answer, a mean answer, with a sour expression, no expression, a blank stare or a rambling monologue of know-it-all proportions. Sometimes nothing we said or asked makes any logical sense for what we get in return, and it leaves us confused.

“Huh?” is sometimes all we can muster, or maybe we’re relegated to nothing more than a few blinks or a deer-in-headlights look. Other times we fight back — a normal reaction, but one which indicates the other person clearly got the better of us when perhaps they didn’t mean to. Maybe they’re simply fighting their own battles and demons, and we happened to wander into the middle of the attack.

Had my shampoo expedition been anything less than delightfully confusing, I might’ve taken any other bait and snarked back. But my encounter with the woman at the salon was a good reminder that sometimes the things that don’t add up to us are merely an indication of the weight that’s in the process of burying another person. And while it might seem like a dismissive thing to do, sometimes the best thing to do is simply smile and nod.

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