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“Anyone without those things could not survive.”

CERB was helpful, although it did not come close to paying the bills; now Stark worries about the future.She has deferred some payments and that debt is mounting.

The savings she’s using to stay afloat now were supposed to be for her retirement years. If there’s another lockdown, “What are people going to live on? All the rules have changed. I don’t have the wherewithal to start something new.”

She’s playing a waiting game. Ironically, her work environment could not be safer. The physical surroundings are pristine and most clients have all been coming to her for years. It’s a true community.

That can’t offset fear. “A few have panicked and cancel at the last minute,” said Stark — and that’s her day’s earnings gone.

“It’s tough to operate at this level of stress. People come here to relax and get rid of some of their fear.”

COVID rules mean no chatting, no offers of coffee or tea, no hugs for clients who need one.  “The social aspect has been removed. The spiritual level, the healing, is not available anymore.”

If another shutdown happens?

“I may move to a warm place and grow vegetables.”

At the other end of the same salon, Kathleen Sahni operates her hairdressing space. Like Stark, she runs a drama-free, calming space for her clients, many of whom have come to her for years.

The men and women who rely on Sahni for cut, colour or other treatments are not in the salon very long, and they can keep their masks on the whole time. She works behind a mask and a shield, of course.

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