Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Cindi Bartlett and her dog, Luci, at her Opus Hair Studio in Portland. Bartlett owns the one-chair salon and is nearing the end of her second week without work or income. Photo courtesy of Cindi Bartlett

Cindi Bartlett has been cutting hair since she was 16. Now 55, she has never had a boss, and for the past seven years has operated a one-chair salon on Newbury Street in Portland called Opus Hair Studio.

She closed her shop almost two weeks ago because of the coronavirus outbreak and, like many Mainers, is worried about the loss of income.

“I never dreamed of something like this stopping my flow of money,” she said. “I always thought it would be my rheumatoid arthritis.”

She said she has never been late paying a bill, has an excellent credit rating and lives with her dog Luci in the home she owns in Portland. For two months this winter she took in her niece and her two young children, who have now moved in with other relatives, but Bartlett can’t see any of them because she is immune-compromised.

“I have written the president, Sen. Collins, (Rep.) Chellie Pingree and more. What is going to happen to small businesses like me with no employees? There’s no real bailouts for us. When we don’t work, we don’t get paid.”

“I have clients who I love and I can’t wait to get back to work. I know they’ll be there, but it’s a lot of catching up to do. I can’t apply for unemployment. I can’t take on another loan. So when I write to the White House, I ask them to please remember us. We weren’t rich. We weren’t getting rich. We were just part of the economy.”

In addition to nimble fingers, Bartlett has honed another requirement of a hair stylist – the ability to spin a yarn.

“I’ve been telling my stories behind the chair forever,” she said. “I’ve been writing journals since I was 11 but I’ve never had more than a week off at a time. Self-employed people don’t take three weeks off.”

“So now I am finally writing the book I have always wanted to write, a memoir about my life growing up in Portland, Maine. I’m used to being alone, but this is already Week Two for me. I’m not sure how I will feel in two more.

“I don’t know when I will ever be able to fix my garage and do home improvements now. It will just have to wait.

“I just did not prepare for this.”

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at [email protected]

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