Going in for a haircut

The care and maintenance of the human head is something that we as a society devote an inordinate amount of interest in. A growth industry if ever there was one, hair cutting and styling is a multi-billion-dollar business that creates a fairly comfortable living for its employees, if you don’t mind touching strangers. Sure, you have to stand on your feet all day and pretend to be interested in what the head is saying as you groom it, but you aren’t likely to face having your job outsourced. At least until we develop the technology to ship scalps to Asia.

I’m not one to put a lot of effort into my appearance, so I view my periodic trips to Great Clips more as a necessary inconvenience than an opportunity to make a fashion statement. To me, the best haircut is a fast haircut. I’ve been known to tell my stylist to do the best they can in ten minutes because I have a pressing appointment to deliver a major address to a convention of neurosurgeons. This guarantees speedy service by allowing them to cut corners knowing that any injuries they cause can be repaired later. And yet, I’m proud to report that I still have at least an ear and a half.

During yesterday’s visit, I paid more attention than usual to the process because I thought I could write about it, so here we go.

I walked through the door a little past 4 p.m. and was greeted by the monotonic stylist nearest the front counter – “hell-o-wel-come-to-Great-Clips.” It must be a corporate requirement that they offer this less-than-sincere greeting because it is so lacking in enthusiasm as to be an embarrassment to us both, and I don’t embarrass easily. Another woman breaks away from her sweeping to approach the counter and sign me in. No need for names, please, they just want your phone number, like some would-be bar gigolo. When she enters my number into the computer, she’s apparently shown the names of everyone at my address, but can’t take the time to look up when she asks me, “Beth?” No, I’m Davis.

My cutter introduces herself as Holley, and I take the opportunity to ease into the casual conversation we’re going to have to have for next quarter-hour by noting that my sister is named Holly. “Mine is spelled with an ‘e’, like the high-performance fuel injection carburetors,” she tells me, but I don’t have the heart to ask if her parents were so funny-car-obsessed as to name their daughter for an after-market auto part.

I sit down in the twirly chair and remove my glasses as she drapes me with a thick blue sheet, like something out of “CSI” only grubbier. Then she asks the question I dread: “What are we doing today?” Well, I know I’ll be sitting in a chair and looking at the snappy corporate posters, including “Walk Right In, Sit Right Down” and “We’re Cutting It Out.” Holley, on the other hand, is going to be hard at work giving me what I lamely describe as just a trim, not too short, thin out this wavy stuff, none of those extra-short sideburns. And one actually specific point:

“Last time they left this part on the left” – I pull at a long, unruly strand of grey straw – “real long so I could do a comb-over but I’m out in the wind a lot and don’t want that look. So roughly the same length all across the top, even though it’s a little thin.”

As I settle in, I realize I’m hearing the second consecutive song by Eric Clapton on the in-house music player. So you know they’re not pumping in a specially crafted playlist, because that would certainly include only clean-cut artists, and Clapton – though he may be a god on the guitar – is barely a low-level angel when it comes to personal grooming. Holley asks me if I’m enjoying the nice weather (I am), then launches into her personal story: she just moved to this location from the next town over where they were a little slow and she likes it here better because she likes to keep busy, and (I presume) she enjoys rainbows, puppies and long walks on the beach.

She seems fairly adept at her craft, hacking away at my head with a level of expertise you don’t always see in Great Clips employees. Often you get one who is so methodical, you know you’re probably among their first real customers. You wish they’d go faster, but have to balance that impatience with concerns about ending up looking like somebody halfway through six weeks of radiation therapy. Holley is good, though, making rapid progress through both my thinning silver mane and her autobiography.

Soon, we’re in the end-game. She’s shaving my neck, dusting my face with talcum powder and asking if I want gel (c’mon, I’m 55 years old, what do you think?). We’ve come to that awkward moment where I have to gauge what other body hairs she’s willing to cut. We older guys have a lot of issues with random hair patches, and I’m never quite sure what’s acceptable to request and what’s off-limits. I’m pretty sure from past experience that eyebrow trims are fairly standard, but they fall near enough the middle of a continuum that runs from ear hair (obviously part of the haircut) to nose hair (apparently not, though if the issue is the relative grossness of ear wax versus congealed mucus, I really don’t see much difference) that I’m tentative in my request.

Holley is fine with the eyebrow shave. But she’s momentarily distracted by a newly arriving customer, who is also wel-come-to-Great-Clips, and nearly forgets to trim the left eyebrow. I can’t accept this. My brows are so thick that the imbalance of leaving one untrimmed would severely affect my already-poor posture and leave me walking in circles, so I have to speak up with a reminder. It only takes her a second, and I’m done. She holds up the mirror so I can give my final approval.

I leave what I consider is a fairly generous tip and I’m done for another month or so. In my car, I can give a more thorough examination in the rear-view mirror without appearing too vain, and I must admit: Truly, it is a great clip.


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8 Responses to “Going in for a haircut”

  1. w Says:

    Hi and thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog. Your blog is hilarious. I will be adding it to my blog role. Your sense of humor may be just the pick-up some folks need, especially in these tough times!!

  2. wrjones Says:

    Very entertaining, (555-1212) Beth.

  3. Doraz Says:

    Glad I stopped in to check your blog out! I really appreciate the awareness you have of what makes something funny! Great post. Thanks for your comment on my post. Appreciate your taking the time to do so! Happy blogging, and glad you got a “great clip!”

  4. Rocky Humbert Says:

    Great Blog! I enjoy it immensely. Keep writing!!!

  5. starlaschat Says:

    So funny! It’s nice to hear someone else experience of a haircut. I have resorted to cutting my own hair. The time factor if they could do the hair cut faster that would help. All the extra trimming men get, oh my that’s hysterical. I also enjoyed your Valentines day post.

  6. E.F. Misanthrope Says:

    E.F. Misanthrope is in complete agreement with Davis W on the importance of speed in hair cutting. Apart from speed, I also require silence from my hairdressers, and I sometimes wonder if I live abroad merely so I can avoid the conversations that tend to ensue; those weather conversations and unwanted autobiographies, which you have so wittily described.
    I am fortunate in having discovered the world’s fastest hairdresser, and perhaps the most silent. Our monthly conversations consist of nothing more than her saying ‘Comme d’habitude’ and me replying ‘Oui’. It doesn’t get any better than that!
    If I might be permitted a scurrilous piece of self-promotion, my latest alter ego, Banker Bum, has just been accepted into the Thropplenoggin Blogging Possie, which is near as I’ve ever got to being published, as Dr T. can be quite a fusspot. We Thropplenogginers, an elite group of elitists, apologise for veering so far off the hairdressing track and hope you will not do a Sweeny Todd on us as an act of revenge. In our defence, all two of us are hardcore Davis W fans, which is why I dare beg an audience with the Great W. In the blog , http://tinyurl.com/bankerbum, Banker Bum gives the British Chancellor, Chancer Darling, a good grilling on the banking crisis.

  7. mokkil Says:

    You have a way of telling mundane things with humour.Looking for daily dose of humour.Good post.

  8. E.F. Misanthrope Says:

    Pale imitation: http://tinyurl.com/bvud58

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