Bad Haircuts Lurk Around Every Corner

Don’t take your favorite hair stylist for granted. I once had an absolutely fabulous hair guy, Jerry. I never had a bad haircut from him. For more than 15 years. Jerry kept me looking chic – until he moved to Arizona to be closer to his sister and year-round golf. I never found anyone like him again. I eventually took to cheap walk-in salons – haircut $13.50, no questions asked. What the heck, it always grows back, right?

This year I resolved to make an effort and find a real salon with a stylist to help me transcend my ho-hum look. No more drive-bys at Great Clips. After eying several salons in our new town, I judged the shopping mall salon to be the best bet.

So there I was on a Friday night, at the mall, excited at the prospect of a “new look.” I’d let my hair grow so long there was actually enough there for a shoulder-length style. Maybe, I thought in anticipation, they could give me one of those carefree windblown looks that make news anchor women look so good.

I walked up to the receptionist area, a warm, softly lit area with leather recliners and fresh coffee. Suddenly I was worried that this kind of salon wouldn’t take walk-ins. “Can I get a haircut without an appointment?” I asked the stylist at the desk.

She gave me a once-over. Pause. “Sure. Tony, you’re up,” she yelled. I headed over to where several women were being attended to. She stopped me and pointed with her comb. “Not here – go through that doorway,” she said without looking up again.

Hmm. A back room. Curious.

I walked in. The room was empty. I saw a guy sitting in a salon chair and reading a magazine. He got up and gestured for me to sit where he’d just been sitting in. I sat down. I was in the back corner as far as I could be from the door. I was committed.

Tony pulled a cape over me and started talking as he tried to snap it around my neck. He struggled. I choked. We finally got past that and he started slowly combing my hair in that way that stylists do as they think about what’s best for you.

I was warming up to the prospect of a new me. “I’ve let my hair grow out for a long time and it looks like it,” I said. “Can you cut some layers back into it and create a style that looks professional but still gives me a ponytail for working out?” Probably a recipe for a bad haircut but I had faith.

He sat behind me, staring into the mirror at me.

I looked back at him. Did I mention I wasn’t wearing my glasses for this outing? When I go without them, everything has a fine sort of “blur” until I get up close. Big mistake here. I was close enough now. My new hair guy had bulging, bloodshot eyes, a two-day stubble, a less-than-clean apron, and a serious tremor in his jaw. But like I said, I was committed.

We talked for a good five minutes. Then he poured some stuff out of a small unmarked black vial and started rubbing it into the bottom two inches of my hair. Never had this happen before. “What is that?” I finally asked. “Oh, this is just some stuff they shipped in for us to try, we got it with some shampoo. It’s some kind of oil,” he said.

Oil? I was starting to worry. Now he started to cut. I noticed his tremor extended to his hands. C’mon, I told myself, can a tremor really make that much of a difference? He was cutting the back layers more slowly than any stylist I’d ever had. I didn’t know what was going on.

Thirty minutes later, he was still on the back section of my hair. He was wheezing now while he cut. I think he needed a cigarette. His cell phone rang. He walked away and took the call.

I waited. I looked around the room. In the stall next to me, a vase of dead roses in filmy water sat on a shelf. On the other side, a comb-sterilizing jar, full of combs but only half full of solution tipped precariously on a nearby ledge. Well, I reasoned, at least half of each comb was clean….

Tony hung up. “That was my friend, he needs a ride,” he said. He gave the sides of my hair a half-hearted look. I think I could see his mind actually lose interest in doing the full cut. He moved on. “How about those bangs?” he said.

Okayyyy. We got the bangs trimmed up. He spun me around and said, “what do you think?”

What do I think? I had half a haircut! Sticky, oily gunk was causing my hair to clump and tangle where he’d been cutting. But sometimes you have to know when to cut your losses. I knew this was only going to get much worse.

“Looks great,” I said, “How much?”

I slapped down the cash and ran.

When I got home, my husband looked up at me over his newspaper and started laughing.

Right now, I’m walking around with zombie hair but I don’t care. I need a break from hairstylists who don’t even know they’re delivered a bad haircut.

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