When I was about 15, I had a conversation with a friend regarding which we would prefer. To go grey or go bald. In my case, nature chose both options. As a result of this, going to the barbers is usually a straightforward procedure. I am not a loyal customer and will go to the place that happens to have the shortest queue.
Men’s hairdressing has become more complicated in recent years with the introduction of Turkish barbers and their hot towels. I also notice (in researching this) that Turkish barbering includes nasal hair waxing, I wish good fortune to anyone brave enough to try this. For me, even shampooing seems a bit unnecessary, I can do that myself.
So this week, I went to get my hair cut in a small barber shop in the town centre. It is one that doesn’t bother making appointments and you turn up and take your chances. My rule is that if more than two chairs are occupied, I will wonder around town and come back later. Sometimes I can waste a whole afternoon on this. Perhaps it would be more time effective to just sit and wait.
I was introduced to a barber I hadn’t met before. Let’s call her Caroline. She was a friendly woman and went through the standard list of questions. 1. How do you like your hair to be cut? 2. Are you working today? 3. Do you have any holidays planned? Perhaps there is a module on these questions at hairdressing school.
After about ten minutes, I started to notice that Caroline wasn’t really doing anything. She seemed to be looking at my hair, putting a comb through it but crucially, not cutting very much at all. After about twenty minutes of faffing around, Caroline decided she couldn’t see my hair so span round the chair to face the middle of the shop, bashing my feet into a cabinet in the process. ‘Much better’ she exclaimed.
Another twenty minutes passed during which time Caroline hit me in the face with a comb (three times), somehow managed to stick her finger down my ear, stuck a bit of folded up paper under the chair as it was wobbling (another bad sign) and then crashed my feet into the cabinet again as she mistook the chair for some kind of fairground waltzer ride.
In the meantime, Emma (the hairdresser in the next chair) had finished three customers. All three asked how busy the salon had been and Emma replied thoughtfully each time, like she had never heard that question before. It was very impressive. I also enjoyed her conversation with a young man which included the phrase “your hair would look better for longer if you tried washing it”.
Luckily, I wasn’t in too much of a hurry (although neither, it seemed, was Caroline). After an hour and five minutes, Caroline asked Emma to check she ‘hadn’t missed too many bits’. Emma looked over from her cup of tea across the shop and said she ‘was sure it would be fine’.
Finally, it was all over and I went over to pay. Caroline asked if I wanted a loyalty card. If I visit her ten times, I will get a £2 discount on the eleventh haircut. I politely declined. As I was leaving she said “I am sorry about hitting you with the comb so many times, I hope you will come back soon”.
I wonder how long it would have taken if I still had a full head of hair, perhaps a toilet break and a spot of lunch would be needed…