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The Ten Dollar Haircut

I'm starting to get disillusioned with the ten-dollar haircut. It offers a bright promise—that of a nondescript, mediocre haircut for a reasonable price—that it just can't keep. GreatCuts, SuperCuts, FineCuts, AcceptableCuts, and CutsThatAren'tEye-WateringlyUgly, be warned: my patience, like my hair under your dominion, is growing thin.

The barbers at these places have a peculiar love for the act of cutting hair. It doesn't matter what I say to them once I climb into the barber chair. They know that I am not leaving until every last lock of hair is piled on the barber shop floor, or on that big ineffective poncho they throw over me, or in my shirt pockets. I have tried checking the barbers' enthusiasm with increasing levels of forcefulness. It started off with "I want the same hairstyle I have now, except a little shorter." It turned out "except a little shorter" meant "except I want it gone," so I moved up to "Just a little trim." That proved ineffective, as did "Just take off about a quarter of an inch," "Please put in extensions," and, "Under no circumstances are you to cut any of my hair. I want it exactly the same length. Do what I say. I have a gun." Each time, the barber agreed cheerfully to my wishes, and proceeded to shave me bald as an egg.

I don't want to give the impression that every AdjectiveCuts barber is the same. The haircut they give me is always the same, but the barbers themselves fall into several different species, each of which can be recognized by their own hideous haircut.

(I know what you're thinking. "I suppose now he's going to make some tired and vaguely offensive allusions to the gay hairdresser." No indeed! The hairdresser lucky enough to be gay will NEVER be found at a $10 chain. He can parlay his gayness into a much better job, at a place with a name like "Raoul's" or "Corte del Pelo," I suppose. I don't know. I don't live in the kind of neighborhood with a really upscale hair salon. The nearest thing we have is a place called "The Best Little Hair House." Ah, if only more business names involved puns on the word "whore.")

The first species of barber, usually named "Joe," is a guy in his early 20's. Joe is aware of the stereotype of the gay hairdresser, and in order to avoid being labelled as one of them, he wildly overcompensates. He will spend most of the haircut talking to another employee, also named Joe, about his latest rockclimbing trip, his RV, and the dearth of games for PlayStation 2. He may be into some kind of music, but not too into music, because that would smack of appreciation of art, and he's not that kind of guy, if you know what I mean. If he is required to speak to me, he will address me brusquely, calling me "dude." And, to further exert his masculinity, no matter what hairstyle I ask for, he will give me the same style he has, i.e. bald as an egg.

The second type of barber, "Trisha," has a disturbingly retro 80's hair helmet type dealie. Trisha is exceptional because she asks me how I want my hair. I am required to make choices I don't fully understand and don't care about, about how I want my hair squared in the back; how I want my sideburns (which I didn't know I had); and something about something being feathered, or scaled, or something. I make some idiotic statement like, "I trust you. Whichever one is longer. I don't want too much off."

Trisha is relaxing because she will complain incessantly about her own life, and I'm not required to make much response except "mm hmm," and "that sucks," and to shift uncomfortably when she makes disconcerting statements like "As soon as I get my haircutting license I am out of here." The only problem is that if I'm too sympathetic a listener, she will get carried away and relate every detail of her sucky relationship, the people at work who don't like her, and how she got in a huge fight with her parents, all the while cutting hair with mad abandon. By the time she finishes her long tale of woe, I will be as bald as an egg.

The last and most feared type of barber is a middle-aged, jovial fellow with slicked-back hair, commonly named Russ. He wishes he worked at one of those mom'n'pop barber shops with the striped pole out front, where he could shoot the breeze with his "regulars," who would come in to get their hair cut every week, sheerly for the pleasure of his company. Russ affects one of those big pointy moustaches, which he waxes frequently.

Russ loves to engage in that quaint barber-barbee chatter that seems to be dying out of the modern world, mainly because it is horrible. He has a fund of conversation about sports, politics, and the weather, and he will pump me for my views on the subject. If I have differing views from his, or no views at all, which is nearly always the case, I am required to pretend to share his; otherwise I will never escape the barber's chair. And woe betide me if I arrive for a haircut during the playoffs, during an election or political crisis, or on an unusually hot or cold day! Russ will become so animated that he will forget to cut hair for minutes at a time, thus delaying my escape indefinitely.

Here's how a conversation with Russ is likely to go.

PAUL: Just a little off the top, please. I have a very weak constitution, and if my hair is too short, I will take cold and die.
RUSS: Sure. (snips) How about that USA PATRIOT Act?
PAUL: (tentatively) Yeah. That's really something.
RUSS: You know, a lot of the pundits though they went too far with that, but I think it's great.
PAUL: Oh yeah?
RUSS: (Russ is now doing that really annoying thing barbers do, where they comb and cut the hair around your ear with one hand, thus hitting your ear with the comb at the end of every cut, creating this steady percussive assault on your ear.) The way I figure is, if you don't want people reading your email, you're probably doing something wrong. Know what I mean?
PAUL: (trying to curry favor) You said it. Why, I think anyone who even sends email at all is probably in some sort of terrorist cell.
RUSS: (Russ has now abandoned the haircut, since I am as bald as an egg, and is ruminatively beating my ear with his comb.) Yeah! Take me, for example. I sell bootleg porn, but I do it via the U.S. postal service. So it's all clear and above board. Want a catalog?

I've just about had it with the $10 haircut. There must be a place where one can get whatever haircut one wants, just by asking. I'm afraid that place might be "The Best Little Hair House." They'd probably give me the hairstyle I want, but I'm virtually certain they'd also trick me out in rouge and fishnet stockings. Still, it would probably be an improvement.