August 8, 2010
It only takes twenty minutes but a visit to Supercuts is a stressful experience for me. A recent visit played out like most visits do…
I opened the door to see the waiting room filled with the usual cast of characters you see at places like this. There was a chubby guy wearing flip flops, a middle- aged man who was balding so badly he probably got some sort of a discount, a kid who looked like he was a sophomore in college and just rolled out of bed and three brothers that were Little League age. The only woman in the waiting area was the mom of the Little Leaguers.
Women who care about how their hair looks, basically the entire gender, wouldn’t be caught dead in a Supercuts. Instead they go to respectable places with French names. They get curlers put in their hair and sit under those big metal hair dryers that look like space helmets. They pay big bucks because they care about how they look. They realize they have more hair than us guys, a bigger margin of error, and they spend accordingly.
Most straight guys don’t go to those salon-type places because they’re too feminine and too expensive. It comes down to two simple choices for guys.
Option ‘A’ is a traditional barber. The neighborhood barber shop with the candy cane pole out front is a dying breed. You know the setting. Inside, an old, ex-military guy can be found dispensing crew cuts. High and tight is the only style here and the electric razor is the tool of the trade. The result? The same every time. Let’s just say that if a sheep came in he’d leave with the same cut as you. But the price is right and oftentimes you’ll spend less than $10.
The other option if you want more than a buzz cut is Supercuts, a fast food version of a salon, where you spend about fifteen bucks for a setting that gives off the illusion you’ll be getting a more sophisticated cut. This is where I go because they also use scissors and your tenth haircut is free.
As I walked up to the desk I eyed my competition wondering who was smart enough to call ahead. I always call ahead because I don’t want to spend thirty minutes of my life sitting in the waiting room reading People Magazine and listening to Kiss 108. The young girl behind the desk noticed me approaching and said, “Hi. Did you call ahead?”
“Yes,” I said proudly, with a VIP swagger of a man who knew he was about to jump the line. “My name is Derek.”
“Have a seat Derek,” she said politely. “Someone will be with you shortly.”
I sat down and briefly browsed through the reading material. There were gossip magazines scattered about with Sandra Bullock and some reality people on the covers. There were also a few dog-eared GQ magazines that still smelled of cologne from the samples inside.
I also passed on the hard cover books they had on display featuring models and trendy haircuts. I think you’re supposed to browse through them, identify a haircut you like and then show it to the stylist so she can give you that exact same cut and you’ll look just like Brad Pitt.
I’m quite certain that these books would be of little use because none of the models resembled me. I knew I’d have better luck demonstrating the cut I wanted with a Mr. Potato Head.
There were four stylists working.
Two of the girls fit the Barbizon stereotype because they were chattering in local dialect, wearing clothes that were two sizes too tight and chewing gum. They looked like they had just started with their clients. There was a 40-something lady of Asian descent who looked like she was almost through giving a young boy a haircut as his dad looked on. And there was a guy who must have been gay because he was fashionably dressed, skinny and working as a hair dresser. He looked like he was close to finishing up too.
I know this sounds bad, but I hoped one of the women would finish first because I didn’t want to get the guy. Getting a haircut at Supercuts is one of those scenarios when you don’t want to get the guy. Getting a massage is the other example that springs to mind. Maybe that’s an old fashioned or politically incorrect way of looking at things. But I don’t care. It’s my $15 bucks.
The Asian lady removed the cape from the boy and walked up to the cashier. She was clearly done first but even though I called ahead, I wasn’t sure where I was in the pecking order. It was a nervous minute but it turned out well when she looked up and called out, “Derek?”
Relieved I sprung up from my seat as fat flip flop guy eyed me with contempt. “Too bad sucker,” I thought. “Enjoy your Time Magazine.”
The stylist motioned me over to her chair and it was my turn to wear the cape. It dawned on me that the only appropriate times to wear a cape in this day and age were if you were getting a haircut or if you were Batman.
“So, what would you like done today?” said the stylist.
I’ve learned through experience that you need to be very specific when indicating what type of haircut you want or you’ll be wearing your Red Sox hat for ten days.
“Number two blade around the side, short on top and squared in the back,” I replied in business-like fashion.
In the mirror I saw her nod and start picking through her selection of attachments for the razor, looking for the #2 blade. She found it and snapped it on the razor. I wondered how long it had been since it had been cleaned.
“Shampoo?” she asked.
I shook my head. I always turn down this up-sell because it is one of the few professional services I can manage on my own.
She moved behind the chair, the razor started to hum and the hair from the side of my head began to fall to the floor. It didn’t take long for the inane small talk to begin. We had zero in common and were both guilty of filling the air with noise pollution.
“Hot out there, huh?” she said with her opening comment.
“Yes,” I agreed. “Especially in the sun.” Not the most brilliant return of serve but it kept things moving.
“It’s supposed to be hot all weekend,” she said, drawing out the word “all”.
“Yep,” I added. “Then get cooler….”. Bruce Schwoegler would have been proud of this meteorological exchange.
Thankfully, we were interrupted by the young girl who was attending the front desk. Her duties also included sweeping locks off the floor and she dutifully pushed the broom into my feet, apologized and moved on to bump the feet of the guy in the next chair.
The stylist pushed my head down so my chin was on my chest. She was still working with the electric razor. The scissors had yet to make their debut.
“Ooops!” she said as the razor stuttered. That couldn’t have been a good thing. She didn’t explain her concern but I could tell from my reflection that I still had both ears.
After a long pause in the silence it was now my turn to start a conversation.
“Has it been busy in here?” I offered.
“Not too busy,” was the reply.
I cursed myself for not asking an open ended question. That exchange was too short. It was still my turn.
“Any big plans for the weekend?” I went with next.
“Well,” she said in a depressed tone. “I have to work tomorrow, all day. And Sunday is Buddha’s birthday, so I’ll be worshipping.”
Ouch, I wasn’t expecting a curve ball like that. I thought quickly. What religion was that? It must be Buddhism, dumb ass. The name is in the title. I had no idea Sunday was Buddha’s birthday. Would there be cake and ice cream? I had absolutely nothing to respond with. The only thing I knew about Buddha was that he had a big gut….like some of my friends. Thankfully she kept talking.
“Do you have any plans?” she asked.
“No big plans,” I muttered before remembering I did have plans. “I have Sox tickets for Sunday, so that should be fun.”
I could tell from her lack of reaction in the mirror that she knew as much about the Red Sox as I knew about Buddha.
It’s awkward having a conversation with someone in a mirror. Do you look at your own reflection when talking or look at the person? I tried to look at her but it didn’t feel natural and took some effort.
“Look down,” she said. We had now advanced to the scissors part of the hair cut and were almost done.
I could tell by the activity in the mirror that the waiting room was starting to swell. Flip flop guy was still waiting there and he didn’t look happy but I had no sympathy for him. Learn how to use a phone, loser.
The stylist picked up the razor again and asked, “Should I straighten out the sideburns?”
I always get asked this and it puzzles me because whatever little sideburns I have don’t appear crooked to me.
“Yes, please,” I said and away they went.
She grabbed a handheld mirror and showed me the back of my head. This maneuver is quite complex and is an underappreciated, hair stylist move that requires some training. She had to put the handheld mirror behind my head and then angle it so I could see it by looking in the large mirror on the wall. So what I was looking at was actually a double reflection.
I enjoy this part of haircuts because it is the only time I ever see the back of my head. The cut looked neat, the back was squared and there was no blood.
“Looks great,” I said genuinely.
Despite the less than stimulating conversation, for which I was equally responsible, she had taken her craft seriously and had delivered a top notch cut. This deserved respect, considering the tedious nature of a job which most likely yielded a small salary. She was providing for her family and doing a nice job in the process.
“Good!” she said. The only things left were a blast of the hairdryer to blow the wayward hairs from my face and a brush of talcum powder for the neck before the cape was removed. I’m not sure what the talcum powder accomplishes other than alerting everyone you just had a haircut.
I straightened up and we walked to the desk together.
“That will be $14.95,” she told me as I produced my debit card.
“How much would you like to put on the card?” she said. This was a polite way of reminding me that a tip was in order. I tipped her in cash and kept the haircut on the card.
After signing the receipt I grabbed a lollipop from the bowl on the desk and exhaled.
Did I look great?
Hell no. But I had just survived another Supercut experience without being butchered. In fact, I had gotten more than my money’s worth.
Plus, I knew my next haircut would be free.