One Half of a Haircut

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I originally thought I’d title this The Haircut War, which sounds a bit ridiculous. It is more than a little silly, but it is also a catchy title. It sounds better than a more truthful title, which might be something like A Minor Struggle Over Haircuts. But in the end, I decided that One Half of a Haircut is more to the point.

Many years ago I was adrift whenever it came time to have my hair cut. I had tried dozens of stylists, but was never satisfied with the job they did. The chain places, the “Haircuts R Us” joints were the worst. They were relatively inexpensive, of course, but their customers all seemed to walk out with the same haircuts. Watching the customers as a group was the visual equivalent of spotting a flock of IBM employees, and the cuts were only a couple steps up from the old puddin’ bowl haircuts inflicted on innocent children in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

After listening to me complain about the situation, a good friend named Eric suggested that I try his hair stylist. I’ll call her Rachel, because that is not her real name. I started going to Rachel on a regular basis. The cuts were acceptable, and though they varied somewhat, none of them horrified me.

After a year or so, Eric stopped by the house for a visit. I had a difficult time restraining myself from laughing as he walked from the door into the living room. He had what appeared to be 1/2 of a haircut. The hair on one side of his head was about three inches longer than the other.

“What the hell happened to your hair?”, I asked.

He shook his head, and settled into the couch, opened the 16 ounce can of Miller Lite in his hand, took a quick pull from it, then set it on the coffee table. “Well, I guess its my fault, really.”, he said.

Eric had what seemed to be an unlimited capacity for various chemicals, herbs, and beer. He was always in one altered state or another, and those altered states often led to interesting and/or amusing results. I waited as he lit a cigarette. It was going to be a good story.

“I needed a quick haircut. It was getting just long enough that it was bugging me. I called Rachel, but she wasn’t working that day.” He said.

“When was that?”, I asked.

“A couple days ago. She said she could do it at home after I got off work. That way she wouldn’t have to go into the salon.”, He continued. “So I drove to her place and sat in a kitchen chair as she began cutting my hair. I had some really good pot with me and asked her if she wanted to smoke it while she was cutting.” He flicked the cigarette ash into the tray on the coffee table, took a long pull on the can of beer, shaking his head. “She got so stoned that she stopped, saying that she couldn’t go on. That she’d ruin the haircut, if she did.”

“And she just stopped?”

“Yeah. I couldn’t convince her otherwise.”

“So are you going up there now to have her fix it?”

“Nope. She went to Santa Barbara for the weekend. Won’t be back until Monday. I’ll get it fixed, then.”

I was amazed. “That’s four days from now! She’s just going to let you walk around with that botched haircut for a week or so, before fixing it? Unbelievable…”

“Yeah. I’ve been wearing a hat when I go out in the city. No one has said anything, yet. I’m not sure they notice.”

“Maybe people are just being polite.”

“That’s possible.”

After that “half-haircut” incident, it seemed that things went increasingly sideways with my appointments with Rachel. She’d tell me the wrong time and I’d sit for a half-hour while she finished with someone who was apparently on the schedule but she had forgotten. She seemed to be winging it rather than consulting her appointment book when she gave me an time. That pattern repeated a handful of times, then the last appointment was completely screwed up.

I showed up at the salon five minutes before the appointed time. The building was dark inside, unlit. I looked at the hours displayed on the glass door. The salon was apparently not open that day. I waited for twenty minutes, thinking that Rachel had scheduled some work on her day off. The temperature went up a few degrees while I waited, mercury climbing toward a typical desert day in the late spring.

I finally gave up and drove home. I had the idea that this was her way of telling me that I should find someone else to cut my hair, though I couldn’t remember doing anything that offended her or prompted the silent and apparent dismissal. Back home, Lisa told me about a good hair stylist who had just moved back from a brief stay in Texas. I contacted her and set up an appointment. 

I’ve been going to Carole Engleking at a business named Salon Siner for many years, now. The work she does is consistently high quality. And I can use any help I can get, since as I continue to age, I become increasingly squidgy around the edges. I don’t think she gets paid enough.

The photo shown here was made at Salon Siner with a Nikon FG, 50mm manual focus lens, and Kentmere 100 film.