I’ve had good haircuts and bad haircuts. I’ve mostly had mediocre haircuts because I never pay more than $20. The bad ones usually aren’t terrible, just not good. Friends have told me horror stories about haircuts1, but I had never had such an experience until Saturday.
Part 1: Getcha Hair Did
I was long overdue for a cut, and I had the day off, so I decided to go to Pro-Cuts at Randol Mill and Fielder in Arlington2. I should have known what was about to happen when I walked in. At 4 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, there were two workers3 and one customer in the most sparse hair establishment I have ever seen. It looked like somebody rented the empty storefront, threw up a few mirrors and a few chairs, and opened shop; no music, poor lighting, and a tiny asian woman waiting patiently for her next victim. I didn’t leave. It would be too awkward to turn and walk out the door.
I sat in the chair that she gestured to and quickly discovered that she did not speak English. She asked me “How do you want your hair?” to which I replied with the usual details: “Five on the sides, about an inch and a half on top, sideburns about halfway down the ear, and squared in the back.” She stared blankly at me, and I stared back. After repeating myself a couple more times and resorting to hand gestures to show her how long and what shape, she felt confident enough to begin.
She said, “Tay glaou auk”
I said “huh?”
“Tay glaou auk.”
“About an inch and a half?”
“Tay glaou auk!”
She finally gestured with her hands that she wanted me to take my glasses off. When I did, she promptly put her fingers all over the lenses, leaving thick smudges which were a real pain to clean off. Out came the tools of her trade and she started with the sides. She gave it a quick once-over and then started on the sideburns and the neck. I felt that she cut the left sideburn to high, but it was too late to have it back, so I let it go with a little disappointment. It should be noted that she got the right sideburn spot on, but that really doesn’t matter when the left one is half an inch shorter. She gave me a solid soak with the water bottle and went at the top with the shears, which were too dull to cut anything on the first try. There was a lot of tugging. She was very short, and didn’t meet me at eye level, even as I sat in her chair, so the rest of the experience involved me craning my neck at awkward angles to give her access to the top of my head. Awkward angles don’t bode well for a symmetrical haircut. At some point she put away the comb and went free-style with the clippers. I have never seen anybody do that during a haircut, and it certainly didn’t add anything to the final product.
When she was done, I tried to point out the sideburn situation. As she prepared to cut my left sideburn even higher than before, I told her to forget it, and I moved from the chair to the register. I was not happy, but I still tipped $3 on a $13 haircut. I am a sucker.
Part 2: Freak Out!
I went back to my apartment, where Mel was waiting. After looking in a mirror, I began telling Mel the story, and listing all of the things that the tiny asian imposter had done wrong: The front of my hair was shorter on the left side than the right, one sideburn was about half an inch higher than the other (which is quite a large difference), she did not trim the hair around the temples of my head… the list went on. Somewhere in all of this, I burst into tears, unleashing all of my frustration about the whole experience. Mel laughed at me. She informed me that the neckline was also crooked, which only intensified my hysterics. Mel, in turn, intensified her laughter to the point that she had to excuse herself to use the bathroom4.
I could not keep this ridiculous haircut, so I considered my options:
a) Let Mel shave it all off. The only problem with this is that Mel would have to trim up the neck and sideburns too.
b) Go back to Pro-Cuts and try talking the woman through an emergency fix.
c) Pay for another haircut at another establishment.
Part 3: “I fix it for you.”
I called a couple of places and decided to go to Style America at Green Oaks and Collins. Mel made me promise not to cry when we went in. There was a completely different atmosphere when I walked in the door. It felt like a place where I would want to get my hair cut. I signed in at the counter and the young asian man (who’s name, I learned, is Jam) looked at me quizzically. I sat down and waited for a minute or two before he called me to his chair. I told him that I had just gotten my hair cut, but that I was unhappy with it, and I began to list the issues that needed to be fixed. He laughed, though not nearly as much as Mel had done previously, and said “I fix it for you.”
He went over everything again, and was pretty meticulous when it came to trimming everything up evenly. It looked perfect, minus the sideburns being a little too high, but that was certainly not his fault. When I paid, Jam told me to come back to him next time, which I certainly had no problem agreeing to.
I heartily recommend Style America on Collins if you ever need a good haircut and you don’t have a regular place that you go to. On Tuesdays, they have $12 cuts from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Vaya con Dios, amigos.
1) Ask Patrick about crazy sideburn lady at Heflin’s Hairport.
2) I am providing the location for your benefit.
3) I refuse to use the term “stylist” in this case.
4) A polite way of saying that she peed on herself.