Communication skills come in handy. Especially at the doctor’s office, the tattoo parlor, and the hairstylist’s. The hair salon I go to is great: it’s affordable, five minutes from my house, and I always get the haircut I want. It’s run by a trio of Vietnamese women, but nothing gets lost in translation– we all understand the importance of a good hairstyle. But every now and then something gets lost in assumptions.
Recently they’ve added a couple of guys to their staff. The last time I was there, Steve, the hair-cut wonder god, spent over an hour shaping, layering, trimming my hair. Not only did he give me a great cut that framed my face and gave me confidence, he gave me the best gift ever: a true wash-n-go style. I haven’t used a blow-dryer in months. And he only charged me $15.00.
Noticing that I could put my hair in a tiny ponytail, I figured it was time go back. This time Steve wasn’t there, but Kevin was. Kevin, I discovered, also responded to Nervous Nelly. Nervous Nelly made me nervous, too, as he grinned widely at me and tried to stuff my purse into a too-small bin. “No, it’s not going to fit,” I said. He nodded as he tried to jam it in. After a few more shoves, he gave up. “It won’t fit,” he resigned. I nodded. This didn’t bode well.
After patting me up into the chair and draping the cover over my shoulders, we discussed my hair. From my view point I thought things were pretty clear: I wanted the same style I had with the same layers but one inch shorter all the way around. He nodded, “I got it. I got it.” Then he proceeded to graze the scissors at the ends of my hair, creating a fine mist of hair dust. “Is this what you want?” he inquired. I repeated my request, this time adding that I had an A-line cut, just in case he hadn’t noticed. He frowned. “No, no. You want one inch off and an A-line? Can’t be done.”
I took a couple of deep breaths and told myself to stay calm: he had the scissors, I didn’t. The next couple of minutes were spent with me explaining to him what an A-line cut is and how it was possible to have one and still cut off one inch. “No, no, no,” he kept replying. My Bruce Banner cool was swiftly leaving me and I could feel myself beginning to Hulk out. “Be nice. Be nice. Be nice,” I repeated to myself, “Don’t be mean.” But my skin glowed green as I called over another stylist to intervene.
He immediately began telling her what I wanted and none of it made sense. Muscles ripping through my shirt, I snapped, “Let me tell her. It’s my hair!”. I told her what I wanted, and she got it. She explained it to him and he stared at both of us like we were nuts. Then she walked away leaving me to suffer alone.
Again he began his tepid attempts. More hair dust. I radiated green and fought the urge to leap out of my seat, smash him against the wall and demand, “What don’t you get about ONE INCH!” He must have felt the impending danger of bodily harm and asked me, “Are you okay?”. I reminded him about the one inch. He paused and pulled out a comb. Placing his thumb on a tine that was about one inch from the top, he asked, “That much?”. Yes that much. Yes, please. Yes.
Finally big clumps of hair fell to the ground. It looked like I might get a Beatles bowl-cut. “Now how do you want it in the back?” I began, “What I want is–” He cut me off, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it.” The seams burst from my clothes,”No, how about I just tell you anyway.” A few minutes later he asked what I wanted done with my bangs, but right as I responded, he turned on hair dryer. In the background Whitney Houston echoed my feelings as she wailed, “I have nothing, nothing, NO-thinggggg…..”
Slowly, tediously, my hair began to take shape. Pausing throughout, he pulled out his comb, placed his thumbnail on the tines and consulted me about length. He began to transform from a little kid cutting a Barbie doll’s hair to someone who might actually know what he was doing. I shrank back to my normal size and took on a flesh-colored hue. Another stylist walked by and nodded in approval. Kevin continued to work, muttering, “I want to get this right.” As he finished up, the lady next to me smiled and admired the cut.
When he was done, he held up the mirror so I could see the back. He did a good job. He smiled and nodded, “Yes, yes. I see what you want now. I’m sorry for the miscommunication. I didn’t know much you wanted cut off.” Even though I was thrilled with my cut, splotches of green broke out on my arms.
As we went to the payment counter, Elvis Costello belted out, “What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?” Kevin rang me up, “We have raised our prices to $18.00, but I didn’t do much with your bangs, so it’ll be $15.00.”
While the gals there and I could talk about hair and what we want from it, Kevin communicates with the comb. If I ever get him as a stylist again, I will get the comb and tell him how many tines I want cut off, rather than inches.