Getting a haircut is typically a mundane task. I drop in, wait a bit, and sit patiently while the stylist takes an inch off the length and trims the bangs. No shampoo, no blow-dry. Pay the nice lady and add a five-dollar tip.
But when you haven’t stepped foot in a salon since March because of a pandemic, a haircut is pretty exciting. It’s a chance to see other people outside the grocery store, have a quiet conversation, and come away with a drastic difference in your look. So when it started raining on my way to a hike last week, and I decided to salvage the time with a haircut, I was amped. My hair was long and getting kind of stringy and spider webby (the post-menopausal women know what I’m talking about) and my bangs, which I’ve been trimming myself, resembled broken twigs. I popped into the nearest strip mall salon, hoping for a short wait.
There was a kiosk with hand sanitizer and a sign-in sheet at the door, and the chairs and tables were turned upside down. It looked like they didn’t want anyone sitting down, or even entering the place.
“I’m sorry, do I need an appointment?” I asked. “Yes,” said a young woman, “but we can get you in – just sign the log with your contact information. She’ll be just another minute and then we can take you.” She motioned to another woman who was finishing up a cut on a middle-aged man and sure enough, as I looked up from the log, he was standing at the cash register to pay for his cut.
The young workers wore masks, but the man’s mask was wrapped around his neck and he was leaning over the counter talking loudly into the cashier’s face. I’d seen this behavior other places, before the mask mandate: customers ahead of me at the grocery store with no mask, leaning over the counter into the cashier’s face and talking at full volume, as if to say, “I’m not wearing a mask and you can’t make me.” I’ve never said anything to them about how they’re contaminating the air for the rest of us – including the cashier – because I’ve seen the videos where people go ballistic over mask use. Instead, I wait until it’s my turn at the counter, then I thank the cashier for being at work so that people like me can still shop for groceries. Sometimes I apologize for the jerk in front of me. Sometimes the cashier’s eyes fill with tears.
With the mask mandate now in place, I wondered why the hair salon women hadn’t requested the man pull up his mask, but that’s when I noticed the sidearm. The guy had a holster hanging off his hip with a handgun sticking out. I turned away to face the wall. I did not want to make eye contact with him for fear I’d say something I’d regret. He whined and moaned for a bit because they couldn’t take anything bigger than a twenty, then he finally paid with a card. And he left.
I blurted out what they were probably all thinking, which I can’t write here because it would not be printed. The women burst out laughing – a release of nervous energy.
“We didn’t notice the gun at first,” the one who had cut his hair said, “and I wanted to ask him to wear his mask, but I was afraid.”
“We didn’t know how he’d react,” said the other woman. Now I knew why they let me in without an appointment – they wanted someone else there in the shop. Not that I could do anything, but maybe he’d behave a little better with more people around.
This time, I got three inches off the length and a nice even trim on the bangs. No shampoo, no blow-dry, but a pleasant conversation with a lovely young woman. I paid the nice lady and added a five-dollar tip. I should have given her more.