Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Racist With Scissors Next To My Head

I don't get my hair cut too often. As a mid-30s man, I feel a certain sense of smug glee when I see many of my younger friends with a shiny pate as I hide behind a veritable Eagle's Nest of hirsute glory. My hair is thick, healthy, and shows no signs of graying - yet another point of self-satisfaction.

However, it has one bad problem - the longer it gets, the curlier it gets. And the more product is required to get it to behave without going into "Seth Rogen" territory. I've been described as looking like Mr. Rogen twice in the past couple of months, which reminds me to watch my carbs and possibly investigate a new hair color. Until then, I figured that since my last haircut was in June, it was time to shear the locks.

Now, mind you, this was a complete "timing" deal - I've got a couple of Christmas parties coming up, and I should look a little more "Superbad" than "Knocked Up." And as much as I love my hair, I'm not one of those guys with a hairdresser. I usually go to a barber or Mallcuttery place and see what happens. There's usually nothing that they can do that some gel and a hat and a couple of weeks of "yeah, I got a bad haircut" can't fix. I decided to go to a local Rockville salon, see which ones looked like they could give my hair the love and attention I seldom give it. Frankly, I'm amazed my hair hasn't left me for somebody who would treat it with more dignity and respect. I guess, at the end of the day, it loves me. I decided to treat my hair to a real salon. It's not enough to say "I'm sorry," but it's a good first step. Let the healing begin.

I started my Tour des Salons Dans Rockville by checking out the strip mall next to White Flint Mall on Nicholson Lane. The first salon is named something like "Salon" and had a sign declaring that they'd be open until 7:30. There was one person in the place getting her hair done, and two employees. It's 6:30, surely I could get a haircut within an hour! Except...the door was locked, and the attractive woman with little English skills told me they were closed. "But, your sign says 7:30," I stammered but she was closing the door and asking if I could come back tomorrow. Well, there are two other salons in this strip mall. I'll shop around.

Salon #2, Art and Chemistry appears to be their name, is four doors down. The people inside looked happy and attractive. Not busy, but signs of activity. My hopes were high. There was no sign on the storefront indicating hours, so I walked in and asked for an impromptu haircut. "Sorry, we don't take walk-ins after 6 on Wednesdays," they told me. I asked what time they closed. "8," was the reply. "I can't get a haircut in two hours?" I asked. "No," the young blond girl behind the counter replied, but unhelpfully added "We could do it on Tuesdays or Thursdays, but not Wednesdays." I have no idea why they have a bias against Wednesdays, but, wow. I headed over to Salon #3, Oxygen Salon - which wasn't even open to be snubbed by.

I got in the car and checked out Fatima Salon across the street. They were closing up for the night, but their sign indicates, in Spanish, that they speak Spanish, and the Men's Haircut Guide poster in the window had more bad clipper cuts displayed than the second season of "Oz." I moved on.

Salon #4, Urbanity, also on Nicholson, seems to be out of business. I didn't get a chance to be turned down there as well. Salon #5 is next to the Safeway by my house on Randolph Road. I pull up at 6:59pm. The sign says they're open until 7pm on Wednesdays. The place was completely closed. No signs of life until 10am Thursday, if the sign is to be believed. Salon #6, Progressions, is on Nebel by the Gold's Gym. I drove up, and saw that they were closing down as well. Sorry to disappoint my hair, I turned to the White Flint Mall, as the options for a Wednesday night haircut were quickly slipping.

White Flint used to be the fancy mall around these parts, but Westfield's Montgomery Mall has more stores and less cheesy Miami Vice neon around the foot court. White Flint used to be packed all the time. I shouldn't be able to find parking next to the door this close to Christmas and Hanukkah, but I had my choice of spots. I walked in, looked at the trusty mall directory, and saw two places to get my haircut. One of them seemed to be an independent place, and the other was part of a chain. I chose the indie place. First thing I saw was a cute young brunette at the counter, and a gay dude styling a pretty West Asian woman's hair. I would have to assume that a gay man is a good sign for a salon. I was told by the young girl that I could have a haircut, no worries, but it would take about 15 minutes for the stylist to get to me. "Fine," I say, as the last thing I want is to drive around Rockville any more than I already have.

I leaf through the picture books of "Men's Hot Hairstyles." We need to come to an understanding here - are these picture books for men to point and grunt at the look they want, or for gay men and women with a fetish for Eurotrash to drool over? Because there wasn't a single haircut and/or model in either of these guides who didn't look absolutely ridiculous. Some of the cuts were straight from "A Flock of Seagulls" or Jaromir Jagr. None of them I wanted on my head.

Fortunately, my hair stylist of the evening was much more sensible than that. She noted that I like my hair a little on the longish side, and that the curls were annoying me. She said my hair looked nice and healthy, and she'd give me something that wouldn't make me look bad or too old. She was about 60-something, but trying like hell not to look like it. She told me about her kids and how they're dragging her off to Mexico for a vacation over Christmas. We talked about how a postal worked was assaulted in Rockville. Neighborhood stuff. She made a comment about how Rockville would be great if there weren't so many idiots around. I liked this woman.

Well, until...

(you knew there'd be a "well, until..." coming up, right?)

Well, until...she asked me what I was doing for the Inauguration. I said that I was probably going to head out of town, avoid the crowds, get some skiing done. She said she'd be scared to come into the city. I said "Yeah, with anywhere from 2 to 6 million people, depending on who you listen to, coming into town, it could get crazy." She says to me, into the mirror, the way that many hair people seem to do, "I mean with all, racial things. All the minorities."



I tried to explain that the last time DC had a massive amount of black folks in town, the Million Man March, there was very little crime, and in fact, was one of the most civil weekends in the city. And, that given that lots of folks voted for Obama of all stripes and colors, it would be more of a celebration than anything. She shrugged and did a shiver in fear.

Last time I checked, Maryland was pretty racially diverse. And Rockville is hardly lily-white by any stretch. I swear, look in any direction and you'd swear you're in a Benetton ad.

We didn't talk as much after that, as it was pretty obvious that she knew that she'd crossed a line. I changed the subject, and she mentioned Mexican vacation again. I wasn't offended, but merely shocked at how casually she said that about President-elect Obama and the potential for violence. Because Lord knows every other Presidential Inauguration has been plagued by violence.

Maybe that's why I don't have a steady hair cutter - I like the social interaction with the awkward and the freaky.

I paid my bill, left a standard tip, and left. The hair cut looks good so far.

The irony in the whole thing resides in the name of the salon - Rainbow.


jb said...

I know that often the word "minority" is a signifier for "black," but black folks aren't the only "minority." I hate that word anyway.

When you're in business to make money, you should know to make bland small talk because you never know who you are talking to.

jb said...

Although I know that the word "minority" is used as a code word for "black," I will point out that black folks are not the only "minority" around.

Plus, people who are in the business of having to chat with customers should know only to make bland small talk.

Cheetah Kittens said...

Seth Rogen, really? I don't see it.