Tuesday, October 25, 2005

oh yeah, well let me tell you what you're welcome to do

California is a hard place to get a haircut.

This is because of the limited spectrum of hair management establishments. On the one side, you have the "barbershop". The haircuts are inexpensive, the staff is friendly but not too chatty, and there are plenty of issues of Car and Driver and Field and Steam. But unfortunately, you're not going to get a life-changing haircut at these places. These humble agents of the coif speak only the language of clipper guard numbers and colloquial directives such as "clean up the top".

On the other side you have the "salon". A simple men's haircut will cost you more than $40. Your head will be shampooed and awkwardly massaged by a gay man. And in exchange for having your wallet and scalp violated, you will receive a life-changing haircut. It will look gude.

Thus, the dilemma that brought me to the doorstep of The Paul Mitchell School. It's basically a training salon located next door in Costa Mesa, and I frequently drive by it and remark unto myself that it looks like a decent place to get a haircut. I figured it would be a good balance - fancy salon techniques, but with the price anchored a bit because I would be getting my hair cut by a student. After all, shouldn't they be warmly receptive to people who are willing to risk getting their hair cut by students?

No. No, they are not. Despite the giant sign on the outside that says, "Walk-Ins Welcome".

So I roll-up about 10am to begin my Paul Mitchell adventure. I ask a friendly but apathetic blonde if I can get in for a haircut.

"We only take walk-ins at 1pm and 3pm"

" ...Oh, because the sign said walk-ins were welcome."

"Yes. At 1 and 3.

"So, if I come in at 1, I can get a haircut?"

"Yes, but you may have to wait like 30 minutes."

Ok, yeah, that's ridiculous. Not only was I clearly not welcomed, but why should I have to sit around waiting to get my hair cut by a student? But, now I was curious. I would return at 1...

At 12:50 I roll-up to continue my Paul Mitchell adventure. I ask the young man at the counter if I can get on the walk-in list.

"Ok, but you'll have to wait until 1:50."

"...Wait until 1:50 for what?"

"To see if we can get you in."

"But I was told that if I came in at 1, I could get on the list."

"You can, but you have to wait until 1:50"

"Ok... If I'm getting on the list at 1, what am I waiting until 1:50 for?"

"To see if someone can work you in."

"Ok, hold on. I was told that if I showed up at 1, I could get on the list, and then get a haircut in 30 minutes."



At this point, this guy is laying on the attitude extra-thick. Even though he's dressed like the long-lost Goth member of the Village People, he obviously thinks I'm a complete moron for being unable to fathom the utter brilliance of the Paul Mitchell walk-in policy. After all, all I have is a lowly law degree and he's a student at Paul Mitchell... The School!

Maybe if he had been the slightest bit nice or even willing to explain why the sign on the building wasn't complete malarky, I wouldn't have had to go all lawyer freak-out on him. But he wasn't, so I did.

"No. Our policy is we have to wait and get all our 1 o'clock appointments in, and then see if we can work in any walk-ins."

"So, even if I wait until 1:50, it's possible I might not get a haircut?"


"That doesn't make any sense."

"We have to work in the people with appointments. It's our policy."

"Ok, I understand that it's your policy, but the sign says "Walk-Ins Welcome". As a walk-in, I'm not feeling very welcome right now."

"You are welcome. You're just not guaranteed to get a haircut."

"Then what exactly am I welcome to do?"

"It's our policy."

So, after departing with the most sarcasm-saturated "Ok, thanks" that I could possibly muster, I went to the barbershop by Office Depot, and paid $9 for a perfectly mediocre haircut. I read Sports Illustrated while I waited, and talked to the nice lady about hot-air ballooning in Crested Butte.

I'm not too upset about the lack of a life-changing haircut. After I went bald this summer, I'm just glad to have it back, regardless of how boring it looks. And I've always thought that 25+ year old men with really elaborately-styled hair always look kinda pathetic.

Besides, I work in a law firm. I don't need cool hair.