For years I had my hair cut by random guys named Joe and Ed who wore short-sleeved polyester shirts with a comb and scissors in the front pocket. You sat in a long row along the wall, got the barber who had the next open chair, received a generic haircut, and heard him shout “Next!” and slap the chair clean when he was finished with the clipping.
Now I go to the Platinum Stylist. It’s an upgrade.
I’ve been going to The Platinum Stylist for several years now, since back before her hair was platinum. She works at the Square One Salon, which used to be a block from our offices. I was assigned to her at random, and I liked her approach from the get-go. She promised that the first haircut would be very good, the second would be even better, and the third would be perfect. She was right — at least, as right as a dedicated practitioner of the tonsorial arts can be working with limp brown hair and a head shaped like mine.
She’s got a quick wit and a great sense of humor, so going to get my hair cut ends up being a fun social encounter. She knows the names of Kish and the boys, remembers about travel plans we’ve discussed, and seeks my views on downtown dining options. She puts up with my awkward attempts at humor in good spirits and remembers that my ultimate goal in every haircut is a vain attempt to look “distinguished.”
And she’s got an essential quality of any true professional: she cares about the quality of her work. I sit in the chair and see her in the mirror, gazing intently at my cranium, prowling from side to side, looking for a hair out of place or a section that needs an extra snip or two to produce the best possible result. Her dedication to her craft is so obvious, and so impressive, that I’ve come to rely implicitly on her judgments in all hair-related categories. If the PS suggests that I might want to trim the sides shorter this time, to try to combat the weird effect of the coarse gray hairs sprouting from my temples, I’m doing it.
She’s also convinced me to turn a quick haircut into a longer process. Now I get not only a haircut, but also a shampoo, a scalp massage, a hot towel treatment, and a mini-facial. After a long day’s work, getting a hot towel treatment is a pretty pleasant experience — and it sure beats old Joe tossing some witch hazel powder on my neck and buffing it with a coarse towel.
I’m such a dedicated fan of the PS that I kept going to her even after Square One moved to the other side of downtown. What’s a short walk for an excellent haircut? And it’s obvious that I’m not alone in my judgment about her capabilities, because I used to be able to schedule a haircut on the spur of the moment and that is true no longer. I’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dog to make a new appointment at the end of every haircut. It goes against my standard devil-may-care approach, but the PS is worth it.
I guess I’ve come a long way from the “three chairs, no waiting” days.