I already get my hair cut at the Cuttin’ Corral. – Napoleon Dynamite

I haven’t had my hair cut in nearly four months. I was seeing a stylist at a fancy salon, but her schedule often conflicted with mine. She only worked two days a week, as her other interests took precedence. She competed in beauty pageants and was some kind of gymnast. The venn diagram where our mutual interests overlapped was growing thin. She was a nice enough person, but I didn’t feel like we had much in common.

A colleague suggested I give her hair stylist a try, as she and I were closer in age. Knowing my colleague for the last five years, she has never come in with a bad haircut, so that was a credit to the work she did. And, best of all, she was local, was a full time stylist and had later hours during the week. I was willing to give her a try.

I called to schedule my appointment with her at a nationally known haircut franchise. The girl who scheduled me had a terrible attitude, as though my request was physically taking food out of her mouth. The soonest evening appointment I could schedule was for 7:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was late, but I didn’t want to wait another week so I took it.

I asked a question about the color service and got more sass. She snipped at me, asking if I wanted the appointment or not, which I did. After I hung up, though, I began to wonder what I was getting myself into. I’d have to wait until Wednesday to find out.

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment. The store was part of a dying shopping center. Most of the shops were empty and for lease. I noticed that the shop was rather busy, and there was a lot of cut hair on the floor. My stylist greeted me and told me she would be with me shortly.

Before I sat down to wait for her, she handed me a membership card like you’d get at the grocery store. Apparently it was the haircut equivalent of an electronic medical record, tracking previous services for future reference. I will admit, the idea was clever.

I declined to give my email address for coupons, however. I feel like something’s shouldn’t require a coupon, like oil changes and haircuts. I’ve found that in scenarios like that, you get what you pay for. I’m about to drop at least $100 on foil highlight and a cut. I’ve accepted the heavy price tag for the required time commitment. Adding a coupon to the mix discounts the effort, which diminishes my confidence in the stylist.

After a few minutes, I’m seated in the stylists chair. I show her the picture I’ve brought that illustrates the style I’m going for. It was a big change from my current look, cutting a good 3-4 inches and re-introducing bangs, which I’d had for many years and recently grown out. The rest of the cut was essentially a simple straight cut, so the bangs offered some variation.

The stylist felt it would be easier to cut the hair first. Since we were coloring with highlights, it made no sense to color parts that would be cut off later. The cut became very short very quickly and I began to worry I had made a mistake. I tried to stay calm and hold off judgment until the job was complete.

After she trimmed the hair to a more workable length, I was placed under a domed blow dryer while the stylist took another haircut. I was a bit put off by this because I had expected her to start putting the foils in right away. Instead she took a men’s cut for someone who’d been scheduled only fifteen minutes after my appointment.

After he was completed, she began placing the foils. By then, I had been there for 30 minutes. The other stylists were winding down themselves. As the evening wore on I overheard a discussion about waxing one’s junk and the thickness of everyone’s body hair. A younger stylist showed a clearly infected band of skin on one of her fingers caused by continually wearing a piece of cheap costume jewelry.

I began to notice that most women getting their haircut are leaving with wet hair. While I understand that this might be a cost saving measure, I can’t help but feel how foolish it is not to spend the extra ten dollars to see the final product. If you leave without seeing it dry, you don’t really know what your cut really looks like, and can’t do much to fix errors or make tweaks before paying. I just didn’t understand it.

When I was placed back under the domed dryer, I began to feel nervous that my purse was sitting unattended while my stylist took another men’s haircut. Another guy who was waiting for his haircut kept looking around in an off-putting way, and I began to worry he might snatch it and run off. It wouldn’t be totally out of the realm of possibilities considering the late hour and desolate location. I asked one of the stylists to grab it for me, feigning that I had to work on something.

Eventually, man who was a no-show for his 6:30 haircut (and dye job) arrived, assuming he could be accommodated during my appointment. To my surprise, he was not turned away and was snuck in between my service. I typically don’t mind it when things like this happen, but I still had actively processing color in my hair, which requires precise timing. Not to mention that in order to accommodate him, my stylist had to get someone else to handle the shampooing of the color out. And, I found out later, the man was notorious for being a no-show for scheduled appointments.

Finally, it was getting quite late, and I just wanted to finish and go home. The stylist blew the newly dyed cut out. It was a lot to take in. The color was fine, but the length felt a bit too short. Nothing could be done, and in a few days it would grow out a bit and I know I’d come around to it. But for now, it feels a bit butcher and older than what I was going for and I’m trying to cope with those feelings.

I’m not sure if I’ll go back. The stylist did what I had asked, but clearly demonstrated some poor boundaries. The company kept at a franchise hair salon left much to be desired when compared to an individually owned salon, and I couldn’t help but feel I could’ve gotten out of there earlier had the other cuts been handled by someone else. I don’t think it’s a good fit for me, but it was definitely an eye-opening experience.