If the world isn’t run by the cats, the scientists, the dolphins, the mice, the traffic-cone manufacturers or a bizarre secret government/alien pact to turn us all into zombies (known as Plan 9) then it’s definitely run by Hairdressers.
Whilst the cats stop us discovering solar fission by unexpectedly throwing up on our sofas, the scientists control us via making the photocopier break-down at inopportune moments (via way of the Annoyance Chip fitted to every machine, capable of detecting your mood/work load and breaking down accordingly) and the government/alien pact invades our television screens with the living dead (how else do you explain the cast of Big Brother?) it’s the Hairdressers that hold the real power over our daily lives.
This could be my personal experience here – my childhood hairdresser looked like a slightly taller Benny Hill and, so far as I could tell, used the same pair of scissors until he retired – but every single thing about going to have your hair cut seems to be designed to be truly awful.
Firstly: there’s the shop name. Why is it that every single hairdresser thinks it is original and amusing to call their establishment “Beyond The Fringe”, “A Cut Above”, “Scissor Sisters” or “Cutting Crew”? There are very few exceptions to this rule – suggesting that there could be some hidden code going on here.
Secondly: the barber’s pole – red and white to remind you that, in the days before their expertise stretched as far as asking you about your holiday, cutting off half your ear and giving you a short-back-and-sides they used to do a bit of doctoring on the side. What they tend not to tell you is that most of their patients died.
Thirdly: the queue. No matter what time you go in to a barber (unless you’re one of these strange people that makes appointments and gets charged extra for the privilege – and even then there’s no guarantee) there’s always a big queue of burly blokes sitting on the chairs, bench, windowsill and leaning on the coat-racks. There is nothing to do for your wait other than to position yourself between two pairs of heavily muscled men’s buttocks and pick up a worryingly stained copy of GQ magazine – unless, of course, that rare thing of a battered Rubik cube with half the sticky squares missing is present.
Next, and tied into issue three: there’s the Inevitable Conversation About Football (NB: Soccer – and note the capital letters). No matter how much you protest this conversation Must Be Held (this is Hairdressing law and probably included in the 2 years military training they get in Totnes) – the conversation going as such:
Hairdresser: So, did you see the match yesterday?
Me: No, I don’t like football
Hairdresser: I fancy Arsenal for the final, what do you think?
Me: I wouldn’t know – I don’t like football
Hairdresser: (pause, trying to take in this information) So, which team do you support then?
Me: I don’t – I don’t watch football at all
Hairdresser: You don’t watch football?
Hairdresser: (long pause) Still…Manchester United are playing well this year, aren't they?
And so forth – with the general focus on being asking me about football, my weekend, my work or anything other than actually getting on with it and cutting my hair.
Fifth on the list of horrors: the actual cutting experience. Once the Inevitable Conversation About Football is into full flow there are three hairstyles generally available to men in British Hairdressers: Long, Short and Shorter. Long only confuses them and they never seem to have the right clippers for Short, so you end up going for the old standard short back and sides. All the time they are cutting your hair and warbling on about football you have to sit and look at yourself in a huge mirror that takes up the whole wall.
Then, when they have finally finished pushing your neck from one side to another in an attempt to break your spinal cord they hold up another mirror and show you the back of your own head, as if to prove they haven't accidentally severed a vein or anything and ask you if it is ok. What exactly are you supposed to say? "Well, it's certainly still my neck"? Even if you look at the reflection and see that they've tram-lined rude words into the back of your head there's precious little you can do about it now - so instead you mumble "thanks" and start fumbling for your wallet. This is my least favourite bit of all – aside from the bit where they hand you with a bit of tissue at the end. For us reserved Brits this is a terrible dilemma – what the hell are we supposed to do with it? In the old days it was a sneaky way of selling a contraceptive – but since these are now freely available at Boots there seems little point to continue the tradition now and you are left standing there with the thing in your hand wondering whether to throw it away or pocket it (if anyone knows the correct etiquette please let me know)
Finally, and worst of all, the Inevitable Stupid Comments At Work (otherwise known as Stating The Bleeding Obvious): “Oh, had your hair cut then have you?”, “Ooh, fall under a lawnmower did we?” Hilarity, as I’m sure you can imagine, ensues.