Sweetness and Light

Just want to bring a smile to the reader's lips - and an occasional thought. Will try to stay away from controversial topics - rather create my own! And would definitely welcome comments. :-)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

To Cut A Long Hair Short

Shifting residences has its own hidden costs, beyond the ones incurred on packers and movers (hopefully not shakers) and the increase in rent. One such cost was revealed to me today morning when I went for my first haircut in this locality (the earlier one being a good 10 km off). I spent almost 2 years' worth of haircut on just one haircut today. And am now trying to justify the same to myself. May be my readers can help.

Ambience: I used to go to a place that would justifiably answer to the moniker "barber-shop". For it had barbers who would get you seated and then get down to work. No fuss around it. There would be a small TV perched atop in a corner which no one apart from the standing barbers or people waiting for their turn would be able to watch. Not that it mattered, because all the time it only played some Kannada channel. The waiting "area" was two steps behind the row of seats where people would be getting cut hair, of course) and shaved. The only entertainment available to non-Kannada patrons like me was the Times of India, and that too if there wasn't another of my ilk already waiting. The new place, on the other hand, will not answer to any name apart from a salon, I suspect. It has plush interiors, a separate waiting area packed with magazines (though it did not help that I picked up the latest RD and found the quote "even a bad hair-cut eventually grows up", or something to that effect), and peppy hindi numbers gently wafting in the air. Surely this difference is worth something? Say 50 bucks?

Location: The old place was bang opposite my old residence. Just get out, cross the road, and there you are. Plus there were some good eateries around, which usually
meant I had my leisurely haircut on a stomach filled with hot idlis and vadas, if not dosas. The new place is a good 15 minutes walk, which of course, is good for health. And I also have to climb 2 floors, though the stairs are easy. But no eateries around. :( There is a coffee day outlet just next door, but then in morning hours, at least for me, cappuccino and sandwich do not hold a candle to idli and sambhar. May be minus 20 for this?

Timing: The barbershop would be open at 6 in the morning. Not that I ever went that early. But essentially what it meant was I could have a haircut on a working day like
friday so as to preserve the precious weekend hours better. No such luck here....this salon does not start before 10 (I discovered after landing there at 9:45). So it has to be on a weekend, and the 15 minute walk is suddenly not that alluring once summer sets it. Definitely minus 30 here.

Process: The earlier place was an absolute no-frills place. You arrive, get seated, and your man is behind you, all with scissors and smile. You are suddenly wrapped up in a white cloth carrying with itself hints of a wash in hopefully recent past, and before you know it, you are paying obeisance to the man to the mirror, in response to the hand firmly placed on the back of your head. And then the butchery starts. Once in a while, you will get woken from your stupor by a sprinkle of cold water from a sprinkler used to water day-old flowers, but for the next fifteen minutes, it is just the efficient clipping of the scissors. And viola - you are a new man (at least for the next two weeks). The production system is surely inspired by Japanese management systems, following all the usual principles of Lean. In the salon, on the other hand, you first get your hair washed in hot water (and some nice smelling shampoo). Then you are seated in a chair where your head is actually pulled backwards instead of forward. And then the hairdresser (can't call them barbers) gets to work, slowly, methodically, almost one hair at a time. It seems as if there is an intense debate going on in the mind for each hair - maar diya jaaye, ki chhod diya jaaye, bol tere saath kya salook kiya jaye. And then the scissor descends, slowly, apologetically, and snips one here, cuts one there. At times the pace was so deliberate that I wondered whether instead of me, the hairdresser had fallen asleep. The process lasts some 45 minutes, and it also produces a new you - though I cannot comment right now for how long. So which of these I prefer? Honestly, I don't know yet.

People: I am a normal guy, normal in all senses of the word. Given a choice between an unshaven, probably unbathed man in his 30s who can himself do with a haircut, and
a pretty, nice-smelling young lady with velvety touch, who should I prefer to have the rights on my hair? Now this one is as no-brainer as it gets. :) 100 points for the new place.

Finally, the most important criterion - Communication. For the last 20 years (ever since I started getting haircuts without towing along with my dad), I have been struggling with that one word, one sentence that would adequately convey to my barber / hairdresser exactly how short I wanted my hair to be cut. And I have failed miserably. Initially I used to say "short", and would emerge from the salon in the danger of being court-martialled by the nearest military court for being a deserter. Then I tried my luck with express command "don't make it short", and yet ended up with hair that would barely pass through the teeth of the comb. Then, some time back, the word "medium" flashed across my inward eye and I shined in glee. Surely this would convey what I wanted to be done to my hairs? Alas, one man's medium is another man's crew-cut. Sometimes, while reflecting on my shorn head post such session, I honestly wondered - if this is medium, what would be short? But in this new place, I said medium, and I got medium. Nothing more, nothing less. And that, for me, is worth another 100.

So where does the points tally stand? 50 - 20 - 30 +/- 0 +100 + 100 = 200. That still leaves me with a deficit of 50 (250 - 200). What the hell! I think the lady with the velvety touch is worth 150 points. :))