Bad Day at Black Rock by Deke Cutter
I had been really lucky when I got my degree and left school. I found a job I liked and was doing pretty well. But, my luck didn’t last and when layoffs came, I was the last one hired and so the firt to be let go. I interviewed for several jobs, but they all seemed to require more experience than I had. My writing and verbal skills are strong so I was very excited when I heard about a job involving both, working for a big charitable trust. This was right up my alley. The interview went well. Ed Jenkins, the director of the trust explained that he needed someone who could get folks excited and involved in the trust’s new focus on healthy living and getting people moving. "Jeremy," he said to me, at the end of the interview, "the job is yours. Just get rid of that mop, we want a clean-cut spokesman. I recommend the Black Rock Barber Shop down the street. Its close to the office. How soon can you start?" My cash reserves were running low, so I told him I could start Monday (4 days away), shook his hand and left.
So, here I was, on Saturday morning looking in the mirror at my beautiful light brown hair. It was the hair that girls were jealous of. It shimmered and shined. It had never been short. I wore it in sort of a ¾ part and it always covered my ears and fell to my collar. My bangs were longish. It was me, but not for long. Ed Jenkins had a very conventional men’s short haircut. I knew that his major donors tended to favor a conservative athletic kind of look. So, with one final glance in the mirror, I headed out.
The Black Rock Barber Shop was a traditional shop with two barbers staffing the three chairs. The barbers were a father and son in their 50s and 30s respectively. Both had short tightly tapered haircuts. Each was working on a customer, the older barber giving a man with a medium length business cut a trim that did not seem too severe….this relieved my anxiety a bit. The younger barber was cleaning up a young boy’s crew cut. I picked up a magazine and tried to read through it while the other customers ahead of me were dispatched. Before I knew it, I heard the older barber calling "excuse me sir, you’re next." The fellow next to me said quietly, "buddy, that’s you." Slightly embarrassed, I got up and moved toward the chair.
The barber introduced himself as Harry Black, proprietor and his son was Harry Junior, known as "Rocky." Harry said that he had not seen me in the shop before. I introduced myself and told him the circumstance that led me to his shop. Harry caped me up and told me how he had known Ed Jenkins for years. I asked if he thought a nice medium business man cut would do the trick. Harry got a wry smile on his face and said, you had better leave this to me. With that, Harry turned the chair away from the mirror and I was facing a large screen TV.
The clippers felt strange as they moved up the right side of my head. An awful lot of hair seemed to fall into my lap. More and more chunks fell as he moved around, telling me he was "clearing the bulk." The sides and back of my head felt cooler and lighter than I could ever remember when he finally turned the big clippers off. Next, he came round to the right again with a smaller clipper and proceeded to take off what was left of my sideburn, saying, "this will look better with your new haircut. He then went around my ear with this clipper seeming to outline it and the side of my hairline. He did this on both sides. Next, he said something I didn’t understand at the time, "you have a good clean hairline that was hiding under that length. I’m not going to raise it, I’ll take the taper all the way down.
He then began a process of using scissors, clipper over comb, and clippers to taper the sides and back of my hair. I thought this would never end and he still had the top to attack! Finally, he picked p a spray bottle wet my remaining thatch of of hair on top and starting from the front, lifted it with his comb and started cutting the length dramatically shorter. Once he got that hair to a length he seemed to like, he announced that he would need to get it to lay better and went to work with what I later learned were thinning shears. These terrible tools were used to diminish the fullness and body of my hair. When he completed this part of the assault, he did a little bit of blending and trimming of my bangs. There was a bit of shaving cream applied around the edges and a straight razor shave. The final indignity, a bit of Vitalis and a combing. When I was turned to the mirror, I saw my face under a haircut that was not a complete scalping because there was hair on the sides, laying very flat for about two inches before tapering into stubble at ear level. On top, all my glorious thick, soft, fluffy, hair was replaced by one very tightly controlled layer that had a small old fashioned quiff turned up in the front. I looked like I had escaped from a bad 1950’s children’s book. Harry, said to me "I know this a big change for you, but Ed will love it." I thanked him, paid (and tipped him generously and even accepted the free mini bottle of Vitalis he offered along with instructions on how to apply it).
I spent the weekend avoiding friends, family, am mirrors and trying to get used to the geeky new me. Monday morning, I showered and combed what little hair I had and quickly realized I needed the Vitalis to give it some sense of life. I walked into work, met with the HR folks, had my ID picture taken (now I am a freak for posterity) and then went in to see the boss. Ed invited me to sit down, noting that I had taken his suggestion to heart, and then started on about the new job. About two minutes in he stopped. He looked at me and started to laugh, "Jeremy, I’m sorry, that haircut," (I turned red) Ed continued, "this charity means a lot to me and I need to test new employees to make se they are in for the long haul. Looking at your hair, I just took a guess that it would be a huge sacrifice. Harry and Rock agreed to go along with me on it, with the promise of free haircuts for you (at my expense) for as long as you work for me. They are both real professionals. I do expect a neat professional look, but let’s talk about it in a year or so when you have grown enough hair back for it to become an issue."