A New Brush by Deke Cutter
I really need this job. The economy has been tough for some time and I've been scraping by with some short-term consulting and temporary jobs. So, I was pretty excited today when they told me I had made it through to the final interview at the home office in Chicago. Dan Robbins, the guy who I would be reporting to locally had told me to come in to talk to their travel coordinator about my arrangements for the trip to Chicago which would have to be tomorrow because they really were trying to move fast on filling the position. After the travel coordinator walked me through the arrangements, she said that Dan wanted to see me before I left.
Dan's secretary led me into his office. Dan, as I noticed, looked sharp. His clothes were well-tailored and he was perfectly groomed. "Jake, glad you could get in to see me." I replied "no problem Dan, is there a problem?" Dan looked a bit uncomfortable, but finally said" "look, we all are pulling for you here, but Ralph Louis, our CEO, who you will be meeting with tomorrow is a man who has very particular standards." I must have looked puzzled. "Don't worry, its not your qualifications or experience. I just want to suggest that you consider getting your hair cut before the interview. Ralph is a stickler fro male grooming. Maybe its because he lives in "the windy city" but he expects all guys to have neat haircuts that require little maintenance." Dan's own thick black hair was well cut, but I guess it was fairly short. "Sure," I said, "no problem." I don't want to let a little hair stand between me and the job." Dan looked at his watch and said "well you better get going, then. I know you have a flight to catch tonight." We shook hands and I left.
As I got in my car, I looked in the vanity mirror. My hair looked good. I had got it trimmed at my usual place before the first interview. The lower part of my ear was uncovered but my brown locks gently touched my collar. My floppy forelock had been hair sprayed into place earlier today and still was not falling into my face. I called Jen, my hair stylist, but she was fully booked. I figured I could find some place else locally. Just then my cell phone rang. It was the travel coordinator telling me she had to rebook me on an earlier flight so I would miss some bad weather coming through. I rushed home, got packed and headed to the airport.
As I landed in Chicago, it struck me that I still had to sort out my haircut. I got to my very nice boutique hotel in the Little Italy neighborhood. I noticed a barbershop a block or so down from the hotel. I was a bit concerned about an unknown shop in a new city, but looking at the time, I figured I would have to give it a try. I went in and took a seat, the barber greeted me and said he would be with me as soon as he finished the young man in the chair. That guy was getting a trim, pretty similar to my haircut, so that relaxed me a bit.
I got up into the big old fashioned barber chair, feeling how comfortable it was. "yes sir," the barber said, "what are we doing today?" I had thought a good deal about this and said "I need the sides and back shorter and I need to be able to brush to top straight back so it looks neat." Not being a regular at the barber, I figured I had been even more detailed than I would have been with a stylist at home. Jen would have taken a bit off the sides and back and given me something that looked a bit more conservative. The barber said to me, "OK, a bit of a change then, short sides and brush cut top." As a communications professional, I should have known that there might have been a bit of a communication breakdown, but I was too busy worrying about the interview to notice.
The barber caped me up, combed my hair all around. My bangs were down to my nose. It was a little strange not to have my hair washed first, but, again, I didn't speak up. The barber had his back to me fiddling with his equipment. Then he turned the chair around so I was facing the blank wall behind me. Next I heard a click and felt something I hadn't felt since I was a kid, the clippers running up the back of my head. I couldn't see anything but I did say "not going to short are you?" The barber said, "don't worry, it will look fine." He continued pushing the clippers up the back of my head. I was starting to get worried when he finally took the clippers to my sideburn and pushed it up pretty high. I could see a strip of hair of about an inch in length left behind. "Wow, that is really short" I said. The barber stopped and said, look you said you wanted a brush cut, I guess it is a bigger change than you thought." With that, he pointed to a haircut chart on the wall and "the scales fell from my eyes." I saw what a brush cut looked like and I thought I would cry! At that point, I explained the whole situation to the barber. He apologized for any misunderstanding, but said, it would be best for him to continue I agreed. He turned the clippers back on and went to work in earnest stripping most of my hair from the sides of my head. Next he put the clippers down, sprayed my hair with water and combed the long hair on top straight back. He then lifted up my forelock and chopped off all but about two inches of it. He then continued scissoring the remaining hair to that standard lenth. He then went over the top with the clippers to make sure it was even. Next he switched guards on the clippers and blended the longer hair on top with the sides. He then cleaned up the sides and my neck with shaving cream. It was a strange feeling. He suggested taking my sideburns up about halfway on my ears. Next he took some wax and worked it in to my hair. He turned me around and showed me the new me. I didn't recognize myself. My face looked my more angular. My hair stood to attention and I had a slightly military air about me. The barber assured me that I looked great. I wasn't so sure, but I knew my hair would pass any grooming standard the new boss might have. I thanked him and left the shop with a small jar of the product he had used and a small brush that he said would help me get my hair standing up.
I felt so self conscious at dinner that night, but I did notice that I was getting some very positive looks from some of the women at the bar where I had an after dinner drink. I made it an early night, though. I got up early made sure my suit and shirt were perfect and took a shower. I couldn't believe how different it felt when I shampooed my hair. I was surprised at how short it looked when dried it. I took out the wax, brushed my hair and was impressed at how well it went back into place. Still, it was not me. I couldn't wait to get my length back and my floppy forelock.
I was feeling pretty confident when I met with Ralph Louis. He complimented me on my suit and "your sharp haircut." We talked for about 45 minutes and at the end he said "welcom to the firm." I was over the moon. I shook his hand and thanked him. Then he said the words to me that I really hadn't expected: "we have a monthly video-conference with your office and I look forward to seeing that brushcut looking as fresh as it looks today every second Tuesday." When I got to Dan's office the following Monday, he took one look at me and said "oh wow, I'll bet that is your new haircut for good. I should have warned you about going overboard with the haircut, but I had a feeling you wouldn't go this extreme. With that he pulled out a picture of himself with a beautiful head of curls and said "see you at the barbershop around the corner on the first Monday of the month."