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John's Blacked Out Haircut by Deke Cutter

At college, all the gang had been drinkers and we all knew how to have a good time. Those years were now behind us and most of us had settled into our careers. Then there was John. John had become a pretty successful real estate salesman. This gave him some flexibility in his hours, so he felt free to continue some late-night partying that the rest of us curtailed. A couple of us still got together for happy hours and John would always come in dressed in one of his fancy suits, his long straight black hair slicked back, with a pair of sunglasses on top of his head. When he put the glasses in his pocket, his hair would eventually flop forward and he would unconsciously sweep it back in place and then take both hands and make sure the sides were also pushed back and patted down. John thought of his hair as part of his signature look and was sure it was part of his success. Most days the rest of the gang would stay until happy hour ended and then head home or to other engagements, but too often, John would stay and end up Ubering home pretty "plastered."

Nick and I were starting to get worried about our college pal. His drinking was getting a little unhinged. Nick was always the most "by the book" kind of guy. At school, the guys used to tease him about taking the MLB Rulebook to the bathroom with him to relax on "the throne." I guess that’s what makes him so good at his job as an accountant. Me, I’m just more of a "get the job done" person. I’m a project manager for a large government agency. Anyway, once or twice, Gus the manager of our favorite pub had called me to see if one of us could come down and pick up John and bring him home. Gus was concerned that he was too far gone to get there himself. Knowing John, I enlisted Nick to help me the second time, after I had to practically carry John up to his condo. As we were heading home, Nick said to me. "If this happens again, we are going to have to teach him a lesson he won’t soon forget." The next day, I talked to John and he promised me he was going to cut back and be more responsible.

Things went well for about a month and a half and then I got a call from John. "Bilbo," he called down the phone, using my college nick name. (My name is Bill Hopkins, somebody thought that was close enough to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, and it stuck).

"Hey Little Johnson" (two could play that game). What’s up?

"Celebratory drinks after work. I just pulled off my biggest residential sale yet. This will set me up for the rest of the year."

"Congratulations man. I’ll be there. But remember it’s a work night for the rest of us normal working slobs."

Most of gang was there and everybody was genuinely happy for John. Most of us left, after happy hour, but John stayed to have dinner with two colleagues from his office. Around 10:00, I got a call from Gus. "Bill, John’s colleagues left after dinner and he stayed and is really ‘smoked.’ He’s passed out in my office. Can you and Nick get him home?"

Nick was not well pleased when I called him. He had a very long day ahead of him and was about to get into bed when his phone rang. He did join me at the pub. This time, we did quite literally carry him out to my car. On the short drive to John’s, Nick said, "Bill, I meant what I said, this time, we teach him a lesson." There was a steel in Nick’s voice that I had never heard before. I knew he was serious. John never made a sound beyond an occasional snort sort of raspberry sound as we got him into the elevator and upstairs. I dug his keys out of his pocket. Nick said: "into the bathroom, let’s sit him on the toilet so his back is against the tank. You hold him, I’ll be right back." I did as I was told, John’s head fell forward and his hair fell over his face. Nick returned holding a pair of scissors.

I looked from Nick to John and said "Nick what are you doing?

Nick replied, "this is it Bill, he needs a ‘short, sharp, shock,’ emphasis on short." Don’t worry, he won’t even know we are responsible. Will you John?" Then, to my shock, Nick began cutting John’s long hair off to about an inch from his hairline, catching the hair in his free hand. He then placed each handful into the bathroom sink or onto the counter. Once John’s forehead was cleared, he cut the hair off above his ears on each side, taking an extra slice off at the part level and again placed the hair in and around the sink. "Now let’s just lay him down on the floor, in the recovery position in case he gets sick. I’ll leave the scissors hear on the sink and let’s get out of here."

And, so we did. I felt bad about how I had been complicit in Nick’s botching of John’s hair, but as Nick reminded me, if his plan worked and John was convinced he blacked out and did this himself before falling asleep on the floor, then maybe he would "clean up his act." Speaking of which, Nick reminded me that he really did have a very busy day tomorrow and that I would be the one likely to get the hysterical call from John. Nick gave me his view on how I ought to handle it.

I got into work early and let everybody know I might need a couple hours of annual leave that morning to help a friend with a personal issue. Luckily, my boss is pretty cool and I was able to rearrange a few things. The call came in at 9:00 AM. "Hey John, pretty early for you to be up isn’t it?"

"Bill" (he sounded terrible), I—don’t---I—can’t—oh f*ck!"

"John, are you OK? Drink a bit too much?

"Bill, I’m in trouble, can you possibly come over…I know you’re at work, but I need a friend."

"Sure buddy (I hated myself, but I was sort of enjoying this), what’s wrong?"

"Please, just get over here."

I rushed over to John’s and knocked on the door preparing to look shocked. John opened the door wearing a bathrobe and a baseball cap pulled down over his head.

"OK man, I’m here, what’s with the dramatics on the phone and what’s with the Oscar Madison outfit? (we had all been "Odd Couple" fans in school). He sat down at the dining table and pulled off his hat. I looked at his head and said: "What the hell happened to your hair?"

"I must have cut it," John said with a pained expression.

"What do you mean you must have cut it. Either you did or you didn’t. And it sure is hacked."

"The thing is the last thing I remember is somebody buying me a double shot of Jagermeister. I woke up on the bathroom floor and when I looked in the mirror, my hair was cut, the scissors were on the counter and there was hair all over the place! I don’t remember getting home and I sure don’t remember doing this he said, as he pointed to his head."

"Dude, I hate to be an ‘I told you so,’ but we all warned you. It sounds like you blacked out. That means you’ve got to let up on the amount you are drinking. Who knows what you were thinking? Maybe your hair flopped in your face and your inhibitions were down, so you let loose. I started to smile. Dude, you look ridiculous, we’ve got to get you to a barber!" (remembering Nick’s plan).

"A barber! Oh no, I never go to barbers. My hair is always styled by Camille. I hope she has an opening."

"John, get serious. You scalped yourself. No high falutin stylist can fix the mess you made. Now get dressed. The barber Nick and I go to is just a few blocks away. He’ll get you squared away in no time."


"No buts, John. You’re costing me a couple hours of leave and this mess is of your own making. You asked me come help you, now let’s go!" I half expected an argument or for him to send me away. He just turned toward his room and proceeded to get dressed. While he did, I made a follow up call to the barbershop both Nick and I used to let them know we would be arriving too. I had called them before I left work to make sure I could get him in a chair quickly when we arrived. I almost burst out laughing when John came out. His attempt to comb his hair left him looking like he had a home cut mullet. I handed him his hat and said: "put this on, please."

As we approached the barber’s, John stopped and said, "Bill, I’m not sure about this."

I put on a very stern voice. "John, you got yourself into this terrible mess by your incessant drinking and Nick and I have shown a great deal of forbearance. You are lucky Nick’s not the one you called. He might have had the barber shave you bald!" That shut him up. When we arrived at the shop, I opened the door and motioned for him to enter. I was happy to see the shop empty of customers. John was freaked out enough without an audience for what I was sure was coming. My barber Santos and Jonny, both young guy who really knew their stuff were sitting in their chairs.

Santos got up and said, "So Bill, is this must be your friend John. Come on man, have a seat in my chair and take that hat off." Santos visibly winced when John removed his hat. He walked around with a comb, trying to see what the different lengths were. "Well John, you don’t mind if I call you John?" (John indicated he didn’t). I gotta believe that you must have wanted a short haircut to do this to your hair and that’s good because a short haircut is the only thing left to fix this mess." John looked at me and for a minute I thought he was going to get up from the chair. But I gave him the look I save for technical leads who miss deadlines. At work they call it the death ray. John stayed seated.

Santos caped him up and started right in with the clippers in the back removing the ridiculous mullet Nick had left John with. It looked like Santos was using no longer than a Number 3 blade. He was going all the way up to the crown of John’s head. John’s hands were holding on to the chair for dear life. As Santos finished clearing off the back, John really couldn’t see the damage yet because the hair had all fallen to the floor behind him. But Santos, sensing John’s tension stopped and gently ran his hand up and down the back of John’s head saying, "oh yeah.", that feels good. I looked a John and he had tears in his eyes.

"Come on John," I said.

"No, Bill, its just that Santos is right. It does feel good. I really like the way it feels. I must have wanted to cut my hair off."

"That’s nothing to get emotional about man. Its good that you’re going to like having short hair. Its going to be short for a while before it grows back to its former glory." John looked a little strange. Meanwhile, Santos had continued his assault, moving to the sides of John’s head and had mowed them down to the same length as the back. He’d also taken over half of John’s sideburns, leaving just a shadow at the mid-ear level. John, I noticed, was no longer holding on to the arms of the chair but appeared to have his hands folded in his lap and he had a strangely serene look on his face.

Santos looked at me and said, "I think we may have a shot hair convert here. We’ll have to wait until I’m finished, and he sees the results, though." Santos, then began the process of fading in the sides and back, a completely new and mysterious experience to John. Santos explained what he was doing. John listed with rapt attention.

When Santos had completed the fade, (I thought John might faint during the straight razor shave, but he made it through), he wet down the hair on top that was still a mess of lengths and went to work with his scissors, cutting away, scissor over comb, front to back, then on the sides, then point cutting the bangs, checking everything and then finishing up the back third of the top with a little more clipper action. He took a little bit of wax and brushed the front up, giving John a classic crew cut look, about an inch in the front, getting shorter as it went back. "OK John" said Santos, "before I turn you around, give me your hands." John brought his hands up from under the cape. Santos placed them on the sides of Johns head and had him rub them up and down and did the same with the back.

"Holy Sh…, whoa! John, man this feels incredible." I was really glad that Santos had given him the sensory experience because what was coming next was going to be a shock. John’s a good-looking guy, and the haircut didn’t really make him look ugly or homely, but it made him look about 15. "What do you think, Billy."

What could I say? "Wow, Santos did a great job. The haircut looks great and you really seem to like it."

"OK Santos, turn me around."

It was almost the definition of tragicomic. John had this big goofy smile on his face and then he saw himself in the mirror. The smile became a big O. Then he rubbed his head again, I think to sooth himself a little. "Jeez, I look like a little kid! My boss is going to kill me."

I jumped right in. "No, you look a little younger, but that’s a good thing. You know what. Why not grow a ‘stache. It will give you that "action man" look. Santos immediately agreed with me.

"Yeah bro, I think you look great, but you always have to live with a new haircut for a few days just to get used to it. And remember how good those tight sides feel." John agreed that he liked the way it felt, but he would have to reserve judgement. He paid Santos and gave him a big tip, thanking him for "an amazing experience." I had to get back to work, but told John, I’d come by his place as soon as I got done.

When I returned to John’s early that evening, John came to the door smiling. "Billy, I can’t stop rubbing my head, I love this haircut as long as I don’t look at myself. I can’t imagine not keeping it but I can’t imagine looking like this either."

"Well, how about this? Keep it for the next four months. And keep your promise to cut back on the booze. Let’s see how you feel then and how things go at work and let’s see how that ‘stache turns out.

Has John been converted? Will he find out that Nick was behind his haircut? Will he miss his long floppy hair?

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