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Friday, November 2, 2001

I know why I've been putting it off so long. The last time I got a haircut, on September 10, I wrote, "Tomorrow morning I'll wake up and the whole world will be different."

No, wait. What I really wrote was, "I'll wake up tomorrow morning and ... know whether the sixteen dollars (plus two) that I spent this morning was worth it." And I've been reluctant to get another haircut since then. A little superstitious, because it really was a very bad haircut that time. Nobody cared, because we were all distracted by other things. But I knew, and I was only just recovering from the trauma when I realized about a week ago that I needed another haircut.

Then last night I finally decided it couldn't wait. I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself. That's partly a good thing, but in this case I was just the slightest bit repulsed by what I saw. So this morning, for the second time this week, I got up intending to get a haircut. Only this time, I couldn't think of any excuses not to.

When I got to the salon in the mall, there was a lovely young stylist (whom I didn't recognize) standing next to the counter waiting. I should have known right away that this would be no ordinary haircut. I could have told her I'd wait for the other woman, but that would have been rude, which isn't like me, and it would have kept me away from work longer. That last part didn't bother me.

So I followed her to her station and let her wrap my neck in paper and drape a sheet over me. She seemed to take forever just finding her comb and scissors. I almost wanted to ask her if this was her first day, but I decided to pretend to be cool about it all. I like encouraging the young folk in the pursuit of their dreams, and I didn't really want to make her life any harder. She seemed to be having enough trouble without my input.

I also didn't ask if she was near-sighted. I've never had a haircut where the stylist scrunched over and put her face quite so close to my head. It was as if she needed to see each individual hair before she could figure out how to cut it. At one point I heard her say, "Oops." She stood perfectly still, directly behind me, for a full minute, and then said, "Ah. Got it."

Rather than leaving it to your imagination what that was all about, I'll give you my theory. I think she dropped the scissors (or maybe the comb) halfway down, and she was trying to find it in the folds of her clothing before it fell to the floor. I didn't ask and she didn't tell, but I've been getting haircuts for half a century, and I've pretty much seen it all.

To give her some credit, she tried hard to make conversation. It just wasn't one of her more highly developed talents. She'd ask a question (Did you have a nice Halloween?) and then back off. I gave her the long answer, because I had nowhere to go, about how I didn't have any trick-or-treaters last year, and didn't expect any this year, but I had my light on because my nephew was coming over to visit, but no kids came to the door and it was a good thing because I didn't buy any candy, since I've been on this diet since April, and by the way how was your Halloween?

"I had to work," she said. "Then I went home."

That seemed to end that vein of the conversation without mining any more gold, but she'd apparently made a list of topics, and a few minutes later she remembered another one. "What do you think about this thing with the bridges?"

By this time I was ready to talk without expecting to be interrupted, so I recited my commentary about how we were getting just enough information to be scared but not enough to do anything about it, but with the extra level of security nothing would probably happen, even if it had been planned. That was easy for me to say, I noted, because I don't have to drive across any bridges. Besides, I said, now that the terrorists have us scared of our own shadows, they don't have to do anything. All they have to do is keep making vague threats.

She didn't ask me any more questions.

But the haircut was not over. It went on (quietly) for several more minutes. Then she unveiled me and handed me a comb. I really couldn't do much with it, since she'd emptied her spray bottle on me during the course of the haircut and totally soaked my head. There were little bits sticking up here and there that I couldn't do anything with until they dried. "Do you want me to cut a little more?" she asked. No, thanks, that's fine.

I had to get her attention again to hand her the two-dollar tip, and then I paid my sixteen dollars at the counter and left. By the time I got home my head was dry and the haircut looked okay. But it always looks okay on the first day. It won't be until I wake up tomorrow morning that I'll know whether I got a good haircut this time or not.


November sunset.

It's a good thing there was no World Series game today, because I had this momentous morning to write about (see above). Plus, I really needed to catch my breath. It's been so intense that a day off has been therapeutic. No matter what, though, it'll all be over by Sunday night. (On the other hand, I expect something big to happen Sunday, because that's when the Emmy Awards are scheduled — for the third time. Talk about your bad omens!)

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