Hung up on a technicality
Friday, April 5, 2019 at 03:44PM

Before we get started, let me point out that, technically, what follows is not my story to tell. As in, it did not happen to me firsthand, nor did I witness the events.

But who pays much attention to technicalities? Not I, if I can help it.

The tale was related to me this past Wednesday by my hairdresser, Alan. I've told you about Alan before.

To refresh your memory, Alan is a southern gentleman who technically (there's that word again) qualifies as a senior citizen. But he's one of those who are so young at heart, you don't notice his chronological age, and in fact when you are reminded of it, you're always surprised.

Maybe it's the short and spiky dyed-blond hair. Or the single small earring. Or the fact that he and his two equally-senior-citizen brothers regularly take motorcycle trips together.

They drive Harleys.

Alan is a veteran of the United States Navy and a devoted husband to Kathy, his wife of over forty years. Together they are parents of one adult son, and the grandparents of two adorable children.

You may remember (or not) that when Alan and Kathy got married in the early '70s, Alan designed and made (with his own hands -- as in, he sewed it) Kathy's entire wedding ensemble. Even her hat and her shoes.

He learned to sew while in the Navy.

Have you ever heard anything like that? Not the sewing part, but the part about an average guy creating his fianceé's wedding clothes?

It's utterly charming. They were a handsome couple too, and she looked beautiful on that day. He carries a picture and he showed it to me.

Alan, a South Carolina native, lives and works on several acres out in "the sticks" as we say around here. It's technically a pine forest, but Alan and Kathy call it home. 

Speaking of home -- that's where Kathy is, ninety-five percent of the time. Her health isn't what it used to be.

Alan's salon -- "Tha Cut'n Shed," as it is known formally -- is a rustic 500-square-foot metal-roofed building that his brother constructed for him on the property.

It's got a wraparound porch with galvanized pipe for railing, around which Alan has planted many flowering shrubs which he loves to tend.

Inside, there's a tiny but immaculate restroom, a tiny but inviting waiting area with two chairs, magazines, and an essential oil diffuser, a discreet but see-through lattice partition, and then a dryer chair, another lean-back chair at the hair-washing sink -- Alan uses that chair to relax in when he's not working on a client -- and the chair where you sit to get your hair cut.

There's no room for anything else. But there's lots of natural light and the surroundings are as unpretentious as they are pleasant. And there's peace.

I drive forty minutes every five weeks to have Alan trim and style my hair, as I have done since late 2004.

When and if Alan retires, I don't even want to think about how I'll manage to find anyone who can cut my hair the way Alan does.

Actually, if you want to get all technical? I know that I won't. I may have to shave it off and wear wigs.

Besides his prodigious talents as a hairdresser, there's Alan himself, who is the most kind and considerate of gentlemen. He could be the male archetype for hairdresser-as-therapist.

Because what he does is, he listens. He enjoys hearing about what's been going on with you. He remembers names and events, and asks questions about things you've discussed in the past.

He takes no liberties of any kind. As I said: Alan is a gentleman. For years, he called me "Miz Weber." What can I do for you today, Miz Weber? he'd politely inquire as I got settled in the cut'n chair and shrouded with a cape.

Finally, sometime around the dawn of the Obama administration, I persuaded him to call me by my front name of Jenny. Which he has done ever since.

Most of my family have met him and a few have even used his services at one time or another.

Alan's simply a prince of a man. He has one job and he does it extremely well. And his other job -- being a friend to his many loyal and longtime clients -- comes as naturally to him as breathing.

Speaking of clients -- I don't know how many Alan has, but I know there isn't much turnover. Most ladies (and gentlemen), having found Alan, realize what they've got and treasure their spot on his calendar.

He gets new clients, if he wants them, the old fashioned way -- by strangers being so impressed with a lady's haircut as she is out in public, that they stop to ask who cuts her hair.

That's what happened a few weeks ago. Alan got a call from a lady he didn't know. She'd been referred by a loyal longtime client, whose hair this new would-be client had openly admired.

She needed a significant amount of help with her own hair. Alan told me that he spent forty-five minutes with her on the phone for that first call, during which she related her hair troubles in great detail, and he advised and discussed with her what might be done.

Ultimately she made an appointment, for about a week out.

You should know at this juncture that Alan works three -- maybe four -- days a week, and he's busy. He does not work weekends and there's no such thing as a walk-in appointment.

But he managed to move some clients around and clear his schedule so that he could devote a two- to three-hour block of time to the lady with the many hair woes. The services she needed would take that long to render, he said.

And so the appointment was set and phone numbers were exchanged and so forth.

On the day before he was to meet with the new customer, as a courtesy, Alan took the time to call the lady and politely remind her of the impending appointment, and to make sure she knew how to find the salon, and to advise her of the forms of payment he accepts (no plastic).

She responded that she was good to go and that she'd see him on the next day.

The next day came. The hour of the appointment rolled around. But the new client didn't.

Alan waited for over an hour before doing a final sweep and tidying of his work area, and closing up shop and driving home -- that being the comfortable house you can see through the trees from the salon window, during the winter when there aren't as many leaves.

The next morning, still never having heard from the lady, Alan sent her a text. He reminded her that he'd rearranged his entire schedule in order to grant her a lengthy appointment, on the strength of her having been recommended by a longtime client.

He reminded her that she'd had his phone number and could have called or texted if she found it necessary to cancel at the last minute.

And he told her that he didn't think they were a good fit and he'd appreciate it if she'd take her business elsewhere.

I'm sure he was kinder and more diplomatic than I would have been in the same situation.

And I think he was justified in letting her know that, even if she were to be so inclined, he wasn't interested in renewing the appointment she'd failed to keep.

Then Alan read to me the lengthy and accusatory text he received in response to his text.

Naturally I don't remember its contents word for word, but I'll give you the gist of it.

She said that Alan was obviously an arrogant man, and that, because he WAS a man, he couldn't possibly "understand" why she had not kept their appointment.

I don't know if you've heard about the recent murder near the campus of the University of South Carolina, which is in downtown Columbia.

The one in which an inebriated girl, leaving a bar at two o'clock in the morning, summoned a Uber and then got willingly into a car which she believed was said Uber, but which in fact wasn't.

The driver of that car kidnapped and subsequently murdered the young woman, and dumped her remains several miles away in the dense foliage off of an isolated country road.

What does any of this have to do with Alan's delinquent would-be customer? you may be wondering.

What it has to do with it is that, in explaining her failure to keep the appointment, the lady cited "the USC murder." She said that she'd gotten to the point in Perry Taylor Road, Leesville, South Carolina, where one turns their automobile onto a dirt road to drive approximately fifty yards to The Cut'n Shed.

When she realized how off-the-beaten-path the salon was, she said she was overcome by fear "because I don't know you, and because of the USC murder," and continued driving, unable to convince herself that it was safe to go down the path and keep her hair appointment.

(My question at this point is, how could she not have already known that the salon is in a remote location? It's not a secret; anyone telling someone about Alan's setup would mention the unique situation of his salon and its environs.)

Another salient point is, does she really think that a hardworking self-employed senior citizen luring you to your death in his hair salon -- in broad daylight, a stone's throw from the house where his wife is going about her day -- whom you yourself sought out, not the other way around, would spend forty-five minutes talking to you on the phone -- sight unseen -- about your hair, when he didn't even know you?


It's one thing to keep a sharp eye. I wish the young woman who left the bar a few nights ago after several hours of drinking had had her wits about her enough to realize that she was imperiling herself when she got -- alone -- into the car of someone she knew even less than one "knows" one's Uber driver.

(Ladies. Don't call a Uber unless you're going to be accompanied on the ride by, at the very least, another lady or -- better -- several people. Ideally, don't summon a Uber unless you are in the company of an able-bodied male whose presence would deter most malefactors.)

But it's another thing to, in the aftermath of such a senseless crime, be afraid to get your hair permed and cut because the salon is situated down a dirt road and you've never met the (highly-recommended senior citizen) stylist in person.

I understand apprehension. I understand enlightened self-interest. What I don't understand is, having been overcome by fear in a situation, not having enough consideration for the other person to at least give them a call and explain.

It's not as though Alan could have murdered her through the telephone.

Most of all, I'm amazed that someone could conflate two scenarios -- a young, impaired, foolish girl getting into a car driven by a young black male outside a bar at two o'clock in the morning and a middle-aged lady, sober as a judge (I assume), keeping an appointment with a seventy-year-old hairdresser at three o'clock in the afternoon -- to the point that she was unable to turn her car down a path and at least check the place out before making a decision.

I told Alan that I had a mental image of the fortunate collective of his loyal longtime clients -- I'd be on the front row -- standing off to one side of his hair-cutting cabin and being amazed -- even amused -- at the sight of the lady being afraid to keep an appointment with him.

There's being safe -- make no mistake; I'm all for that -- and there's being afraid of your own shadow. 

Which doesn't get you anywhere. But maybe that's okay because you're having a bad hair day anyway.

And that is all for now.


Happy Friday :: Happy Weekend

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