Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Far Would You Go?

How far would you go to get the Perfect Haircut? I, apparently, would go pretty far. And during peak traffic, no less.

My quest for the perfect haircut started the summer of 1992 after my freshman year at Scripps College. I was lucky enough to have a car on the Claremont, CA campus but I wanted to get it back to Seattle so I'd have something to drive over the summer. My dad wasn't crazy about us driving so far on our own but I worked him with, "Dad, I need a car if you want me to work.")

My best friend at the time, Beth, offered to fly down and drive back up the coast with me. We decided to make a pit stop at my parents' Rancho Mirage house (wait, isn't that the wrong direction?) before setting off. Due to temperatures over 100 degrees, we essentially spent ten days straight in the chlorinated pool on comfy little rafts, sipping iced tea and working on our tans.

After one brutal day of relaxation, I was in the bathroom drying my lovely locks. (I'm not saying my hair was ever really long. Certainly never thick. But for years upon years it had sat above my shoulders in a basic, good enough, bob.) I'd finished styling one side of my head and was trying to work on the other, but I couldn't seem to get a good grasp of hair in my hands. It was just stuck somewhere, right? I wasn't sure where. But it had to be stuck somewhere. Right? Right? Right?

I looked in the mirror for guidance, but (ha!) it looked as though a big clump was simply missing. I joked to Beth, "Look, some of my hair fell out!" then tried to unstick it by flipping it over. But nothing came unstuck.

Um, why wasn't it unsticking? Um, was it really gone? Um, yeah, it was.

Cut to my first short haircut. (Called The Artichoke.) And 16 years later I am on my 555th version of the very same cut. Oh sure, certain stylists have made modern touches to my hair. Color and highlights have also made a difference. But I'm not going to lie. My 19 year old hair compared to my 35 year old haircut is basically the same. And that's exactly why I would drive almost any length for the promise of a varied approach to styling it. That's also why I found myself schlepping my son into an entirely DIFFERENT COUNTY last night to get my hair cut!

Here's how it all came down: Last Saturday Jim and I went on a date night to Seattle's Edgewater Inn. We brought books and blankets and sat in front a cozy fire in their beautiful lobby reading and snuggling the night away. (Sounds like a typical August night, right?) Before we went home I stopped off at the bathroom where I saw a gal with a haircut and color so very similar to mine, but about 10 times more chic, hip and youthful.

Me: Do you live in the Seattle area?

Cute Hair: Yeah.

Me: Where do you get your hair done?

Cute Hair kinda smiles coyly. I catch on.

Me: You're in the business, huh? You do it yourself, right?

Cute Hair: Yeah.

Me: Well you have a new client! Where do you work? What's your name?

Cute Hair: I'm Genevieve and I work at Split Ends in Mill Creek.

Me: My Cabbage Patch's name was Genevieve!

Cute Hair: Oh.

Me: Anyway, where's Mill Creek?

Cute Hair: Not too far from here.

Me: Cool! Here's my card. Email me your information, OK?

Split Ends: Sure!

Jim: Did you make a new friend?

Me: Uh huh! Where's Mill Creek?

Jim: Oh no.

First thing Sunday I look up Split Ends' website. It looks like a chain - not such a great sign, although it doesn't mean Genevieve isn't a company stand-out. My friend Margaret gets her hair done by a sensational stylist who just happens to be a manager at SuperCuts, so you never know. And, hmmm . . . speaking of Genevieve, why can't I find her information under the "Staff Bios" link?

Oh well. I'll just give them a call.

Split Ends: Split Ends!

Me: Hi, I'd like to book a haircut with Genevieve.

Split Ends: Genevieve's a receptionist here. (Crap. My mood darkens.)

Me: Oh, then who does her hair?

Split Ends: Holly.

Me: OK. Can I get an appointment with Holly?

Split Ends: She's really busy and books out way in advance. (Hooray. Other people trusting her is a really good sign. Mood lightens.) I can get you in next week at 4:20 pm. (Next week? Good mood holding somewhere between dark and light.)

Me: I'll take it, but I'm driving over from Mercer Island so . . .

Split Ends: Woah! That's far.

Me: Yeah, I know. So if she gets any cancellations earlier in the day can you let me know? I don't want to get stuck in traffic.

Split Ends: Sure.

Me: Just how far is it?

Split Ends: Let's just say you should give yourself ample time.


I go back on the website to read Holly's bio. It goes like this:

I love doing all hair types. It's fun making people feel and look good about themselves and make new changes. I really enjoy color, foils, and perms. I have done advanced training with Joico and Paul Mitchell.

I have been licensed for 16 years.
I have been at THE SPLIT END SALONS for 1 years.

I like to spend time with my family, walk Greenlake or Alki, shop with friends and my Mom and to the movies.

I almost cancel.

But a week later, after a bowling playdate my son and I head out to meet this Holly. I can't complain because we didn't hit a lick of traffic and it really didn't take all that long to get there - maybe 40 or so minutes.

The salon was located in a shopping center larger than a strip mall but smaller than a mall mall and looked more Hair Masters than Gene Juarez. Clearly the owner was counting on a big portion retail sales income because products were displayed and stacked everywhere.

I almost cancel.

But once I saw Holly I relaxed. She had the cutest haircut (kind of a modern day Dorothy Hamill) and a warm, beautiful smile. She took a lot of time to listen to my hair angst and play with my hair - pushing it this way and that. And you know what? When she pushed it over my ears I magically lost about 10 pounds! So guess how she cut it. Exactly! And with tip it only cost me $40. That totally beats Fancy Salon's $60 rate.

And my son and I made the most of being in Mill Creek. We did a little shopping (See "$73 in Dog Bones Later"), had a nice dinner (See "I was Hungry Til she Said Amputation of the Foot") and got home by 7 pm.

So will I go back? Probably. Because even though it was yet another variation on the artichoke, I am really happy with it.

As for Miss Pass Herself Off as a Stylist, I'm still awaiting her email. I'll cut her some slack because she shares the same name as my Cabbage Patch Doll, but that can only get her so far.

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