Unites States Of America
Price: $16-$20 including a tip (2004-07 prices)
Between 2004 and 2007, I spent more than 3 years in Connecticut, US. Thanks to the nomadic life that we all IT professionals so eagerly look forward to! During this period, I was coming to terms with the different way of doing things in a different part of the world. Be it transitioning from water to tissues or smiling at strangers and uttering “Hi. How you doing”, at the speed of light! I had my share of haircuts as well.
A lot of my colleagues in my previous organization wanted to cut cost on all fronts and definitely wanted to save on haircuts which were almost 13-15 times the hair cut cost in India. Some folks brought a hairdresser kit and did it themselves at home, while others used plain $2 scissors and criss crossed the mop of the hair on their head in the directions they wanted to. Its almost like a kid gone crazy with a pair of scissors in his hands! Others looked for cheaper alternatives like the Chinese/ Asian hairdressers who typically were less expensive than the US hairdressers.
I was of the firm belief of not taking this route and decided to do it the “American Way”. I started regularly going to “Cost Cutters” a chain of hair dressing shops in the US, which was located not more than 700 meters from my house. The name misleads one to think that the cost of haircut may be less. Its actually no cutting on costs! Had it been India, I would have walked to have my haircut. But it was USA, so there comes my car. From the time I pushed the ignition, till the time I reached the saloon, it took no more than three minutes – phew maybe my car engine may not even have woken up from its slumber since the drive last day! Cost Cutters had chirpy hairdressers – all ladies. I never thought it was common to have lady hairdressers in US. Had it been India, people would have gone to a hair cutting saloon with lady hairdressers, with all the wrong thoughts in their head!
I soon realized that the parameters of giving my requirements for haircut changed in this new country. Gone were the days when Rajesh Khanna and I had an unsaid understanding or common language. Now I had to decide how long or short I wanted my hair in terms of levels of hair cutting where a scale of 1 to 5 indicated how long or short you wanted your hair to be cut. It is important to know which is the lower and the higher end of the scale, else the look of “Freshly Peeled Chicken” can haunt you in just half an hour of miscommunication!
The hairdressers in US are chatty with their customers and peers around. They however want to spend less time or effort on your hair. So they use more of automation – a machine like a grass mower which weeds of those long tresses of hair in a jiffy, than the clickety scissors which the Indian hairdressers love to use. Thankfully, I have never slept off during a haircut, but always kept my eyes closed – almost in a state of meditation. In this state, I think of the lives these hairdressers would be leading, while listening to their conversations. It definitely gives insights into their way of life, their struggles, their humane side.
During special occasions, like Halloween, all the hairdressers dressed into funny costumes. It added a lot of variety and color to an otherwise boring experience for the customers. I was once attended to by a dresser wearing the costume of a “Witch”. The other time it was a buxom fairy tale princess. Customers had an opportunity to vote for the best dressed hairdresser and finally she won some small cash prize. I heard the “Witch” did win once, so guess my vote was bang on the money. At the end of the haircut as you pay for it, its polite to pay a tip in the US as the hourly wages are low and tips bring in added revenues to the hourly workers. Dishing a decent tip also makes you feel nice and brings a delight onto their faces.