English majors, more often than not, are catalysts. While, of course, a few of us may produce raw and original content for one purpose or another, a great many more of us do not. Rather, we find ourselves positions that involve taking someone else’s “created raw print” (CRaP) and lovingly sculpting those steaming piles into something that makes the purported writer appear as though he or she had a point, a purpose, and at least a vague notion as to proper comma placement. To come to a point, most of us are communication enhancers but not necessarily communicators ourselves. In my heyday, I could edit the senior thesis of an education major (CRaP in its purest form) until it was something that would make a grammarian weep with the sheer joy of it. (I’ll not speculate as to the contents. That would merit a very different type of weeping.) But by comparison, and to this very day, I still struggle with how to interact with my hair stylist on a one-on-one basis. Let me illustrate:
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, my hair is too long. I would like my hair to be less long.”
Now, in my mind, this is where the conversation should end. An offer of help has been extended, I have accepted, and I have outlined my needs. That the coin of the realm will be exchanged in return for attention to my needs really goes without saying. Thus, when yon scissor wielding maniac continues to jabber queries at my person, it is with great difficulty that I remind myself they are not, in fact, rhetorical.
“How much would you like me to take off?”
“Half an inch?”
“No, half of what’s already up there. I didn’t measure it before I came in.”
We generally continue in this manner for several minutes, as my stylist wants me to commit to a number, whereas I really don’t feel qualified to render such a judgment. Undoubtedly at some point during the debate, I grow frustrated and try to reiterate my wants using metaphor.
“There is a tribble on my head.”
“Make it go away.”
This, of course, falls flat, as the stylist in question, regardless of gender, is far too good looking to have had nothing to do last Friday night except catch up on reruns of the original Star Trek…like I did (likely because my hair is so shaggy that my wife refuses to be seen in public with me). However, if nothing else, my outburst tends to provide fairly convincing evidence that I am both insane and unpredictable. Thus, in the interest of getting me out of his or her life before I do something drastic, they will often put forward a hair reduction number, in a unit of their choice, that sounds as though it will provide a satisfactory loss in follicle mass. I accept. Unfortunately, this tentative and hard fought concession only causes the questions to grow more esoteric.
“Is there a particular style you’d prefer?”
“Is ‘shorter’ a style?”
They also tend to start asking me about things I don’t entirely understand or want to understand.
“What do you normally do with the bangs?”
“I have bangs?”
“…Yes…yes, you do.”
“Are bangs a unit of hair?”
“For the purpose of this exercise, yes.”
“Can you reduce this unit of hair by a measure commensurate with the other units of hair you have already shortened?”
“Why are we having this conversation?”
“Frankly, I don’t know any more.”
Also, no matter how many times I volunteer that I’m looking to come out of there with less hair than I came in with, they continue to make odd inquiries about what they should do with those scissors of theirs. Generally, it reaches a point that I am afraid to answer with an affirmative, lest my hair end up in curlers and I leave with a perm.
“Do they usually layer the sides?”
“It depends. Who did it last time?”
“I couldn’t even hazard a guess. Can you just, you know, make the sides…”
At least I have come to understand that when they start offering me a coat of polyurethane, though they usually term it “gel,” we’ve probably reached the end of the cutting potion of the program.
On that note, generally speaking, the stylist usually gets a generous tip for not slitting my throat and having done with me. Sadly, if there’s any wrath to be expelled, it likely comes from me and is directed at the hapless Taco Bell employee I encounter during my celebratory post-haircut meal.
“Can I help you?”
“In just a minute – I’m just figuring out what I want.”
“Do you have any questions?”
“We’re in a Taco Bell. No, I don’t have any questions. Or, wait a minute, I do. Who in the world thought you needed an apostrophe in ‘nachos’? Do you have but one nacho? Is it claiming ownership of something?”
In his defense, I suppose he wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with my CRaP either.