David and I walked into the hair salon in Shanghai for a hair cut a few weekends ago. I have gone with David to this place several times just to keep him company. He gets his hair cut way more often that I do, so I've always just been the observer. I'm somewhat reluctant to give some poor hair cutter here a chance for me to be really angry with him. It won't really be his fault, but I'd rather have long hair in need of a cut than some sort of freaky half bob with rust colored streaks in it when I can't communicate what I really want.
However, my hair had grown quite long, and despite wanting to wait a bit longer for a cut so I can donate it, I decided it was in need of a trim in the meantime. This is how I found myself in the hot seat next to David.
Now, in China, a hair cut is no simple matter. They wash your hair while you sit in the chair using some shampoo and a little squirt bottle of water. They work up quite the mountain of lather, scrub your scalp for a good ten minutes and then it's off to the sink for a rinse.
Back in the chair, they give you a massage. That's right. A hair cut includes a shoulder, arm and hand massage. It's not always phenomenal, but hey, it's more than we normally get. They also will clean your ears, which I find a bit odd. Some random girl sticking a q-tip in there is a little unsettling. My girl was quite careful, but I did notice another patron was getting quite the ear make-over one chair over. I have a feeling he never cleans his own ears.
So here's the part where the hair cutter, always a guy, comes over to snippity-snip. I've watched them working on David and I must say they spend a lot of time, mostly with scissors instead of a buzzer, making sure all the hairs are cut just so. Whether it is "just so's you like it" is a different story, but you can't say they rush through it.
My guy, after clearly gettting the message that I only wanted "just a little bit" cut off, started combing through my hair and of course, due to the dead ends, had a hard time getting through. He pointed this out to me and said, "Blah blah blah," and I said, "Yeah I know, no problem." But of course, all he heard was, "Blah blah blah." Hmm. We both laughed. He brought over a product to show me. Luckily, it had English on it and I saw it was for dry and damaged hair. "Ah, okay," I said. Conditioner, detangler. I get the idea. Go for it. He eventually understood I had agreed, and we were off and running. Another guy came over and they both started painting this stuff into my hair, rubbing it in, and then rolling it up into curls and pinning the curls all over my head.
Sitting in the chair to my left, David asked what they were doing to me. "I have no idea!" I replied, chuckling. "I thought it was just stuff to help him get the comb through!" If I hadn't been able to read the product label, I would have been seriously worried I had just signed up for a perm, but I was pretty sure I was okay.
Meanwhile, David's guy was trying desperately to communicate something about David's hair to him. He seemed to understand how David wanted it cut, but he was pointing to his hair and saying, "Blah blah blah blah blah." David used the ever useful phrase "Ting bu dong," which means, "I hear, but I don't understand." More chatter and pointing. David thought the guy might have been telling him that his hair was very dry and fine. The guy showed him a tube of stuff. It said, "For fine, thin, dry and damaged hair." After a while, David agreed, telling them to put on just a little bit. He thought it was gel or something to make his hair look thicker.
Pan back to me and I have been hooked up to some sort of vaporizing machine. I felt like Frankenstein at the beauty parlor. They had secured this hood thing over my head and sealed me in and now white mist was pouring out from the top. I don't go to salons very often. I've never had my hair dyed or permed or straightened, so this was all doubly foreign to me. I assumed my brain wouldn't fry in there, so I tried to relax.
After a few moments, I heard David say, "Zhe shi shenme??" This means, "What is this??" All the salon girls laughed. I could barely turn my head with the contraption strapped on, but I managed to twist enough to see that they were wrapping David's head up in plastic wrap.
Let me pause for this moment. Yes. Picture it. They had put goop in his hair and now they were wrapping him up like a chicken breast at the grocery. I couldn't stop giggling and that got the salon girls giggling more too. I only stopped once I realized I looked just as ridiculous. That is until they set a machine on David too. It basically looked like a ring and they put it over his head to orbit like the rings of Saturn. He basically looked like the Patron Saint of Shrink Wrap, with his heated halo hovering and spinning above his head.
How on earth did we get ourselves into this?
Anyway, time passed, the machines were removed, gunk was rinsed away and we commenced with the cutting. They finished David first, just as my guy started the massive task that is drying my hair. Once dried and semi-straight, he worked it all into curls with a round brush, which I was somewhat impressed he was able to do. He looked pleased with his efforts, pointing out how much better my hair looked with all the treatments and snips and curls. Yes, yes, hair guy, you did a nice job.
David went to the counter and paid. He came over to me while the finishing touches were being put on my hair. He said, "Well, they charged us about 500 yuan."
To put this in perspective, David's hair cut usually costs about 40 yuan at this place. Oh dear. I started to apologize, but he said it was both of those treatments that cost a bundle, and then laughed about it. It works out to be about $74. Not great, but not a disaster either. Although, for that kind of money, I should have been able to get a more complicated cut than just a trim, but oh well. Next time, we'll be sure to ask, "How much?" before we agree to be coated in sweet-smelling slime.
I had fun with the curls though. Gave me an excuse to skip all evening. :)