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Those Mystery Haircuts just aren't worth the risk


Larry Bird cut his own hair at the Olympics.

He did this, he said, because he found out that a haircut in Barcelona would cost him $80.

Eighty dollars truly is an outrageous price for a haircut, but Larry Bird earns $80 about every one-tenth of a second.

I know why Bird really cut his own hair: He is afraid of Mystery Haircuts.

Mystery Haircuts are the haircuts you get when you are away from home and can't wait until you get to your regular barber.

The second worst place to get a Mystery Haircut is a hotel barbershop because the barbers know they will not see you again for a long time.

The worst place for a Mystery Haircut is an airport barbershop because not only do the barbers know they will not see you again for a long time, but your plane might crash, in which case they don't have to worry even a tiny bit about whether your sideburns are even.

I am out driving someplace in west Central Maryland. I am not sure where. I know Frederick is somewhere to my north and Miami is somewhere to my south.

I get to a crossroads where I see a barbershop. And this reminds me I have to get a haircut before I go to the Republican convention.

I must do this because I must go on TV. (If you missed me at the Democratic convention, I was the guy who said: "Well, Sally . . ." At the Republican Convention, I will be the guy who says: "Well, Stan . . .")

My regular barber is in Mount Washington and that is a long way away and, well, I'm here and so why not risk a Mystery Haircut?

So I go inside. And it looks like a barbershop: three red leatherette chairs. Pictures on the wall of people with hair.

A woman in a white smock stands behind one of the chairs. She welcomes me in heavily accented English.

This is OK with me. I grew up in a neighborhood where all the barbers had accents. It was a rule. Even those born in America had to learn accents in barber college.

I get in the chair.

A light trim, I tell the barber.

You must always say "light trim" when getting a Mystery Haircut. That's because the First Rule of Mystery Haircuts is: They can always take more off. But they cannot put any back on.

"Sure, sure, medium haircut," she says, nodding vigorously.

No, I say. Not medium. A light trim. Light.

"Yes, OK," she says, smiling broadly.

Then she proceeds to cut off all my hair. She does this very professionally. From a technical standpoint it is an excellent haircut. I just have no hair left, that's all.

Which brings up the other awful thing about Mystery Haircuts: How you explain them to your regular barber.

They can always tell. Just like mother seals can tell their pups out of a thousand others, barbers can always tell their own haircuts.

And I know in two or three months when my hair grows back and I go back to my regular barber, she will say: "What happened to you?"

I spilled paint on my head, I will say, and they had to cut off all my hair in the emergency room.

No. Wait. That's what I said after I got a Mystery Haircut in New Hampshire in February.

I was fixing the Cuisinart, I will say, and I fell in.

Yeah. That'll work.

Just after the Mystery Haircut barber puts down her scissors, she does something truly amazing: She slips her hand into this vibrator glove and starts rubbing my head, neck and shoulders.

After about 30 seconds of this I am putty. In certain countries I think we would be engaged right now.

And I am still suffused with a warm glow when she hands me back my glasses and holds up a mirror and I find out for the first time she has cut off all my hair.

Yikes! I say.

She nods and smiles. "Medium," she says.

The cost of this is $9, which is cheap considering the amount of hair which is now on the floor. And I tip her a buck, which is what cowards always do after Mystery Haircuts.

"Thank you, thank you," she says. "Come back soon."

I don't think so.

I think I will go back to my regular barber.

Or Larry Bird.

Whichever one I can get to wear a vibrator glove.

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