Tales from the Lebanese Hair Salon: A Lesson in Respect

Nothing like a foiled plan to shake up your Saturday.

I woke up animated and in good spirits on a weekend morning and decided a trim new hair look was long overdue. Ever since I acquired my own hair straightener in late 2012, visits to the salon have been reserved for special occasions and haircuts. I’m not particularly loyal to one coiffeur over the next, as convenience and proximity in my hectic work lifestyle are key.

But for the past two haircuts, I’ve relied on one artist to wield the scissors. While admittedly more liberal with them than I prefer, he’s got vision. At least I thought he did.

So last Saturday at approximately 9 AM, I picked up the phone and dialed Chad (whose name has been altered to protect his privacy). I asked whether he had any availability for a morning coupe, and after sensing a little hesitation, I put the ball in his court: “When’s the best time to come in today?”

A few seconds later, after undoubtedly scanning his appointment book, Chad declared 1:30 PM would be suitable. A customer was coming in for dyeing at 1:15, and he’d need 10 minutes to square her away before shifting his focus to me.

“Fine,” I chirped. “As long as I don’t idle and wait!”

1:30, he insisted, was ideal.

I mapped out my day according to the midday rendezvous, scheduling errands in the area to be certain that traffic wouldn’t thwart my mission. At 1:15, I pulled up to the center wherein Chad’s salon existed. No harm in being a little bit early, right?

As I pushed past the door, Chad barely looked up from the bird’s nest of hair he was tending to, clearly transfixed with his project. I planted myself on the couch where clients supposedly wait their turn and proceeded to scan the space.

Photo source: Wikipedia

The salon looked in dire need of a sweep, a scrub, a polish, and then some. The wash basins weren’t their lustrous pearly whites, and there was clutter strewn about them. 

Chad didn’t have an apprentice at his side as most coiffeurs are wont to hire, to help wash and blow-dry hair. With the sun beating down on the room, it quickly became evident that the air conditioner had either been switched off or set to dormant mode.

At 1:30 PM, a lady walked in, recklessly throwing down her things beside me on the sofa, walking over to the rotating chairs where Chad was preoccupied, and climbing into one. Ooh, I thought, she’s aggressive. Repudiating the wait area where I sat, she visibly planted herself next up in line.

Over the next five minutes, Chad put the finishing touches on the cuckoo’s nest, and I continued to scan the room in curious anticipation. Would Chad respectfully summon me next, honoring our 1:30 appointment which was now slightly delayed? How would the audacious customer who was attempting to oust me react?

And, somewhat equally paramount, why weren’t there any reputable hair products decorating the shelves? This was a pricey salon, after all. You’d expect Schwarzkopf and L’Oréal and CHI to be populating the empty cabinets, but alas, all I could spot was a measly hairspray can of Intesa.

At 1:40, the elderly woman’s aviary was finally complete, and as she and her daughter dished out $100 to pay Chad, aggressive lady waltzed over to the coveted seat. I peered at her in puzzlement, but she averted my eyes. I waited for Chad to intervene, but instead, he started to prep her.

“Chad,” I cleared my throat. “I have a 1:30 appointment, remember?”

Chad frowned at me as though I were some foreign specimen in his workplace.

“No,” he shook his head. “This is my 1:30 appointment. I told you to come in at 1:45.”

“Uh, I’m quite certain you told me 1:30, Chad. You mentioned a 1:15 dyeing session and asked that I arrive at 1:30.”

“No, you’re quite mistaken. Anyway, can’t you wait 10-15 minutes?”

At this point, I was boiling. Sure, only 10 minutes had elapsed beyond my arranged slot, but now I was being deferred another 10-15 minutes, which in Lebanese standard time could stretch to a good half hour.

But what genuinely flustered me was Chad’s prevaricating stance. He held up his appointment book to show me some chicken scratch he’d scrawled for 1:30, and I couldn’t see my name anywhere on the page. He hadn’t even slated me in!

The lack of punctuality I could let slide, but the profuse disrespect and willful denial of our scheduled meeting time were insufferable.

I made my way toward the door as Chad and aggressive lady stared at me incredulously. Did they really imagine I’d condone his lies and linger on, desperate to be serviced?

Frankly, I was more than relieved to take my precious hair elsewhere. The thought of letting him lather my locks in those dirty wash basins was revolting, and I was already perspiring in the stuffy space of his unventilated salon.

Photo source: l'Express; photo credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF/Stefano Opp

He yelled out after me as I ambled to the elevator, repeating almost bizarrely that I really couldn’t wait 10 minutes? Of course not, I retorted, as I pressed the button for Ground Floor and sloughed off the shackles of my mistreatment.

Liberation overcame me. Maybe a haircut wasn’t what I needed. Maybe what I needed was to affirm my convictions and teach a dishonest vendor a lesson in the word of honor.

For his sake, I hope he learns. Happily, it won’t be on my clock.


  1. What do you got against Intesa, huh?!

    Joking aside, we Lebanese have become a nation of selfish, dishonest, unethical, hypocritical bastards. Whether on the road driving, in trade buying or selling, in healthcare treating or being treated, in politics governing or being governed, in journalism reporting the news or consuming it, in religions praying or preaching, or in any other aspect of our day-to-day living, we have rent the country’s fabric, stability and morals to the point of no return.

    1. In a country that prides itself on its so-called "chaleur," it's a crying shame how little we as humans respect each other.

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