Fear & Loathing in the Valley of the Doll-heads

Chapter 21


“Do you know what a game reserve is?” Kaleb asks as I put a cape around my 30-something yr. old client named Tiffany who I just washed out.

“A place where animals are kept so people can pay money to hunt them.”


“What about ‘em?” I ask, combing through Tiffany’s long, thick hair. 

“That’s how you need to start looking at all of this…” he says, pointing out towards The Floor “As a game reserve. But instead of paying money to fuck-up animals, you’re paying money to fuck-up people’s hair.”

“Excuse me?” Tiffany says, turning to give Kaleb the stink eye as I try to section her hair out.

“Sit still unless you’re told otherwise.” he tells her as he turns her head back to face the mirror.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but shouldn’t I be worried about not fucking-up people’s hair?” I ask.

“I mean, you shouldn’t be intentionally tryingto fuck-up their hair, ahem, Madison, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to accidentally fuck-up their hair from making mistakes.”


“Yeah. And do you know why?”


“Yeah, I’m dying to know why.” Tiffany says full of sarcasm as she turns to look at Kaleb again.     

“I just told it to sit still but it keeps moving.” Kaleb tells me as he forces her head back towards the mirror. 

“I have a name you know.”

Kaleb shrugs his shoulders at her then continues.     

“ANYWAY, what I was gonna say is there’s a huge space between where you’re at and where you wanna be and mistakes are what fill that space…like lots of them…in your case, an obscene amount.”

“Okaaaaaay.” I tell him as I clip up Tiffany’s hair.  

“So give yourself permission to make all the mistakes you need to learn and let the clients worry about themselves because at the end of the day they’re just doll-heads.”

“I don’t agree with anything you just said.” Tiffany weighs in with an angry voice.  

“Not that I care but why?” Kaleb asks.

“Because I don’t want the person doing my hair to think it’s ok to make a mistake. I want them to do a good job! I’m not some doll-head!  I’m a paying customer!”

“You realize it costs more money to park here than it does to get a haircut.” Kaleb says with a snicker.

“So? That doesn’t mean I’m ok with someone messing my hair up.”

“Actually you signed a waiver saying you’re totally ok with someone messing your hair up.”

This statement weakens Tiffany’s argument because it’s 100% true and she knows it.

Every client that comes into the school is required to sign a waiver that says if they’re not happy with the service or incur bodily harm during the service that they can’t hold the school, its teachers or its students liable.

“Yeah, but-“

“But nothing.” Kaleb says, cutting her off as he digs in his pocket and pulls out a squished up piece of gum, dusts the lint off it then plops it in his mouth.    

“Skydiving, bungee jumping, running with the bulls, all of those require you to sign a waiver because they’re risky activities and here at Paul Mitchell getting your hair done is a risky activity. Hence; the waiver.”

“That shouldn’t be a reason for a teacher to encourage their student to screw-up.”  

“Here’s the thing, he’s a student who’s learning and you’ve agreed to let him learn on you because, well, you’re a cheapskate.” Kaleb says while smacking his gum.

“I am not a cheapskate!” Tiffany yells while bobbing her head back and forth.  

“Yes you are but that’s ok because whatever he messes up I’ll fix and I promise you you’ll walk outta here looking like a Chanel model even though you’re a Walmart shopper. Now if you’re finished I’d like to get him started because he takes for-ever.”

“It’s true, I do.”

Tiffany looks at Kaleb with an expression that says this guy is the biggest asshole to ever walk the face of the Earth…and he’s also spot-on with what he just said.         

“FINE.” she eventually says and settles into the chair as Kaleb goes over the first part of the cut with me which is her perimeter length.  

After making me repeat his instructions back to him verbatim he has me start.

Thirty minutes later he comes back to check on my progress.


“I just finished, give it a look.”

He goes through it then looks at me like he’s just been diagnosed with a terminal disease.  


“I never knew so many mistakes could be made in regard to one task.”

“I thought you said I could make an obscene amount of mistakes and it’d be ok!”

“Obscene yeah, but this is beyond obscene. This is like…a snuff film.”

“Oh my god, seriously!?” Tiffany says with panic.

“Quiet.” Kaleb tells her.

“Well what did I do wrong?” I ask.

“If I went over everything that’s wrong we’d be here for a month.”   

“UGH!” I yell out while looking up at the ceiling wishing it would come crashing down on top of me.

“Relax. I’ll just go over the three major mistakes you made so we can get outta here before the sun burns out.”   

He goes over my mistakes while at the same time effortlessly fixing everything.  

Next he instructs me on how I’m supposed to do her layers by cutting a small section as my guide and then leaving me to it.      

45 minutes later he comes back.

“You’re not finished? I even gave you EXTRA time! What’s taking so long?” he asks.

“Me and my guide keep getting lost in all this hair, I feel like I’m trapped inside that maze from The Shinning.” I say, backing away from Tiffany’s mane like it’s some sort of insidious entity.

“Okay.” he says, yanking my sheers and comb from me and finishing up the entire cut to keep us running on time so I don’t miss my first Theory Class which starts in 30 minutes.

“Now go ahead and give her a blow-out and make sure it’s smooth, shiny and silky.”


20 minutes later he comes back and finds me tangled up in her hair as if it were an octopus attacking its prey.

“I told you to blow her hair out not try to crawl inside of it!”

“It keeps getting caught up in the brush and somehow I keep getting caught up with it!”

He helps free me and my brush from the bondage of her locks and then looks over the one section of hair I was able to blow-out before getting snared up in it.

“There’s nothing smooth, silky or shiny about this.”  


“God no. Didn’t Charlie teach you guys how to blow-dry in Core?”

“Maybe, but I was drunk 90% of the time so who knows.”

“Are you drunk now?”

“No. I told myself I’d stay sober…god knows why though.”

“Then you really have no reason for this looking like a stool sample.”

“HEY!!!” Tiffany protests.

“Watch…” he says as he grabs my round brush and dryer. “It’s all about clean sections, proper elevation and maximum tension.” he yells over the din of the dryer as he takes control of her hair.  

A few minutes later he’s finished and it’s smooth, silky, shiny and Chanel catwalk ready.  

“Oh my god it looks AMAZING!” Tiffany says in astonishment.  

“Told you so.” Kaleb brags, tearing the cutting cape away from her and sashaying it like a matador with his muleta.   

“This is the best it’s ever looked.” she says, admiring it in the mirror and then turning to Kaleb with the doey-eyed adoration of a groupie in the company of her favorite rockstar.

“I know.” he tells her, taking his gum out of his mouth and sticking it under the station.

“You think maybe I could get your number?” she says, twirling a finger in her hair.


“To do my hair again…or other things.” she says with a smirk.

“Hahahahahahahaha-NO. You’re excused.” Kaleb says, brushing away her and her advances.

“Asshole.” she says under her breath as she grabs her purse and heads to the front desk to pay.

“Ok…” Kaleb says turning to me. “It looks like the first thing we need to focus on is the last thing that’s done in a cut which are your blow-drying skills…or lack thereof.”

“What good are blow-drying skills if I don’t even know how to cut?”

“They’re good because even if you give a flawless cut but the blow-dry sucks then it all looks like shit. AND, if you do a shitty cut…which I foresee a lot of those happening in your future, then a good blow-dry can at least cover it up.”


“No, I’m just saying that to hear the sound of my own voice.”

“I believe that.”  

“Anyhow, starting tomorrow I’m gonna start picking your clients and will only give you those that come in for a blow-out.”

“You can do that?”

“Has it not become clear that I can do whatever I want?”

“I didn’t know you had so much executive power.” I say, throwing my gear in my kit.

“You have it by taking it and you take it by not asking.”

“Has that mantra always served you?”

“Thus far. Now get into your Theory class and hope you’re better in there than you are out here.”


Staying true to his word Kaleb brings me a blow-out client in her 60’s who wears her hair short and her muumuu dress long. After I wash her out he explains the technique that he wants me to employ.

“Now because her hair is shorter I want you to flat wrap it using your-“

“Flat wrap brush?”


“Okay, just one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I’ve never used it before and I don’t know how to flat wrap.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Did that sound like a joke?”

“I mean it sounds like your whole time in Core was a joke if Charlie never showed you something as basic as a flat wrap.”

“Like I said, I was drunk during most of Core but I absolutely, positively know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have never touched this brush before nor have I ever performed a flat wrap.”

“I have no idea how Charlie is able to maintain her position here…actually…I take that back. I know exactly how she’s able to.”

“You have my attention.”

“Mine too.” my client adds.

“Because she’s little Miss fucking Sunshine, that’s why.” he says with enough bitterness to knock over a horse.

“Whoa! Do I detect a hint of anger there?”

“I sure do.” my client says.

“Anything you wanna share with the group?” I ask him.

“No.” he says, shaking his disheveled hair. “Besides, it’s best she didn’t show you or else you’d have a litany of bad habits I’d have to correct anyway so you’re better off learning from a professional.”

“Oh la-la, a professional.” my client says as she shimmies her broad shoulders.   

Kaleb demonstrates the way I’m supposed to brush her hair upwards against the round of her head to create smoothness and volume while making sure my dryer stays parallel with my brush.

After he’s done with his demonstration he leaves me to my own devices.

After about 10 min into it I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realize I look like a chimpanzee painting a picture.

My arms are flailing, my back is hunched over and there’s no specific order to what it is I’m doing.

Just a monkey with his brush painting his picture and by the looks of my client’s hair, that picture is god awful.  

“What the hell is this?” Kaleb asks when he checks-in on me 15 min later, poking at her hair like it’s some sort of alien substance.  

“A flat wrap?”

“This isn’t a flat wrap, this is a crime scene.” he says looking petrified. “She looks like Nick Nolte’s mug shot.” 

“I don’t wanna be a victim at a crime scene and looking like Nick Nolte is just that.” My client says as she tries to get up to leave. 

“I can’t let you go looking like this.” Kaleb says, nudging her back in the seat. “Let’s spray you down and try it again.” he tells her, grabbing my spray bottle and drenching her before she can escape.   

Once he’s finished re-wetting her he positions himself up against me, putting his hands over mine like a marionette master and moving my body, the dryer and the brush in the direction he wants them all to go.

This gives me an opportunity to learn first-hand how a flat wrap is to be performed.

It also gives every Future Professional on The Floor a first-hand opportunity to get video of this and post it to Facebook with all sorts of really awesome captions attached to it.

“That was an exhilarating experience.” my client says after Kaleb and I are finished with our donkey dance and he’s spritzing her with hairspray. 

“Oh yeah?” he says, molding her hair with his fingers.   

“Yeah, it reminded me of a threesome I had at Studio 54 back in ’82…or was it ’83? I was on so many Quaaludes it’s hard to remember.” she says, getting up from the chair and winking at us both before heading to the front desk.  

“Well did you at least get a feel for how a flat wrap is supposed to be done?”

“The only thing I felt was like you were trying to mount me from behind. I’m 1000% traumatized.”

“Good. Trauma can be a great motivator.”


Kaleb brings me a teenager with wavy, shoulder length hair who wants it blown out straight and smooth. It ends up being one big ball of frizz.

“Did you use any leave-in products?” he asks, looking at her hair like it’s an abomination to humanity.

“Just one.”

“Then you’re definitely not using enough products.” he says, spraying her down, throwing in a bunch of product and then having me start all over again, ending up with almost the same result after an hour and a half.


Kaleb has a woman with fine hair sit in my chair who wants a blow-dry with volume and lift.

“Why is her hair flat against her head?” he asks when he comes over to check on us.

“I don’t know, I used a shit-ton of product.”

“Oh my god.” he says, trying to run his hands through her sticky hair. “You’re using too much product.”

“Yesterday you said I wasn’t using enough!”

“It depends on each person’s hair type and texture!”

“Well you didn’t tell me that yesterday.”

“I thought you’d know!”

“How am I supposed to know all the nuances when I barely know the basics?”

“Ugh, take her back to the bowl and wash all this crap out then I’ll show you what to use and how to achieve the look she wants.”


Kaleb drops a young lady off at my station with long hair who wants bounce and shine.

Two hours later neither of those things have happened but she has sworn to me that she will never come to the school again.

Kaleb intercedes and saves the day.

Before she leaves she advises me on seeking a career in a different field, preferably a field that needs ditches dug in it.

“It’s come to my attention that you need a lot more help than I’m able to give you at school.” he says as I take a seat in my chair and sink all the way into it.

“That’s what I told you last week.”

“I know and I was trying to be optimistically skeptical but I’ve since realized you’re in dire need of a lot of help.”

“So does that mean you’re gonna like, tutor me?”

“It does. But you can’t mention it to anyone because-“

“Paul Mitchell prohibits students and teachers co-mingling outside of school.”

“Precisely. What’s your number?”

I tell him and he texts me his home address.

“Come by at noon tomorrow with your dryer, round brush and some clips and we’ll spend all day working on your blow-drys if we have to but it won’t be free.” he says as he continues to type on his phone.

“No problem, how much?”

“I just sent you my price.” he says as my phone buzzes with a new text message. I open it up and look at it.

“This is a food order…from Casa Vega…and it’s enough to feed 10 people.”

“I know. Every Sunday my girlfriend likes to order a bunch of food from there.”

“You have a girlfriend?”

“Is that so hard to believe?”

“In a word; yes.”

“Well believe it because she’s gonna be your blow-dry model all day tomorrow and for as many Sundays as it’s going to take to teach you how to do it effectively and efficiently.”

“Cool. I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. Be there at 12pm on the dot and don’t be late because I hate, hate, hate waiting around for people.”

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