I stumble into this low cost hair-cutting place in Sandy because I have a coupon and because it’s next to another store, for which I have an even better coupon.
I’m not expecting a bizarre, Coen-brothers scene where something crazy happens and nobody pays any mind. The following illustrates, in an odd way, how Salt Lake and Provo are some of the least stressful cities in the country, according to CNN Money and Sperling’s BestPlaces.
Inside the salon, “Jennifer” greets me and points towards an available hairdressing station. The place is empty aside from another gal who’s cutting a young man’s hair. Beside them stands a woman I assume to be his girlfriend. She wears cargo capris, thin-strapped sandals, a sheer blouse with a lime green tank top underneath. Her hair’s in a ponytail so you can see the tattoo on the back of her neck.
The couple is talking about “probation…court…doing time…drug task force…judge…officer…not fair…none of it is fair…” The hairdresser nods and shakes her head in appropriate measures, as if she’s listening to cake baking instructions.
It’s just the five of us. No music. No street noise or machines running. One can’t help but hear bits of their story. That they are discussing such a private matter so publicly doesn’t seem to faze anyone but me.
Another man enters. He’s tall and large, with a belly the size of a load of laundry. He wears sneakers, long shorts, and a worn polo shirt. His hair is already quite short and thickly gelled. Jennifer leaves me to get his name and needs. The man sits down with a magazine.
The young couple continues to insult the local justice system and law enforcement. The young man, with his skinny jeans and a t-shirt embellished with dozens of stenciled pot leaves, rolls his eyes as his companion explains their tribulations.
Suddenly, the waiting man fairly jumps from his chair.
“I’m an undercover cop with the Gang Task Force and you two are a pair of $%#@^&*,” he shouts. “And you!” he says, walking closer and pointing to the girl. “You are a friggin’ meth head.”
I dig my fingers into the arms of the chair and try to assess the situation without turning around. I look into the mirror. I think about an emergency exit strategy. Jennifer straightens my head gently and continues to trim my split ends.
The big guy cusses again, throws down his magazine and storms out.
“I’m going after him. I’m getting his badge number,” she says before her boyfriend stops her by calmly putting a hand on her arm.
“We don’t get this every day,” Jennifer says. “Do you want some product in your hair?”
Later, I chat with my friend and Utah native, Byron Harward, about the scene and the profound lack of concern by all parties but me.
He laughs, “Most everyone in Utah floats along, thinking everything’s going to be cool. While in reality, we probably have just as many problems as anywhere else.”
He attributes this faith in good outcomes in part to the Mormon culture, in which there is a certain trust and reliance in one’s neighbor and in one’s self.
He’s lived in other states and has observed that one tends to assume the worst from others, strangers or otherwise.
“The real difference elsewhere is the expectation of problems,” he said.
Apparently, I just need to relax and expect things to sort themselves out. No big deal.