Getting a haircut during the apocalypse

The last time, until today, that I got my hair cut was just before Christmas, during the last-minute blurry rush that always takes place from around the 20th of December until Christmas Day. I fully expected I’d be back at the end of February, or, more likely, in March. I always intend to get my hair cut every couple of months, but it usually ends up being more like three.

So we got to mid-March, as expected, and I was just vaguely thinking that it was probably about time to go get my hair cut again…

…and then we all know what happened next. Hair appointments were off the table for a long time.

As such, I’ve spent the last four months getting steadily more and more annoyed by my hair. I’m not really bothered about what it looks like, as I’ve not been going out anywhere – it’s more that it gets in my way and in my eyes and in my face and just generally irritates.

So when it was announced last month that hairdressers would be able to open again, and my usual hairdresser started taking bookings for July… well, I got in there sharpish. I’ve generally been pretty cautious about returning to normal life (I haven’t been to a pub or restaurant or non-essential shop yet and probably won’t for several more months at least), but I made an exception in this case, partially because it was made clear that there would be a lot of precautions and everyone involved would be wearing masks and PPE.

So off I toddled this morning, excited about having normal-feeling hair again. I couldn’t wear the transparent mask I wrote about last week, because the elastic straps on it tie at the back of the head and would get in the way of my haircut. Instead, I wore a running buff (everyone in the running community calls them buffs after the brand name, though non-Buff brands tend to refer to them by other names such as ‘cowl’ or ‘snood’ or ‘neck tube’ or ‘multi-purpose headwear’… you get the idea) to cover my face, as I thought the back part would be low enough down my neck that it would be okay. However, after I’d been ushered in and was sitting down having my haircut, my hairdresser suggested that I wear one with ear loops next time, as it would make things easier. A good reason to start learning how to make my own transparent masks!

Haircut during a pandemic
Perspex, perspex everywhere. I appreciated that the staff were using perspex face visors, which meant that I could still lipread them… well, at points when I didn’t have to remove my glasses and hearing aids!

The salon did feel a bit bizarre with everyone – staff and customers alike – decked out in PPE and face masks, and perspex screens all over the place. However, I really appreciate that this is what the world needs to look like as we start moving on with our lives again – it was similar when I drove Geth to his hospital appointment yesterday and the entire hospital was full of people in masks – and to be honest, these kinds of precautions really do help me feel a lot safer when returning to situations I haven’t been in since before lockdown.

I paid an extra quid for the PPE (which is basically half a bin bag that you put over yourself during the appointment), and took it away with me so that I can clean it and bring it to reuse next time. I’ll need to remember that I’ve got it!

Post-haircut:

New hair
A bit tousled after walking home in the wind and rain (and also very moussed – it will look properly normal after I wash my hair tomorrow).

I’m home now with comfortable-feeling hair, which is all I wanted, really. I expect it will be a long time before we don’t need to take precautions at the hairdresser and similar situations, so it’s probable that the experience will be identical when I go for my next appointment in September.

Or October, as is more likely…

Navigating face masks when you’re hard of hearing

I’ve been dreading this phase of the pandemic – the phase where everybody tries to get ‘back to normal’, except that everybody is still halfheartedly trying to keep two metres away from everyone else, and everybody is wearing face masks in enclosed spaces like public transport and business premises.

I can absolutely deal with the two metres thing, although I think keeping that distance is absolutely impossible in some of the situations that are now being encouraged again (who’s going to be able to maintain that in a crowded pub full of drunk people? STEERING CLEAR). It’s the mask thing that’s the problem.

As some of you will be aware, I’m hard of hearing, and have been since early childhood. Over the course of my life I have gradually learnt to rely on a combination of hearing aids (which are much more effective than they used to be now that the technology has moved on) and lipreading, which is so subconscious I don’t even realise I’m doing it most of the time. But I do need to do it – something that is made painfully clear whenever I’m struggling with a phone call to someone who doesn’t realise that they need to speak up.

When I’m deprived of my sensory aids for any reason, I enter Hairdresser World. Hairdresser World is named for the situation at the hairdresser when, in order to get my hair cut, I have to remove both my hearing aids and my glasses. My hearing without aids compared to my hearing with them can best be described to a fully-hearing person as like being underwater (i.e. conversation is difficult at best), and without my glasses, lipreading is also hampered. As such, haircuts are a bit of a miserable experience – either I have a chatty hairdresser to whom I can’t respond appropriately, or I have my hair cut in silence while every other customer in the shop chatters away like a normal person! Hairdresser World is not a nice place, and I’m always so glad at the end of the haircut when I can put my hearing aids and glasses back on my head.

So… a world in which we all wear masks, then.

Masks look cool, I have to say. They sort of make everyone look like they’re in an apocalyptic movie. But if we’re all going to be wearing them for the next few months at least, then… the whole world becomes Hairdresser World, for me, in some ways. Because if someone is wearing a mask, I can’t lipread what they’re saying, and so our conversation is going to be hampered.

Enter the transparent mask.

Transparent face masks
Lipreading is not hampered as much when someone is wearing one of these.

Geth bought a couple of these for us this week. Obviously, wearing a transparent mask myself when somebody else is wearing an opaque one is not going to solve the problem, but my aim with this is to promote the wearing of transparent masks and hopefully raise a small amount of awareness.

So far, I’ve only tried out the mask for a few minutes at a time. The transparent section does steam up slightly, but not enough that I can’t see Geth’s mouth when he’s wearing his mask. As such, it’s a relatively workable solution, and one I hope that more people will adopt if mask-wearing is going to become a long-term thing.

Or alternatively, I could just continue to stay at home until all of this blows over. Whenever that may be…