I was getting shorn today and realized that what I go through to get my hair cut is a miniature analog of what most people endure redesigning their homes. No, follow me for just a second:
The stress starts before I even go in, because the risks and expectations are so high. This is something on the surface that strangers will use as a starting point for judgment from the first second. It says loads about my character, my income, my sexual preference... all to people that I might never get to speak to. It's like having a second face-- one that needs to periodically be remade.
I walk in and start the consultation, and immediately hit a snag. I have no idea how to communicate the desired outcome. Hell, I'm not even sure what the desired outcome might be. I begin gesturing vaguely and punctuating my sentences with "you know" and "kinda." In a panic, I begin using words I have heard other people using, words that don't really understand but hope will convey that this person is talking to an expert, someone who knows exactly what they want and will be furious if their high expectations are not met.
This is not going well. My song and dance routine seems to have simply confused matters more. Exasperated, I point to a picture featuring some fantastic result, usually belonging to some model or celebrity: "there. I want that." This seems to work, but the anxiety has not lessened at all. After all, my circumstances are completely different from the person in that photograph. And I'm almost certain that I am not hiring the same person as Mr. Fantastic in the picture. How can this person possibly replicate what I have asked for? I didn't do any real research before I walked into this place. A friend said that they did an okay job, and they didn't seem too expensive at the time. How can I have gotten this far without asking for references? Or a diploma? Or maybe even a quick chat-- this person is going to be awfully close to my life for a short while, and I barely know their name! But I'm too far in-- the cutting has already begun and all I can do is shut my eyes and pray.
The actual operation is messy and unpleasant, during which everything looks terrible and I can barely move. They can clearly tell I'm in incredible mental pain, but seem totally oblivious and focused on their job. Focused, that is, except when they're on the phone with someone else-- how can they be talking to someone? My job is only half done! They've clearly moved on mentally to the next customer-- how well can this possibly turn out?
At last there is the final reveal, and... it looks great! Or terrible! I really have no idea. I make up my mind very quickly and rush out the door... I over tip, rudely rush out the door, and talk to Katy, who in fifteen minutes has told me whether I paid for a masterpiece or a fiasco. Regardless of the outcome, it's too late to go back. It's done, and I have to live with it.
Luckily for me, haircuts cost less than $20 and grow back in a month. For people wanting a new home, the stakes are a little higher. I'll try to remember this the next time I have a meeting.