In the four years since the Seattle Sounders, the local Major League Soccer team, began playing in town I’ve been to some twenty home games. By no means am I a die-hard fan: I don’t know a large number of the players and I’m yet to paint my face blue-and-green, but I enjoy going to the games, follow the team’s progress online and am generally excited to have professional soccer in town.

Since the Sounders inaugural game Great Clips, a national hair salon with several local franchises, has advertised a promotion at all home games: if Seattle score 3+ goals in a game everyone with a ticket to that game gets a free haircut. In four years I’ve never been to a game where that’s happened—until last Sunday, when we beat our rivals from Portland by a score of 3-1.

And so, bright and early the following morning I headed off to the local Great Clips. I proudly entered the store waving my ticket before me like some zealous fan displaying a backstage concert pass to a gruff roadie. After a very brief wait I sat down, an eager-beaver, excited and ready to go.

Perhaps, due to penurious circumstances or a simple absence of self-respect, you’ve had your hair cut at Great Clips or have visited one of their comparable competitiors: Supercuts, HairMasters or MasterCuts. Without having sampled them all I hate to feed the stereotype that they’re but one and the same; however, having once ridden in a car I feel reasonably confident typecasting automobiles as four-wheeled machines fueled by combustion engines that permit directional acceleration.

Without splitting hairs over the differences between these esteemed salons (and I am using the term liberally), perhaps it’s simplest for this tale if you imagine a blighted, fluorescent-lighted landscape populated by sharp-cornered formica furniture and a handful of out-of-date US-Weekly magazines. If you’re capable of thinking in terms of time, this Great Clips was designed to exude the same sense of permanence as a movie set, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if a strong wind blew through and, after clearing my eyes from the dust, I found myself seated in a Dominos or a TCBY instead.

But the most noticeable facet of any Great Clips space has to be the people who’ve chosen to place themselves within its walls. There is a certain easily-imaginable type of human who chooses to get her hair cut at a Great Clips, as surely as there’s equally a certain type who finds working in such a place professionally rewarding. Looking about I couldn’t help feel that staff and customers both gave off a generalized air of simply having settled for things, exactly as they are, right now.

I don’t mean to sound condescending nor do I wish to imply anything horribly negative: nobody’s a bad human being for being involved with Great Clips. But honestly—if you’re working in such a place or regularly getting your hair cut there, you’ve most likely thrown in the towel on some important Dale Carnegie concepts such as Style, Healthy Diet, and Positive Self-Promotion.

What was oddly curious to me about the situation was the contrast between the slouch-slumping manners of those within the Great Clips walls, folks projecting a certain resigned and despairing acceptance of life, and the sweet, sky’s-the-limit air of hope that a haircut promises. Because the reality is that getting your hair cut anywhere is a really great way to feel good about yourself.

I once got my hair cut in Tunisia by a man with whom I shared no common language; I spoke my requests in French to a friend who translated them to the barber in Arabic, and even though it took nearly an hour to get what was for all intents-and-purposes a buzz-cut, I recall the experience fondly. Last summer I got a cut and a shave in Guatemala after not having put a razor to my face for over a month: the barber had to change blades four times while shaving me but I walked out of that chair with my face smooth as a baby’s butt and my spirits completely refreshed.

A haircut is a rare and to-be-cherished opportunity at renewed self-expression: depending upon your follicle fecundity you can do anything from simply cleaning yourself up to completely changing the way people perceive you. It’s a uniquely powerful opportunity to do something we’re all striving after every day: to improve the way we’re regarded by the world around us.

In case these sound like overly grandiose claims, just recall how upset you or a friend, especially one of the female persuasion, were the last time you got a haircut that you hated.

It was with such hopes in my heart and fond memories in my mind that I sat down in the faded black chair at Great Clips. Given that Time and Genetics have acted upon my scalp to make it look as if it’s been repeatedly napalmed, I usually just run a pair of old clippers across my head every couple weeks and call it good. I hadn’t had my hair cut by a professional since I’d been in Guatemala last summer, and I was excited.

The outcome of my Great Clips haircut, as well as some interesting tales about the barber who performed it, will be the subject of my next entry.

Until then.