June 09, 2004


Got my hair cut yesterday, which isn’t a big deal, but it got me to thinking about barber shops and haircuts.

(in the extended entry)

As a young kid, we’d visit the local barbershop every couple of weeks (I’m guessing here, because preschoolers don’t have a real sense of time). Mom would take us and we always had the same couple of barbers. My brother’s barber was a guy named Casper, and I don’t quite remember what my barber’s name was (it might have been Ted too). Conversely, I can clearly picture my barber’s face, but only have the vaguest recollection of what Casper looked like.

My first buzz cut courtesy of Uncle Sam doesn’t register, probably unremarkable because I’d been expecting it. I do remember how difficult it was to recognize all my fellow enlistees without hair, and it surprised me how the lack of hair made us all pretty anonymous.

The next truly memorable haircut I can remember happened in Mississippi, years later in the Air Force, and it wasn’t the end result that sticks in my mind, it was the process. I badly needed the haircut and went to the on-base barber shop. There were probably a dozen barbers, and twice that many waiting customers. While you’re sitting there, you watch everyone working and form your opinions on which ones are ok and which ones are hacks. Sometimes you play a little game where you try to guess which barber you’ll wind up with. Eventually my number was called and I wound up – as I’d feared – with the scariest barber I’ve ever seen.

This guy was ancient, tiny and hunched over and withered, but the most frightening part is that he shook like an epileptic poodle. That was the longest haircut of my life, in every sense. Each scissoring took seconds as he worked the comb just so, then a careful, gradual move with the scissors before he made the snip. It took forever, but he wasn’t a butcher about it, and he did a good enough job, albeit in slow motion.

I almost wet myself when he went for the heated shaving cream. My heart was pounding as he applied it to my neck and around the ears. My heart stopped when he managed to smear some inside my ear, and across my cheek. I barely managed to not scream when he started wiping the back of my collar with a towel, trying to clean up the shaving cream he’d managed to miss my neck with. And I witnessed a miracle when he picked up the straight razor. His arm became rock steady, but the rest of him seemed to shake even more, as if trying to take up the slack. He was quick and firm and confident with that razor, and I checked for blood and ear loss afterwards, but he did just fine. I don’t win lotteries or raffles, there’s just not that much karmic luck in my life, so I went off-base after that for haircuts. No sense tempting fate.

Very soon after that, I was in Maryland, preparing to get married. Staying at my future in-laws place, I went to the local barber shop and had the absolute best haircut of my life. This haircut took a long time too, but for a completely different reason. The barber wasn’t in a hurry. He wasn’t slow or lazy, he just took his time. It was an old fashioned neighborhood barber shop, where the old men hung around to socialize and kill time, and a radio always played in the background. The barber was a youngish guy, and I think he’d inherited the business from his dad. We talked about the Orioles and the Military and my upcoming wedding, and when I left there a couple of hours later I felt like I’d made friends for life.

Over the years, barbers have changed. There was a day when a woman barber was something you just didn’t see. Nowadays, it’s common to walk into a barber shop full of small oriental women cutting hair. I got used to it in the military, but since rejoining the civilian world I’ve noticed it more and more as well.

A few years ago I let my hair grow long for no good reason, I just didn’t get it cut for a couple of years. One day, again for no particular reason, I stopped in at a new “Barber Salon” in the area. Slick chrome and leather furniture, a huge wide-screen TV in the corner playing action movies, and three young and very good looking ladies cutting hair. I sat down, pulled the pony free (get your mind out of the gutter), and told her I wanted it cut short. She really didn’t want to. She was afraid that I’d change my mind and get mad at her. At this point, my hair was halfway down my back, and finally I convinced her that it was what I really wanted. She did a nice job on the haircut, but I never went back because the place reminded me more of a singles bar than a barber shop.

I’ve also gotten a few haircuts in whatever salon is attached to the WalMart. Nothing particularly bad about the experience, but nothing special either. I missed the barber shops of old, so I started looking for alternatives.

A place opened up nearby that bills itself as an “old fashioned barber shop”, so I had to give it a try. Once. The haircut was fine – can you tell I’m not terribly picky about that part? – but the barber talked my ear off. I don’t mind a little conversation, but this sunuvabitch never shut up. I got all his political views, his lottery history, details about his son and the worthless bitch he married and on and on and on. I was wishing he’d just jam his scissors into my temple and put me out of my misery.

Since then, I’ve found a nice place. It’s not traditional, but it’s not too far out either. Filled with small oriental women, they chat if you want to talk, and shut up if you don’t feel like conversation. They don’t jabber at each other in Vietnamese either as they cut your hair – I really hate that. The first time I went, the cutie who cut my hair apologized for ten minutes when I said she’d cut it shorter than I’d wanted. She even got the manager so he could apologize for a while. It was a casual comment, because hair grows out and it was actually a very good cut.

For fifteen bucks (and that includes a generous tip), I get a haircut, head, neck and shoulders massage, hot towel, razor shave, and a little pampering while being surrounded by nice looking ladies.

I’ve found my barber shop.

Posted by Ted at June 9, 2004 10:20 AM
Category: Boring Stories

I hate having my haircut. I mean, I have short hair, but I loathe the actual process. The sitting, the waiting, the small talk.

Last time I went in the guy said, "how do you want your hair cut?"

And I replied, "Quietly."

Posted by: Paul at June 9, 2004 01:33 PM

When you get a haircut
you better go back home.
When you get a haircut
get a barber you have known
since you were a little bitty boy
sitting in a booster chair
Cuz you might look like
Larry Moe or Curly
if a stranger cuts your hair.

Posted by: Phelps at June 9, 2004 01:43 PM

I remember one time when TJ got his hair cut... It was by a cross dresser (he was in normal clothes on this particular day) and as TJ was sitting there he complimented the guy on his "Girlfriend" that he saw in a picture on the mirror.

When I told TJ after we left the walmart salon, I laughed so hard at his face.


Posted by: Mookie at June 9, 2004 04:42 PM
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