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Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Yesterday, I cheated.

Not on a diet. No, that would be silly. Not on my wife-- could and would never happen. I didn't even cheat on my car by gazing at other pieces of metal on ebaymotors.

(Well, okay-- I did that a little bit.)

No, yesterday I cheated on my barber.

Bob is semi-retired, you see. He works Thursday evenings until 6:30pm, Fridays during the day, and Saturday, maybe until 2 or 3pm. When you work during the day and every other weekend, that can make scheduling a haircut kind of a bitch. Sure, I could go on a Thursday night, but I don't really want to. After a full working day at the psych hospital, who the hell wants to come home and then drag your ass back out for a haircut that you don't even like.

Seriously-- he gives lousy, miserable fucking haircuts-- just between us.

I'm the kind of guy who likes to bring it in, real thin. I'm big on tradition and, as we know from a couple posts ago, routine. So, I go to Bob whether I like his haircuts or whether I don't. And, more often than not, I don't. The sideburns are uneven, he cuts it too short-- I don't know what the fuck he does, but, at nearly 68 years old, I'm relieved he's still doing much of anything, even if he's not doing it very well. Bob gave me my first non-mommy haircut and, pretty much without thinking about it, I've just kept going. When I was in college, over an hour away, once a month I'd drive back home for my haircut. Never hit the barbershop in Allentown, not even once in four years.

One time, maybe when I was twenty-two or so, I needed a haircut badly. It might have been for the police academy, back when I was insane enough to think that was going to be my life. Bob wasn't open, and the academy was starting the next day. In a panic, I went to Super Cuts or some such idiocy. The girl with the scissors was younger than I was.

"What would you like?"

I was tempted to say, "A humjob," but I didn't. I had no idea, frankly, what to say. I wasn't used to giving instructions or expressing preferences at a haircut. Bob just did what he did, every time, and it was lousy, and I paid him and, within a week or a week-and-a-half, it looked fine, so I didn't worry about it.

"I don't know," I confessed. Then, for good measure, I added, "Shorter."

I walked out twenty minutes later looking like Bat Boy.

Yesterday, I was visiting my old employer and friend at the optical shop where I worked in my early twenties. I brought those nifty, gold, antique frames in to have lenses put into them. I handed my old boss the case. Before he opened it, he looked at me.

"Is this frame going to be a pain in my fucking ass?"

I smiled.


He opened the case and rolled his eyes.

"Aw, come on, man. Did you find these on a fucking field trip to Gettysburg?"

I laughed and caught sight of myself in one of the many mirrors on the wall in his store.

"Shit-- I need a haircut."

"Yeah," my old boss confirmed, "you do."

Knowing full well that Bob isn't open on Tuesdays, I drove to a small, hole-in-the-wall barber shop that I've driven past a thousand times. I parked at a two-hour meter, filled 'er up, and stepped into a time machine.

Red and black square linoleum flooring. Old Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle advertisements and pictures covering every square inch of wall. A price-list was tacked up on yellowed paper.

Haircut: $17

Senior (65+): $12

Kids (12 and under): $10

Beard Trim: $7

Advice: Free

Another sign was posted to the right of the price list:

"If You're Sick, Get Better Soon. Then, Get a Haircut."

I glanced at the table next to me, which looked close to collapsing from the weight of the 7,200 pounds of magazines on top of it. The first magazine I saw was "Playboy." Underneath and on all sides of it were magazines relating to, um, male pursuits, principally cars, cigars, golf, sports, and tits.

There were four chairs in the whole place: two to sit in to wait, and two to get hair cut in. I have no idea why there were two barber chairs, as there is only one barber.

His name is Bill, and, throughout the course of our small-talk, I learned that he is 66. His hair is colonial wig white and it features one expertly-done braid that goes down past his shoulders. He moved at about the speed of an elderly basset hound.

"First time here?" he asked, as a politeness. He knew. I'm sure he knows all his customers' favorite drinks and their names. All eight of them.

"What'll it be?" he asked. Jesus. I had no idea what to tell him.

"Um, just... I don't know. Longish in the front, and, maybe, shorter in the back."

Wow. Genius.

"Oh, and, no sideburns," I added. You know, for good measure.

Including the time I waited for the gentleman in front of me to get his haircut, I was there for one hour and seventeen minutes, according to the parking meter.

"One thing I don't unnerstand," Bill said, "is folks who come in here wantin' a har-cut in four-er-five minutes. I take pride in my work," he said.

And it shows. This is probably the best goddamned haircut I've ever had in my life. And, if I can work up the nerve to cheat again, I might just go back.

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