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Barbershop Blues

12/02/2013 @ 9:22am

It’s a strange ritual, but one that nearly everyone seems to enjoy.

It’s a strange concept to walk into a special room where you sit in a special chair and let a relative stranger do things that will have major consequences regarding your appearance. But that’s the basic business model behind a barbershop.

Many may not recall their first trip to the barbershop. I certainly remember mine.

I don’t know how old I was, but I had reached the age where it was decided that I should have a “big boy” haircut. I didn’t have the foggiest notion what that meant, but it sounded exciting. All I knew was that anything associated with the words “big boy” was desirable.

It was an eye-popping experience when I first walked into Dalh’s Barbershop. One wall held what appeared to be the world’s largest mirror! But that was just for starters.

The barbershop’s coolest feature was its huge chairs. They weren’t just ordinary chairs, though; each was perched on a pedestal that allowed the chair to swivel 360 degrees! And there was some sort of mechanism that could effortlessly elevate the chairs! I immediately wished we had such chairs at home. Just think how fast I could spin and how much fun mealtime would be!

Helmer, the barber, soon indicated that it was my turn. I couldn’t wait to get into that chair and give it a whirl! Would it go high enough for me to touch the ceiling?

I was swiftly disappointed. A board was placed across the arms of the chair and I was plopped down upon it. How could I reach the chair’s controls from there? And what was up with the weird sheet being draped over me?

I was not a cooperative customer, kicking the cape and bobbing my head like a boxer. Mutterings along the lines of “Hold still, you little . . . !” and “ . . . like trying to cut hair on a wildcat!” may have been uttered.     

Despite this rocky beginning, I continued to visit Helmer’s shop, and his haircuts eventually became a very pleasant event. His barbershop was a place of constant chatter, be it from the clientele or Helmer’s smooth and soothing patter.

When Helmer retired, I was left at split ends. For a while I got haircuts at shopping mall salons, but it just didn’t seem the same. Plus the powerful odor of all those perm chemicals permanently curled my nose hairs.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult to give oneself a haircut. Who would know the lumps and bumps of your noggin better than you? But as many have learned – especially kids who are having their first experiences with scissors – giving yourself a haircut is on par with DIY brain surgery.

I’m certainly not an artiste with scissors. When the hot weather hits, I will attempt to give our shaggy dog, Sandy, a trim. He loves the attention but will inevitably roll onto his back, assuming that it’s a barber’s duty to also give tummy rubs. His haircuts are so shoddy, they would probably be considered chic in showbiz circles.

“What did you do to the dog?” asked my wife after one such barbering session. “His fur is so lopsided, it looks like he walking on a sidehill!”

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