Joining up - Final Part by Stillcropped
This will be the last part of my story and I will stick to the various haircuts I sported during my 11 years in the service. After my short, sharp shock in jail I was determined to keep my head down and progress as far as I could, sadly this was cut short as injury prevented me from continuing my career.
On my way back to base we stopped at a small town not far from the barracks for a quick drink and my Sargent pointed out that the 'prison fringe' was a sign to everyone in the forces that I'd served some time and to visit the barber across the street and 'get rid of it!' The cuts and bruises to my face suggested a car accident and if anyone asked ( which was highly unlikely as everyone worked on a need to know basis) that was the story. We left the pub and he went to get cigarettes and I entered the small barbershop , the barber was old and well used to army personnel dropping in, as soon as he had me seated he said ' if you weren't in uniform I'd razor shave you and you could start again, however looks like you've been in enough trouble without me adding to it. All I can do is take it down as close as possible it'll still leave some baldy patches but come back next week and i can even it all out'. Before I could nod his clippers roared to life and my fringe rolled down the nylon gown, 2 minutes later and the buzzing stopped , out of habit he held a mirror and through the five o clock shadow of dark bristle there were small lines of white skin where the manual clippers had dug in. He refused payment saying ' next week, pay me then , be lucky!' It was ten days before I went back again, it was a swift job as his clippers had little to mow but when he was finished what little hair I had left was at least all the one length.
The next five years were a round of tours of duty, followed by R&R , and more exercises , overseas postings and courses, during this time my relationship with Sandra finished. My speciality was communications and I spent nine months at a local college sandwiched between my military life gaining electronics qualifications, being a part time student I let my hair grow, it was still way shorter than the current fashions which were now punk and mohawk's and the like but by military standard it was at the least an outgrown 'regular'.
I was offered the chance of a six month exchange with our American colleagues and thankfully I was selected, not knowing what to expect I was given a week to settle in before receiving my orders that the programme we would be working on would take place in a remote base 3 hours flying time from the city I was in, but the real sting was a two week boot camp at a local base. There were eight of us from the UK who had been selected but we were treated as though we were locals apart from the allegiance swearing in, but we got our medical , shots, uniform and then the haircut! As like everything else in the states the barbershop was huge, eight barbers , all cutting ( I use the term loosely) hair at a rate of one head a minute, what struck me most that there was no hair falling to the floor as the barber ran the clippers over the head the shorn hair was vacuumed by a hose attached to the clippers. As I stood in front of the chair watching one of my colleagues being shorn it was a weird feeling knowing I was next, as he got up I sat down , I was not even fully sitting when I felt the air from the hose suck my hair upright for a fraction of a second then the clippers pushed flat against my scalp and ran several times front to back, head pushed down up the back they went , then left and right side a quick tap on the shoulder and I was getting up, shorn like a sheep. It is an instinctive reaction to feel your newly shorn scalp and even although I had been taken 'to the wood' on several occasions I felt sure this was the shortest yet, an observation confirmed by my UK colleagues as we rubbed our sandpaper heads.
My time in the US was a wonderful experience , the bootcamp after the first three days not as hard as our own training' but the standard of equipment, food , accommodation and leisure resources at the base was like a holiday camp to us. We were allowed to keep our hair anyway we wanted as a lot of civilians also worked in what basically was a small town, and so I let my hair grow as did most of us. The week we were due to go back a bar-b-que was held in our honour, I had been dating for a few weeks, one of the admin girls and as we were leaving soon, things were a little on edge between us. As I sat with her in the corner of a garden discussing what might and not be happening in our relationship a roar went up from a few of my colleagues from the cooking area and we were called over. As I approached I was told of a challenge that had been set a game of darts - it was the only sport that no side had a real advantage- Brits against Yanks winners to set a forfeit for the losers.
As always we were supremely confident , probably over confident,as our American cousins beat us with some ease and so it came to the forfeit which was left up to the ladies to decide. We were to have an official photo taken in full dress in two days time to commemorate the exchange programme but the wives were not happy as we didn't look right with our more civilian look and that it would be more appropriate that we sported 'full GI recon haircuts , just like their menfolk!' I don't know what we were expecting but it certainly wasn't this, our hosts jumped around cheering like they had just won a Super Bowl and we could think of no come back as we had been beaten fair and square,we asked and were denied a re-match, then one of the Yanks shouted from the kitchen "good news fellas the barber's gonna stay open for you right now! and he shouted into the phone I'm bringing the first four right now be with you in ten minutes"
We looked at each other , shrugged, grabbed another beer and in alphabetical order the first four made their way to the barbershop I was in the second group. The Americans were enjoying teasing us about our impending cuts making buzzing noises and ruffling our hair, we reminded them that we had already been shorn at bootcamp so what we were getting was not as short as that. A few minutes later the phone rang and the call of 'next four for shaving went up' my girlfriend ran her fingers through my hair 'for the last time ' and had some pictures taken and then we were in a car heading to the barbershop passing our colleagues going the other way on route.
The shop was basic with the traditional red and white pole outside two chairs were waiting and I sat in the one furthest away when the barber asked 'full recon?' One of our hosts answered 'All the way Stan, same as the last four, landing strips and whitewalls' . The first thing to surprise me was the chair being swivelled round 180 degrees so I was facing my two mates who were next, I also noticed a huge pile of multi coloured hair which had been swept into the corner, then there was a loud humming sound as both barbers fired up their clippers I felt his hand on the top of my head and he took the clippers,which were wider than any I had seen, and ran them close to my scalp right up the side of my head high above my ear ' don't s'pose you've met the osters before, these have a '00000' blade on them shaves you pretty close' Stan said above the noise of the clippers. Great clumps of my hair rolled down the cape and landed in my lap, as he pushed my chin to my chest and attacked the back I could feel the air from the ceiling fan around my ears and neck and knew I had been skinned. He took his scissors and comb to the top and had the old fashioned method of continuing to work the scissors in mid air as he combed the next lock of hair to be sacrificed as he rubbed some brylcreem into the top of my head I could see the waiting two laughing at us but knowing they were next, a hairdryer and hard brush blasted the top of my head and then he was back with the clippers and comb positioning my head straight as time and again he worked around my head raining ever shorter clipping down to join the great clumps already there. He then stood in front of me and put his hand under my chin, placed the clippers onto my scalp just behind my fringe and drove them straight back three times, stating ' one landing strip ready for inspection, whitewalls coming up' I heard the whirring noise then felt the warm lather and smell of the soap as he rubbed it onto my scalp sides and back then the Strop of razor on leather and the blade shaving me smooth high up the sides and back. Finally he removed any excess soap with a towel and then spun me round to face the mirror, 'Wow!' was all I could say, my ears stood out, my skin smooth and white against my tanned face , a 1/2inch fringe stood to attention along the front of my hairline and as I turned my head from side to side I could see it was shorter around the sides , as the barber held a mirror so I could see the back it was hairless to the crown, he held the mirror higher and I could see the 'landing strip' my hair clippered as close as it had ever been from behind my fringe to the crown, the skin clearly visible. As I stood up I felt just how smooth the sides and back were laughing at my mate as he took my place in the chair. Our American buddies cheered and playfully slapped our heads as we watched our two mates get identical cuts to ours.
Returning to the party we were surrounded by all the girls who complimented us on our new looks, my girlfriend planting two bright red lipstick kisses on either side of my smooth scalp.
We took some ribbing on returning to the UK and then it was back to the serious business of army life and the fun and dangers that entailed. I spent another few years growing my hair and keeping a 'regular's' cut until my retirement from the forces.