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I get a #4 regular haircut at Don's by Jack A
Note - this is written in the first person as if I was back in 5th grade again. I've embellished it a little, but most of it comes from my haircut experiences in the 70's.
It's been a short summer for me living in a small New England town. I'm about to enter sixth grade in a few days. I'd much rather ride my bike and goof off in the pool than go back to school so fast. One thing is certain, I'm going to get a back to school haircut real soon. My dad always cut my hair but the buzzers got dropped last time and they broke. Dad said my next haircut would have to be at a barber shop cuz he wasn't going to buy a new set right away. I've never even been in any barber shop that I can remember. Today makes it nearly three months since my last haircut, and I know I am way overdue for one. We usually went shopping on Saturdays, and I dread what's coming sometime soon.
It was the last Saturday in August, and after breakfast Mom announced that I'd be going to the barber while they did the grocery shopping. Don's Barber Shop is only half a block from the Grand Union and just down from the bank, so they had decided that was my new place to get haircuts. Dad tells me that I was to ask for a number four regular haircut. Hmm, I think that's a regular haircut same as my friends got every month, so it shouldn't be too bad. Why number four though? Dad has to make an important phone call first, and then we will take the family station wagon to town.
As I get out of the car in the grocery parking lot, I'm reminded by Dad to get a number 4 regular haircut, not one of those silly Unisex styles. They've become popular with the big kids at school, but I'm not old enough to choose how I look yet. He hands me a five dollar bill, and says to tip the barber a dollar. They go off to grocery shop and let me walk to the barber by myself. I feel "different" down by my undershorts the closer I get but I ignore the feeling. It's the same weird feeling I always get walking by Don's. I usually try to look through the large plate glass windows, wondering what goes on in there. I sorta like this feeling, but it 's kinda annoying that I can't stop it from happening. Oh well.
Don's Barber Shop is in a old two story wooden building on the old main street of town. There's a bunch of faded pictures of guys with new haircuts in the windows. Most of them are blue shadows of the stylish haircuts cause they've been hanging in the sun for a long time. I really don't think I'm getting anything like any of the pictures after Dad's comment earlier. I walk up two concrete steps and open the squeaky screen door. The heavy wooden door inside was open to let the breeze in. There's a Wildroot sign above the door. What's Wildroot? It sounds like some kind of soda. The old gray haired barber is just finishing an older man's haircut, and I am only going to have to wait for one more guy before it is my turn. He already has short hair so it shouldn't take long.
I sit in one of the beat up maroon vinyl and rusty chrome chairs, and watch the goings on ...none of the old magazines spread over the chairs and table look worth reading. I've got nothing else to do, so I look around the old barbershop. It's got fancy wooden cabinets down the wall, white porcelain barber chairs, and the linoleum mats underneath each one are all worn down from years of barbers cutting hair. Next to the cabinets are three ancient barber chairs, one is being used as a coat rack ,another is sitting there with a folded newspaper on the round leather seat. I've seen Don waiting for customers in that one. In the middle is the one that's going to be my place of torture soon. Why Don has three barber chairs is a mystery to me.
The man before me sits down in the chair, and Don spreads a big black sheet over him. He snaps it together behind his neck. Don starts up the clippers, and the noise is so loud I can't wait for it to be over. I think that's a vacuum hose going to the cabinet from the clippers and it sure sounds like a vacuum is inside the cabinet! I keep watching the guy get his haircut. Why was Don pushing this guys head all different directions while he runs the clippers roughly all through his hair? It turns out the guy is getting a short brush cut. That wasn't anything like what I want my haircut to look like. Those clippers sure are loud. In just a few minutes Don finishes his haircut. He vacuums off the guy's shirt, and drops the chair back down. It's time for me now......I'm shaking inside. I really don't want all my hair cut off like that guy!
Don motions me to the chair while the last customer pays. I step up on the chair's rusty footrest and turn around to sit. I sit down very carefully in the chair's worn and patched red leather seat. It was a little tricky,cause the chair started to spin around some when I was getting to the seat. Right away Don drapes the same black sheet over me. I can't even see my feet it's so big. Don pulls it tight and snaps it around my neck. He's combing my hair down over my eyes as he chats with the customer before me. Finally he asks me "What will it be son?" I tell him the story about how dad's buzzers were broken and I had to go to a barber shop now. I tell him I'm supposed to get a number 4 regular haircut for back to school. The man who just had his haircut says "He wants his just like mine is when I can't stand it any more". Don laughs, and picks up the same huge red clipper hanging on the counter's edge. It looks pretty mean just hanging there. Don turns them on, and before I know it the haircut begins.
I feel them go up my right sideburn, then over my ear and then he takes a few passes across the bottom of my neck. Then all of my hair in the back gets the same treatment! The clipper machine sounds like a cross between a push mower and an angry bee as he cuts. I guess he must be catching the hair that he cuts and is tossing it somewhere I can't see it. At least the small itchy hairs aren't going down my shirt like I'm used to. I can't see how much he's cutting off. I don't think he's cutting any more than Dad used to, but it is sure going a lot faster than Dad's haircuts.
Don repeats what he had done on my left side,the repeats the process twice, taking only a few seconds to finish up with the noisemakers. He puts them back on the hook and flips a switch somewhere and it gets a lot quieter. He picks up a smaller silver buzzer with a weird looking blade on it. "Here we go, I'll even out the edges with these, son." Again, he starts on my right, and then goes to the other side and back. It feels like he's just cutting a little bit off. This isn't too bad - I'm getting the same haircut my buddies have! The hairs that have started to drop on the cape in front of me now aren't very long,so he's not cutting too much! I start to relax a little. Maybe it won't be so bad.
Don stands behind me and pulls a heavy comb straight back through the hair on top of my head. He says,"Don't move your head now, son." as he positions me so I have to look straight ahead. I'm not wearing my glasses anyway so I don't care where I look, all I see is so fuzzy I can only tell that there's somebody in that big mirror anyway. Then he does something I'm not expecting at all. He starts to cut my longer top hair with those same noisy clippers! What?? I thought I said a regular haircut...maybe this is how he cuts regular haircuts? Well, as long as I look like most of of the guys I know, it'll be fine.
Zzzzzip,zip zip go the clippers over the comb. Don keeps cutting across my head from right to left, moving back a little with each pass. Then he cuts it again from the front to the back. He's got all the way to the back,and finally turns the noisemakers off. Don takes the comb out of my hair and puts it on the counter where I can see it. Man that thing is big! I've never seen a comb like it before, really wide with teeth that look as long as my whole pocket comb. So that's how he does haircuts so fast! What is the level on it for?
"Well,that's a good start, Billy. Just gotta trim a few stray hairs here and there and we'll get you out of here in no time." says Don. How did he know my name?? I never told him and he was calling me son up till now! My thoughts are interrupted by another set of clippers starting with a loud clack,and they buzz just like my Dad's clippers used to. Again I'm hearing zip, zip, zip as my barber cuts off the "stray hairs" - all over my head. How much is he cutting off? Don shuts the buzzers off and uses scissors with his comb to cut a few more strays. He picks up what looks like a beat up old chrome hairdryer from the counter. It blows the cut hair right off the cape and my head. "Time for the finishing touch" Don says, as he sticks his hand into the pocket of his light blue jacket. I can't see what he got, but soon enough Don is running his hands through the hair on the top of my head with something that has a strong smell to it. I kinda like it. This'll keep your hair standing up" Don says. I'd seen other boys leaving the barber with their hair all plastered down with some greasy stuff, so I was kinda expecting something like this to happen. I'll wash it out when I get home. But standing up? What did he mean by that?
Don picks up a strange looking brush, all red plastic with a handle he puts two fingers through to use it.. Why is he brushing my hair straight back? I can almost feel every tooth of the weird brush he's using...Man this barber thing sure is different! I gotta tell Dad all about this strange modern way to get a haircut. Ya know, it seems like an hour has gone by,but the clock on the wall says it had only been ten minutes since I sat down. Haircuts at home took most of an hour, this was great! I like it. Now he should be letting the chair down for me after he pulled the hairy sheet off my lap. In and out in fifteen minutes! But wait, he isn't done yet? Why is he putting the cape back on me?
I hear a whirring noise behind me, and then a warm soapy shaving brush lands on my neck. Now it feels like Don is tracing around my ears with his soapy fingers. "Just cleaning up the edges for you" he says. He takes a big shiny razor off the counter. I hear him sharpen it on an old leather belt, and then I feel it scraping the back of my neck, then he uses it around the top of my ears. Don goes a lot higher on my sideburns than I thought he needed to! He uses a warm damp washcloth to wipe off what was left of the soapy stuff. Am I finished now? I hope so!
"You're almost done, Billy!" says barber Don. He unsnaps the cape again and whips it off with a flourish.Don turns on a vacuum of some sort and cleans the little hairs off my shirt and around my neck. I can feel it sucking my skin as he goes over the back of my head and ears with it. It's almost as noisy as those big clippers he'd started with. This must be how barbers clean up after haircuts now, I thought. I really don't feel itchy down my collar like it usually does when Dad does the job.
"Ready to see the new you?" says Don as he puts my brown plastic framed glasses back on me. Wow, they feel different! The earpieces slide over my naked ears, and they seem like they are a lot looser than they were. He spins me around to look at the tall mirror on the old wooden counter. I look at the mirror and for a second think it's someone else looking back. The dude looks like an Army soldier! Holy cow, is that me? I move my head and the guy in the mirror does too. It is me.....darn.
My hair up top is cut flat as a table top, standing straight up, maybe a half inch long at the front. There is almost no hair on the sides of my head! Wow, that's short! I tell Don I'm not going to need another haircut for at least a couple of months. Don laughs again. "Billy, that's one of my finest regular flat tops! It's the best haircut for active young guys like you! See over there, it's number four on the poster." He pauses for a minute. "You're gonna need this stuff too"he says as he hands me what he'd pulled from his pocket before. "Just use it like the directions tell you too, you'll get the hang of it!" The tube says Crew Comb on it. I haven't even heard of it before today.
The chair drops down suddenly and I get down to the wood floor as quick as I can. My knees are weak and shaking a little. "You look shell shocked, Billy! Trust me, a flat top is a great looking haircut for you. You'll get used to it in no time,and all the girls will be surrounding you at recess!" says Don. I give him the five dollars Dad gave me, and finally ask him how he knew my name.
"That's simple. When your dad called me this morning, he told me your name, what you looked like, and what haircut you were going to ask me for. He also told me how he wanted your hair cut and not to take any complaining from you. He got tired of hearing you say "not so short, Dad!" when he cut your hair and thought it was time for a pro to take over"explains Don as he puts the five dollar bill in the old chrome and brass cash register. Damn, it was a setup!
They are sure going to laugh at me on Tuesday when we start school - nobody gets flat tops anymore, except maybe a couple of the seniors when it's yearbook picture time. They must have had old fashioned parents but now I'm the one with a strict old fashioned Dad. I look like I joined the Army, darn it! I close the barbershop door behind me and walk slowly to the family car. Wow...this feels strange with the wind blowing on my head. The back of my head feels like sandpaper! It doesn't make me too happy either when Dad comes out of the Grand Union, looks at me for a second, and says "Now that's one good haircut! I like it so much that I think we're gonna keep it like that until winter. Billy you look like a human again. I gotta tell old Don he did a great job! My barber days are over for sure!" Crap. I'm doomed to have a flat top until Thanksgiving , at least!
Tuesday is gonna be a bad day as soon as I step on old bus 23. Damn..... Damn Damn Damn!! Now I look like a geek and they're gonna make fun of me more than they usually do! I gotta make sure I have a good baseball cap to hide my half bald head!
So that's the story of how I got my first barber shop top haircut,a regular number four flattop. I never expected what I got, didn't want it, but I had to wear my hair that way for five more years. I visited "old Don" every three weeks like clockwork. No long winter hair for me either, as Dad decided at Thanksgiving I could just wear a hat if my head got cold.I wasn't able to get the regular haircut some of my friends still got until my junior year in high school.