Fifteen minutes by Keepitshort
Fifteen minutes, well to be precise almost 17 was the time it took. Here I re-live the experience.
It was 12 minutes to one on Saturday when I got off the bus, and estimated a 7 minute walk to the barbers. As I reached the brow of the hill I worked out in less than 2 minutes I would be entering a shop I hadn't been in since my teenage years , constantly checking my watch my calculations were almost spot on. My nerve held as I turned the door handle, my brief glance in the window had revealed one customer in the chair and another in the waiting area reading a paper, I was expecting the other chair to be occupied and was surprised as it was empty but around it was littered with hair, some clumps a few inches long. As I took the few steps towards the waiting area the entrance door opened behind me and as I turned to sit down, inwardly being grateful for the waiting time , I saw another barber enter the shop, his grey nylon, short dentist style blouson fastened tightly at the neck and a pair of scissors and a comb peeping out of his breast pocket.
He picked up the cape from the chair and looking right at me, gestured towards the chair with the merest hint of a smile, I looked to the other waiting customer who simply shook his head in a no gesture. I slipped my jacket off and hung it on a hook and stepped towards the chair , even as I was settling in the seat the cape was around me and being very firmly secured to my neck the only difference from my teenage years being it was fixed by velcro and not studs , as I settled back the comb was running through my hair .
'What's it to be?' no niceties, not rude , but in a very matter of fact manner.
'I was ehm wanting a sort of flat -top , but not too short on the top' I answered none too confidently.
'You either want a flat top or you don't' was the terse reply, along with a quizzical look. A moments silence followed, then I gave a slow nod 'Flat top please'.
An almost unnoticeable nod , followed by three sprays from his water bottle , a stiff brush and hairdryer blasted my hair straight back , he teased the side hair on my crown upright then hung the dryer back on its hook and picked up his clippers. I was surprised they were so quiet just a gentle hum as he worked his way around my head running his clippers over his comb and creating a sort of halo around my head about 1/4 inches long and at least 1.5 inches shorter than the rest of my hair on top, then the clippers were switched off . 'Back and sides?' he waited for my answer and when it was not forthcoming he continued ' You want them ' sort of long or sort of short?' He asked ,mimicking my original request while he was sorting through a set of steel clipper attachments on the shelf. I sensed his irritation and replied ' short please , but , well not ehm shaved ' He was at my right side now and switched on these new clippers which roared into life, caught my eye in the mirror and stated ' I didn't offer to shave you,' then unceremoniously ran the clippers from mid ear to the top of my head , white scalp remained in their wake ! These noisy clippers had a blade fitted which left only stubble behind , four passes and great clumps of hair fell onto my shoulder , my chin was pushed to my chest as they helped themselves to any hair on the back of my head , as he moved to the left side I felt the breeze on the back of my head as the other customer and his waiting friend left.
He finished this process and I looked into the mirror and saw a giant pineapple looking back at me, white sides topped by a mass of hair. He was back to his original clippers and along with his comb be expertly created a freehand flat top, constantly positioning my chin and shearing off first the left side of my top hair to a uniform 3/8 of an inch which left a kind of step straight down the centre of my scalp then he evened up the right side, leaving a wonderful flat top! A great mound of cropped locks landing in my lap.
Next he reached across to the old porcelain sink in front of me and turned on the hot tap throwing a shaving brush into the sink and placing a tin of shaving foam on the side. He produced a set of high pitched clippers and went all the way round the edge of my hairline from ear to ear creating a perfect line, next the hot shaving brush was applied to the line and then a squirt of shaving foam on his thumb and I saw him form a snow white line in front and around both ears.He produced his razor and ran it under the tap then spoke again ' Straight across?' Although it was formed as a question his left hand was already stretching the skin in front of my right ear and I felt and heard the razor scrape against my skin at the point where my ear joined my face and a poker straight white line now appeared. The left side got the same treatment , then all along my neckline, he then folded my right ear down and scraped an arc around my ear which he extended straight across my temple shaving any stubble showing beneath it . After the left side was matched he cleaned any fragments of foam off with a towel.
I looked at my reflection, the perfect flat top didn't so much fade but sprouted up from the severely clippered sides like a lawn to perfectly manicured borders, which in turn stopped abruptly where the razor had carved out my new hairline . The barber called something to his colleague who in turn handed him another of the metal cutting heads , then he stood behind me checking his work . To my surprise he was again pushing my chin to my chest and once again the noisy clippers were climbing up the back of my head and I heard their tone change as they took what was no more than bristle down another notch. When he applied them to the side of my head I saw the result of their work - the bristles became five o clock shadow - the white line of the razor blending into the skin tight "hair" being left behind. After a few minutes he was done , talcum powder dusted and brushed into the edges of my hair and then the mirror held behind me which showed the back of my head as a dead straight neckline at least an inch and a half above my collar and arching above my ears, the skin on my scalp barely covered by little more than follicles right up to the crown. The barber rubbed his hand against the sandpaper which was the back and sides of my head stating with, for the first time a broad smile.
' Nice and short, tight, but not shaved!'
As he released me from the cape I watched my shorn locks join the others on the floor and checked my watch thinking 17 minutes ago I had a full head of hair.