Another Walk-In by Joseph Murray
(This is a sequel to the previous story I wrote. Enjoy…)
It had been a few (over three) months since I’d last gotten my haircut, the time I walked in to Liberty Barber Shop one morning on my way to work. The thrill of doing that was great, but still, I craved more. When you think about it, I only got a trim when you think about it. I didn’t go forward with a drastic change or anything extreme. So, while this was my first true walk-in experience, I felt like I hadn’t gotten as much out of it as I could have.
A couple things had happened since that last haircut. A month and a half later, I would be let go from my job in the city. A lot of us were actually let go, so it wasn’t like it was just me. But it still sucked, I enjoyed working there for the last year or so. So after that happened in August, I was on the job hunt. Still able to afford my modest home in the modest town I lived in, but felt like a failure at twenty-eight years old. I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself but I couldn’t help it. I knew things would surely turn around eventually. I just had to be patient.
While staying at home though, I was able to run some errands or do a few things I usually wasn’t able to when I was working a Nine to Five. Because of that, I was up to my old tricks you could say. I would specifically take certain routes or go down certain roads while driving that way I might be able to peek in to any barbershops I saw. Definitely was a habit, but I couldn’t help myself! The downtown of where I lived I started to drive down more often. Even though that might get me in to a little bit of traffic, I didn’t care. I was able to look to my left or right (while carefully driving of course) and see if any victims were in the chairs. And it was always great if there was traffic and I was stopped in the road and able to take a little longer to look in, longingly.
Out of all the shops I’d pass, there was one I couldn’t help but always look into. It was called Mike’s Barber Shop. It definitely gave off an old fashioned and out-dated look, and not in a modern sleek way, I mean it definitely could be updated if it wanted to. But it gave a certain charm and its not like they were always empty, if anything they usually kept themselves pretty busy. Five or six chairs in the shop, not every chair manned all the time. Sometimes, I’d even park my car and get out for a walk, and stroll by Mike’s. One time I did that, I saw there were only two barbers working. The first barber by the window was cutting away at an older client. The second barber was a few chairs down, reading his book. He was probably twenty years older than me but he was really good looking. He just sat there, reading his book, bothered by no one. I thought to myself, "Maybe I could make his day, be a customer for him. Maybe he hasn’t been so busy today and this would be a nice surprise." I ended up not going forward with it. Every time I drove by Mike’s, I’d always look quickly at the window, to see if that other barber was there.
So it was the end of September, almost to October, and I had another interview. This one was in a town thirty minutes away from me without traffic. So I was really excited especially because that town was real cute and had a historical touch to it. So I got myself all ready for this interview, brought along all my necessary papers and such, made sure I wore a nice suit and tie combo with a great pair of shoes. I couldn’t help myself but wish that I had gotten a haircut, it had been nearly twelve weeks when I thought about it. I was able to make my hair look presentable for the interview, but I just didn’t feel right. In any case, I headed on out for my interview.
The interview actually went really well! They were all nice and seemed to like me. However, there was a problem. They were offering me a position at a level that I was past at this point in my career, and for a minimal amount of money. I felt choked up on the inside but smiled all the way around on the outside. So when they asked me, right then and there, when could I start? I felt flustered, but remained calm, thanked them for the offer, and asked for the night to think about it, and to come back by that next afternoon with an answer.
I couldn’t believe what happened. What did they think I was, a teenager? Maybe I looked like one to them who knows! I just felt bad that I had been led on to think that this would be a great job opportunity and ultimately it turned out not to be. I was real mad. So I got back to the parking lot, got into my car, rocked on my sunglasses and drove off.
I was thinking about the route I could take back home, and it occurred to me, I could go through the downtown of my town. Because of everything that had just happened this morning, I even thought to myself. "You know what, Joe, bite the bullet. If you pass by Mike’s and you see that barber or any of the barbers available, do yourself a favor and get a decent haircut. And a real haircut this time". I convinced myself of this, and on the ride back home, all I kept thinking of was what if this did come true? What if I did go through with this.
Coming down one of the main roads of downtown, then having to turn at a light to one of the side streets, would be my answer. And once I did make that turn, and no sooner than ten seconds later looked to my left I could see the barbershop in business. There were three barbers, the same one at the front from the last time I walked by, another barber further to the back also working on a client, and then that same barber from before, seemed to be just sitting there. There is a small enough parking lot off on the side of this side street I knew. And so I convinced myself to park. Once I did this, and got out of the car, leaving my suit jacket behind, I knew I was going for it. No turning back.
I walked up the sidewalk, heavy chest and all, and then came up to Mike’s Barber Shop. I peeked in real quick doing a walk-by and I was correct, the barber was not seeing a client at that moment. I had reached the corner and then decided "Turn back around" which I did, looked in one more time, nothing changed in the last fifteen seconds, took a deep breath in, and opened the door into the shop.
The first barber looked up from his work and smiled at me, smiling a bit and said a quick hello as he was working on a gentleman. I walked over to my target, he was still sitting there, reading his book, not looking up. I noticed that above each of their mirrors, their names were printed. "Louis" my guy said. Once I was right at his chair I was able to muster out an "Excuse me" to catch his attention, lifting his glasses up from his reading, and staring in my direction. "Hey Louis, I’m Joe," sticking my hand out, "Do you think you could take me right now?"
This was followed up by a "Joe! Where have you been, I’ve been waiting all day," as he shook my hand and held onto his book with the other hand. We both laughed at that, he was obviously trying to lighten the mood it seemed. He welcomed me to have a seat in his chair as he went to go put his book down. He was wearing a nice pair of slacks and a simple grey polo shirt. He definitely was older, in is forties, with his head shaved and tan skin. He grabbed the tissue to wrap around my neck, and then threw the gray cape around me. I thanked him for seeing me as a walk-in to which he was more than happy to be of my service. Once in that cape and all though, I knew, no turning back.
"So Joe, what are we looking to do today?" Louis asked me.
I had already made up my mind earlier, hadn’t I? I knew I needed a proper haircut. So I answered the barber, "Well, its been a while since I last had my haircut. I usually get a number four on top, with the sides really short to the skin, like a high and tight, you know?" He seemed to understand perfectly and kept "Okay"ing and "Mhm"ing me.
"Alright sounds good to me, let’s do it," he said, going to his drawers to pick up a set of clippers. "You said a number four on top, right?" to which I replied yes to him. "Let’s start with that then," he decided. And with that, the clippers were at the front of my head, no hesitation or asking me if I wanted to change my mind. Louis went for it and plunged the clippers through the middle of my head, leaving a buzzed path in its way. He continued this throughout the rest of the top of my hair, the transformation was insane. I could feel my long hairs become nothing but bristles on top. I figured a number four would still be long enough, but I was wrong. It definitely gave me a buzzcut look. I was definitely going to look like I was signing up for the marines.
After the top had been attacked, he headed for the sides of my head with a different clipper with no attachments, peeling away and stripping off the hair on the sides and back. We had been chatting since the beginning of the cut, where I was from and what I did. He asked if I knew some of his clients who lived in the streets and neighborhoods near me. It was really good banter. All the while, I was experiencing a complete transformation. It was looking great thought, I have to say. But once all the major buzzing had ended, he picked up a comb and with the same clipper from before, was taking off any loose strays that may have appeared to have been missed, and also to shape out around the sides so it blended to the top. He was extremely meticulous with this and taking great care to make sure that the cut would come out in perfect shape. A customer of his walked in during my cut, someone who he attended to regularly, and sat in the waiting chairs behind us and he was able to join in on our conversation.
The haircut was done, but then he asked me something I didn’t think of. "So what are we doing with this beard?"
I stopped for a moment, not really knowing, it definitely had grown itself out, I tried taking care of it but that was no use. I didn’t know what to do with it. "Uh," pausing yet again, "I don’t know, what you think?"
To which his response was a soft tone "What do I think", and he grabbed up the pair of clippers he had just been using for the majority of the haircut, went for right under my right side of my jaw, flicked on the clippers and mowed them all the way up to where my sides had been shaved bald. "I say we take it off, if you’d like that."
"No yeah, sure, I trust you man," I replied, with no real choice when you think about it, and Louis continued to strip away the rest of my beard. Soon enough it was all completely buzzed off. I had nothing on my face but my face! Hadn’t seen that in a while really.
Then he went back to his station and got one of those barber dusters and some power, tossing a bit on the duster, and then brushing that all around my face and the back of my bare head. "Alright, Joe, there’s your haircut" he said, as he started to take off the tissue paper and the cape. Man I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I looked like a whole new person. Then I walked over with Louis to the cash register, I was much taller than him I realized. It turned out the haircut was only twelve bucks. Twelve bucks! What a deal. I mean, granted it would have been nice if he gave me a face shave instead of just buzzing it all off, but maybe they didn’t do that here. In any case, I looked great and felt great, and felt great about the price I only had to pay. I tipped him a handsome tip, and asked if I was able to make appointments at this barbershop. "No, we only take walk-ins here, but if you come at certain times or certain days, you shouldn’t have to wait to long to see me. Unless you come on a Saturday." And with that I was off.
I could now say that I had a true walk-in experience. I went in, with no expectations or knowledge of the shop, got a much needed update to my look, and, while at it, had a barber that definitely took control of my look but shaped me out to look really smart. Also, coming to the realization that now I had a buzzcut, I had to deal with that reality. I was supposed to get dinner that next night with my old man, I wonder what he would say. Can’t remember the last time I had gotten my hair this short before. I’m sure he’d approve of it, I thought to myself. I know I approved of it, I was so happy that this happened to me. Job or no job, one thing came out of this day, and that’s a great haircut!