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Bad Weather, Good Haircut by P.J.
I was walking home from the shop to my townhouse, only a couple of blocks away. Normally I didn't mind the walk, it wasn't worth getting the car out for, but today was a continuation of the damp rainy weather we'd had all week. Everything was saturated, and everyone was complaining about it. As I neared the front door, I noticed someone huddled against it , trying in vain to get somewhat out of the slop. Cars occupied all the parking spaces on this side of the street, but none were running, so I wondered who it might be, I wasn't expecting anyone.
It was guy, looked to be college age, no surprise there, we were in a university town after all. He was soaked through, only wearing a jean jacket, no hat or hood, his longish hair was soaked too. He looked like a drowned rat. He looked surprised and frightened as I approached him. He glanced at the keys in my hand, then back at the door.
Oh, sorry sir, he said, stepping off the stoop into the downpour. I quickly sheltered him under my huge umbrella. Hi son, I replied, can I help you ? Well sir. my car died, he said motioning to an older Camry next to the curb. It was public parking in front of these row houses, our garages were in the back alley, so I was used to strangers parking out front. I called for a tow sir, he said, but they said it could be an hour or two wait due to the bad weather. I don't know anyone around town yet, I'm here for the fall semester that starts next week. I don't want to get to far from the car, in case they show up, so I didn't want to head to the coffee shop either as its two blocks away. The coffee shop was next to My shop. I'm Pete, I own Pete's Cuts, the local barber shop. He introduced himself as Derek, a 3rd year transfer student, in the mechanical engineering program. Ah, a geek, I thought to myself, that partially explained the mop.
I'd found over the last couple of years that 99% of the kids were friendly, as long as you were friendly back. Being a barber I'd become a fair judge of character. This kid didn't look like he would be a problem. If he was I could always make him sit it out in the rain.
I said, well, I don't mind if you come in and wait, you can dry off, and I'll get you something hot to drink to warm you up I said. Oh, no, sir that's very kind, but we don't' know each other, and I couldn't impose. Nonsense, I don't bite, and you look pretty harmless too, come on in here son, I said, inserting the key in the lock, and opening the door. If you try anything, I can always hit the panic alarm and have the cops here in short order I said, smiling back at him. ( I was friendly, but you had to let them know who was in charge.)
He came in, dripping wet, sneakers squishing as he walked in. Stay right here, I'll be right back, I instructed. I quickly went upstairs, grabbed a couple of big guest towels, and a robe and hopped back down stairs. Here, talk off your wet things, feet first, the powder rooms over there, I said motioning to the nearby doorway. I'll throw them in the dryer while you wait. He was shivering by now, Oh, God sir, that would be great, he said, peeling off his wet jean jacket. He shucked off his wet sneaks, and padded to the powder room. A couple of minutes later he emerged, clad in only the robe. I asked for his clothes, and invited him back into the kitchen. I walked through into the laundry room, and threw the clothes in the dryer. Coming back, I said, the guest bath is the first left at the top of the stairs, Why don't you go take a hot shower while you wait, and I'll make some hot chocolate. Come down when you're done I said matter of factly. Oh, no sir, that's O.K. I'll be fine he said, running a towel through his soaking wet mop of coal black hair. He was a typical college student. Long mop, almost to his shoulders, bangs hanging down to his nose, and most of his ears covered. His hair, even wet, you could tell was very thick, and by the fuzz on the nape of his neck, hadn't had any attention in awhile.
Nonsense, everything you need is in the bath, I said, soap, shampoo, conditioner, brush, comb. That's what it's there for. He thought a minute, shivering slightly, then said, O.K. I would like to warm up, thank you for your hospitality sir. With that he headed upstairs, and I soon heard the shower running. Not too much time had elapsed, he reappeared again in the kitchen. Long mop now neatly brushed back, and cleaned up. There's a hair dryer up there too I said, nodding to his wet mane. I saw it sir, but I don't usually use one. And I'm only going to get wet again when the tow arrives anyway.
He sat down where I'd placed the mug of Hot chocolate, and some cookies. We chatted for a few minutes about the start of the semester, and the fact that I owned the local barber shop. When he found this out, his hand reflexively went to this long mane. You must think I'm a slob sir with this mop. Not at all son I replied, smiling brightly. You look like a lot of the other college boys I see around town. Some come visit me after they settle down for the semester , some don't. Tell you what, I have a spare set of all my hair cutting implements here at home too, how about I give you a little trim up, eh. He thought for a minute, stroking his long locks, pushing the huge bang mop off his face again, tucking it as best he could behind his right ear. Of course, it wasn't long enough so it only flopped forward again. Oh, no, sir, I couldn't impose, you've been more than generous, maybe I'll come visit the shop one of these days soon. Well, I said, I don't want to pressure you into something you don't want to do son, but we've got nothing but time to kill before the tow comes. I'd be happy for you to come to the shop anytime too of course, I replied. It looks like you haven't been under the cape in some time either I said with a smile. No sir, I worked two jobs over the summer, and really didn't have time for haircuts, and with moving here and all, I haven't found the time here yet either. Well, I said, what do you say, I stood, walking over, running my hand through the back of his plush mane, ruffling it up a bit. I am a barber after all, and you could use a trim up or clean up. Sit here, I'll get my things.
Hot damn, this doesn't happen often I thought to myself, I couldn't wait to get my hands , and clippers into that plush mane. Thick, coal black, and just getting a bit of wave to it as it dried.
I laid everything on the table , plugged in the big Oster 76's, and the other clippers, and unfolded the big blue and white stripped cape.
Wow sir, he exclaimed, you really do have all the stuff. I always have a spare set at home, Derek, just in case, I said smiling. I quickly taped and capped him, now he was mine. I always loved this moment during a haircut. I knew the customers future appearance was now in my hands. I could follow instructions closely, or deviate from them as I saw fit, Their appearance for the near future would be determined by me. This is also where the good angel and the devil came in( my conscience), Sometimes, when the opportunity presented itself, as in now, I felt as if I had an angel on one shoulder, telling me this was a potential long term client, and the devil on my other shoulder, saying, God, look at that mane, wouldn't you just like to plow the guard less clippers through it and shave him bald? Sometimes it was a tough battle between these two.
Now then Derek, when was the last time you were under a cape son, I asked, as I combed through the long plush mane, combing it all straight down to see what we had to work with. Well sir, if I'm honest, it's been years since I've actually been in a barber shop, most recently I had a buddy trim me up when I needed it, but he wasn't home this summer, so it's been awhile since my hair has had any attention sir. This guy was so polite, I couldn't stand it. Well, we'll soon have you cleaned up and looking smart for the start of the semester I said smiling innocently. Thank you sir, a trim will be sufficient, I don't want to take too much of your time sir, and I don't have any money with me at the moment either sir. Nonsense boy, this won't take long, I said, massaging his shoulders, you relax, and enjoy some pampering for a change, sound like you've been leading a pretty hectic life these days.
I'd combed his bang shank down over his face, so he didn't see me put the 1 and a half guard on the Oster 76's. I pushed his head gently down, parted his mane at his nape with my hand, so I had free access for the clippers to touch down at his nape. God, his hair was so thick, and soft as it was drying . I could keep my hands in it all day, wow. I put my hand back gently but firmly on his head, and with a click, the Osters roared to life. The touched down on his nape. I'd originally thought about giving him a very low, slight taper, just basically clipping off all the long thick waves below his nape, to start. But... devil barber won out this time. I plowed the clippers up and up to his parietal ridge area. The first thick wavy shank of coal black hair sliding free, and slipping down first to his shoulders, then with a nudge from me, into his lap. He must have felt it hit his lap, what a shank of hair it was. Oh, God, sir, that's quite a lot of hair sir, he said panicking slightly. Not to worry son, I said patting his shoulder, this is gonna look great son. I quickly plowed another path from nape to ridge, another sheave of bulk sliding down, down to his lap. Oh, sir, I really didn't want a short haircut sir, just a trim. I don' have any money to pay you with at the moment sir, he repeated nervously. Such a polite kid, wow. Not to worry Derek, first cuts, especially ones like this are always on the house. If you like 'em, you can come by the shop, pay for the next one, O.K.,I said innocently. This kid was gonna lose a lot of hair today. Two more passes in back, and I'd basically cleared the lower and mid regions of his head , free of hair, except the 3/16 inch black stubble. God this kids hair was thick, even cut this short only a little skin shown through. This was gonna look great. I knew I had to move quick, while the kid was still in shock, trying to make out just how big the growing pile was in his lap through his massive bang mop.
Moving to the left side, I slipped the clippers in behind his left ear, just catching the remaining dangling curls behind the ear, and plowed around his ear from back to front, carving a nice high almost bald arch. A huge pad of this wavy black hair slipped fee and sailed into his lap. Wow, that was a lot of hair I thought. There now Derek, that's looking much better lad, I said quietly. He sat stock still, only mumbling that he had never had clippers used on him before. Sir, exactly how short are you cutting my hair, sir he inquired, his voice increasing in pitch a bit. Well I currently have a one and a half guard on the clippers son, I can cut it shorter later if you want. Let's get the bulk removed first. I said moving quickly to the right side, repeating the divestiture around the right ear. Well sir, just how long, or short does a one and a half guard make my hair sir, he inquired , voice quavering.
Well, (now that I'd already removed the bulk of his hair on the sides and back) each guard number represents an eighth of an inch of length, left on the head, so a one and half leaves 3/16th of an inch of hair behind. That's what I usually start off a standard haircut with at the shop. Unless of course the customer wants it shorter. Shorter sir!, you've got to be kidding, Derek said, voice getting higher in pitch. YOU mean I only have 3/16th of an inch of hair left where you've already clipped sir. Yes, son, that right. Oh, man, I really didn't' want it cut that short sir, really! Well, I thought since money was an issue for you right now, this would last you awhile, and still look good as it grew in. You can probably go till Christmas break, and not look TOO shaggy. Of course I'd like to see you in the shop in 4-6 weeks to keep it looking reasonably sharp. That's up to you. His shoulders sagged.
I've always had longish hair sir, never short, and certainly never slipper short. Well, let me get his finished up and we'll see how you like it, I said briskly, not wanting to have to leave much of the huge bang mop behind if I could help it. Err, Yeah, I guess you have to finish now, don't you sir. Yes, don't worry son, I said rubbing his shoulders again, you'll look smart, really.
I look the guard off the Osters, and proceeded to reduce the remainder of the sides and back, up near the parting, to just a little bit longer stubble, maybe the equivalent of a 3 guard, using clipper over comb. It was a nice, if a bit sever, taper from bottom to top. I finished up with the balding clippers, cleaning up and edging, and carving a nice arch over his ears. He was going to look like a nice 1950's schoolboy. Wow. The devil one out on this one.
Now, I could settle down a bit and leave him something to comb on top, I mused, combing through the thick heavy bang locks. Hmm. He could walk out with a choppy 1 inch crop top, a Caesar, a Princeton, or a crew, or I could just slap a 2 guard on and go all over it plowing the whole massive pile of locks off, reducing the whole thing to stubble, the devil in me said.
The angel countered with, you could do a nice undercut, leave nice thick over hanging sides, and texture the top, leaving it on the long side. Hmm. What a dilemma, I hated arguing with the angel and the devil.
The kid already had a huge pile of hair in his lap, his formerly thick wavy bulky sides and back, virtually now shaved all but bald. I picked up a hank of bangs with my comb and combed them straight up. God, what a mop. Snip, snip, and all but about 2 inches of it fell in his lap. As I got closer to his forehead, I increased the length I left to about 3 inches, still above his eyebrows by a safe margin to say the least. As the hanks of hair fell into his lap he moaned, wow, sir, this is one short haircut to be sure. Not really son, you just had very overgrown head of hair, I said smiling innocently. I did a bit of trimming, blending, and texturizing to the top, and then stood back to examine my handiwork. O.K. it was time for Derek to see his new look. O.K. son, I'm going to brush you down and leave the cape on( I didn't' want him escaping just yet, even though he only had my robe on). Pop into the powder room and check yourself out in the mirror, then come back and have a sit again.
Derek, disappeared into the powder room, I heard a loud groan, followed by: God, that's shorter than I've ever had it. He reappeared, sat again, and said: I think that's short enough sir. This won't take much maintenance for quite awhile. I fluffed the top out, it looked really, really good. I ran my hand up the stubbly back, eliciting a moan from Derek again. Just then his phone vibrated. It was the towing company, they'd be here in 10 minutes. Drat, this would have to do for now I thought.
Well, O.K. then Derek, I said, unsnapping the cape. Let's get your clothes from the dryer and you can be on your way. It was still pouring out, I was now feeling just a bit of remorse at the brutal shearing I'd just administered, even if I hadn't truly finished it in my opinion. I'll loan you an umbrella son, and a pair of my old sneakers, looks like we're about the same size. You can return them to the shop after class one day next week, O.K.
Oh, thank you so much sir he said, that's very kind sir. ( Again, so polite, what a kid.) I'd just practically shaved him bald in a manner of speaking, and he was still thanking me. Wow. I'll return them at my first opportunity sir. He said getting ready to walk out the door as the tow truck pulled up. And if you like we can do a bit more work on that haircut to sharpen it up I added. Oh, I'll have to think about that sir, this is certainly short sir, but thank you none the less, he said closing the door.
He returned on Thursday night , just as I was closing up shop, with the umbrella and sneakers as expected. Here sir, thank you again sir, he said enthusiastically. Oh, your quite welcome Derek, I replied. Glad I could help out. Is your car all fixed, I inquired. Yes sir, thankfully it was only a dead battery, nothing really expensive. Ah, great I said smiling. How about you hop up in the chair and we finish that haircut son, I said smiling again. (I figured , nothing ventured, nothing gained right.) He smiled, running his hand up the back of his head, and said, oh, no thank you sir, I'm still getting used to it as it is, thank you. I have noticed, however , that quite a few of the guys on campus are rocking haircuts much shorter than this sir, so I don't really feel as out of place as I thought I would. I may be back in a month or so and ask you to take me shorter yet. A few girls in my classes have been flirting with me too, looking at my thick wavy top so I'm not sure which way to go yet, sir. But I will be back sir , count on it. He smiled warmly as he walked out the door.