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At Manny's - Pete's Passport Problem by Manny
This will be the beginning of a series about a long-haired barber who loves to administer a good cropping, and anxiously awaits the day he gets a taste of his own medicine...
I caught a quick glance of him in the mirror entering the shop shortly before closing as I worked on one of my regulars. In the fleeting moment, several things registered. I'd never seen the young man before and he had incredibly thick hair.
I turned to greet the new client and got a better look of what to anticipate. He was handsome -- and his full ash brown hair, while in a business style, was quite long on top. And it was thick! The dense padding could almost be taken for a helmet. Yet it was tidy around the ears. I wondered what the back looked like. He had taken a seat against the wall in the waiting area and pulled out his smart phone.
While I continued trimming the gent in the chair, my juices began flowing. There were two things I had in mind for the new client: 1) a prolonged session with the thinning shears; and 2) "just a trim" was not going to be an option. No, not with him. Today was my day for some fun! No matter his instruction, he was going to get a short, tight back and sides. And the top, well, it was going to get whacked down. Way down!
Since I need to maintain my professional reputation, I don't allow myself this pleasure very often. But, occasionally, one needs to be rewarded a bit for pursuing a working class vocation despite the smarts and degrees that could yield instead a full array of high-paying white collar jobs. My chosen job with white capes and tunics became an option after I received a large inheritance from an 'uncle' of mine. I had money, said 'goodbye' to the office environment and became a barber to follow my passion. Thanks to my 'uncle', I was able to set up shop in a high rent district -- off the lobby of a historic downtown hotel. While I had my regulars (including a few of the very handsome young bell hops), I got a good share of transient clients staying in the hotel on business. I never once regreted my change in occupations because there was nothing I enjoyed more than to administer a brutally short crop on an unsuspecting client (the type that really needed one). And the handsome man relaxing in the waiting area would provide this month's fun!
I watched him out of the corner of my eye, engrossed with his smart phone. He had on a very expensive dark blue suit with a coordinating blue striped tie. Ah, and lovely Bruno Magli shoes! His ash blond hair glistened in the neon. As he looked down at his phone, I got a glimpse of the back. As expected, it was very full and well over the collar. Everything was too long and overgrown with the fellow's hair, except the neat trim around the ears. Perhaps he had done it himself -- a little home job in the bathroom; trim the excess off the ears to give the old haircut a few more weeks of life. I'd seen that many times -- and didn't like it. Home trimmers always got an extra short cut.
I took my time tidying up the old gent in the chair, savoring the moment when I'd nod at the young man in the waiting area, letting his know it was his turn. Occasionally, he would look up to see where he stood with regard to his turn, but then be right back at the phone. Those terrible devices. I generally frown on my clients using them....but, today, if it served to distract him, I would not let my displeasure be known.
"You're next, sir," I said politely, dusting a few stray hairs from the red leather seat of the barber chair.
He stood up and quickly deposited his phone in his shirt pocket. He gave me a weak smile and glanced at himself in the mirror. What was he thinking? Something like, 'I've put this haircut thing off as long as I could....time to get tidied up....I hope this barber is good.' Something like that, I surmised.
He had hazel eyes -- brown bordering green, which matched nicely with his ash brown hair. Oh, and such long eye lashes! Prominent arched brows and a square jaw gave him a very manly look. But his crowning feature was the thick, shiny hair. It was strangely coarse in texture but with a sheen -- not the normal dull look of thick, coarse hair. There was no need to brush it to perceive it was full of body.
He sat comfortably in the seat and seemed very relaxed.
"First time here?" I asked rhetorically.
"Yes, just in town on business," he said.
I took a clean cape from the stack on the counter and shook it open. "Routine trip or something special?" I asked, trying to strike up a conversation.
He became a bit animated in his response, "Actually, we concluded a very good business deal just now! Meaning, I'll be on the direct flight to Munich tomorrow morning, bright and early, to seal it at their corporate headquarters."
"If you need your phone to tie up loose ends, I have no problem with you checking it while you get your hair cut -- that is, the data part. Making a phone call can be a little tricky, especially if the clippers are humming near your ear!" I said with a laugh as I fastened the cape snuggly about his neck.
"I think I will use it since you don't mind," he commented as he fumbled beneath the cape retrieving the phone from his pocket. Then, he popped his hand out from under the cape, phone in hand, ready to resume work.
I took a brush and began working it through the dense mane of hair -- at least five inches on top and about three on the sides. "Before you get engrossed with that little screen down there, any special instructions about this up here?" I held up a lock and then let it fall to flop past his eye.
"It's been a while, for sure. I've been on the go so much, I haven't had time for a professional haircut in months. That's why I was glad to see a barber shop right in the hotel lobby. Very convenient," he explained.
"You made it in just before closing. I'm Manny, by the way, and happy to be of service," I said.
The fellow smiled and nodded. "Pete," he replied perfunctorily.
"Do you mind if I use the clippers, or do you prefer a scissors cut?" I asked.
"You're the professional, Manny. I leave those decisions to you," he said, before reverting to focus on his phone.
Yes! Things were going very well. I nudged his head forward gently. The strategy was to keep him distracted from the haircut....until the unveiling at the very end.
I surveyed the mass of hair hanging down the back of his head. It shimmered in the barbershop's light. I took a wide-toothed comb. My first instinct was to lift and buzz it down to something much more manageable -- clipper over comb technique to take the bulk down gradually in length and then thin the life out of it. Give him a very short back and sides business cut.
But, as I reached for the big set of clippers, something seized me. He'd be a one-off client. The vague instruction.... Well, just then, I decided to up the ante. I would taper him tightly up the back -- all the way to the crown! Peel off the padding in one quick, purposeful drive. I bent his head down a bit more and snapped on the machine. It hummed and vibrated in my hand, causing me to momentarily focus on the steel teeth that were restraint like a pair of eager pit bulls on a leash.
And then I unleashed my pit bulls!!
I snagged the lush locks at the nape with the comb and brought the naked metal teeth up to their target, where they encountered the dense hair and began making very short work of it. The clippers gave a muffled shriek as they pushed into the padding of hair. With the comb, I held down the captive locks while the machine clipped it to the scalp. Up, up, up they went, pressing directly against the scalp until easing slightly away from the surface a third of the way up. As the clippers emerged from under the padding of hair near the crown, I neatly pulled off the severed shank that clung together as a dense matted pad of hair. And then I saw my handiwork! OMG -- he was going to get nearly scalped, judging by the first trajectory! The dense hair had formed a fantastic, extremely short taper. It went from zero length at the nape to only a 3/8 inch near the crown. The shorn swath was line on each side by an inch-thick padding of lovely ash brown hair. And poor Pete had no idea -- his phone kept him engaged with his business success.
I glanced down to the floor, where my first trophy lay in a pile at my feet. I brought the clippers up through a parallel drive, peeling away a second swath of Pete's helmet to the same length. All this was done in stealth, as the cape remained perfectly unsoiled and white.
"Will it be your first visit to Germany?" I asked Pete casually, enjoying the view of his severely tapered back.
"Been to Munich many times. I much enjoy Oktoberfest, being of German descent. And, I come from a long line of big beer drinkers," Pete commented.
"That's why you have such strong, dense hair -- that's what beer does for you. Good for hair, teeth and nails, I'm told," I said.
"Male baldness pattern is one problem in life I won't have to contend with, judging from historical family photos. My ancestors all had huge shocks of thick, full hair till the end -- very little grey too!" Pete looked at himself momentarily in the mirror. Then he added, "And it grows fast -- like a weed, some times!" I knew what he thinking as I watched him admired himself in the mirror....'you're luck to have such a great head of hair'.....
But not for long. Manny was in charge at present. And Manny was intent on taking him down! I nudged his head forward again and tackled another swath at the back, reducing it to a very tight taper.
After I cleared away the growth on the back of his head, I had two choices -- turn him away from the mirror and keep him in the dark or introduce him to the new reality...... I hesitated. I decided it was time for Pete to get a clue.
I gently cocked his head to the side and brought the clipper to just behind his ear. Up it came through the padding, and then, as a little wake-up call, I flicked the shorn clump so that it landed on the cape and slid down to just near where the phone was being held. It was a generous shank of hair that soiled the cape!
Pete looked up to the mirror a bit startled but could not really see the damage because the puffy full side blocked the view of the short taper that was taking shape.
While he was still looking in the mirror, I brought the clippers in front of his ear and then slowly drove it up through his modest sideburn, clipping him nearly clean up through the temple. A massive chunk fell to the cape as he watched on. His eyes shed a hint of panic. "So you hair grows fast," I commented innocently. I ran the clippers up through the side again, peeling the padding off from above the ear. The entire side was now cut into an extremely short taper. "Is this length all right, or do you want it shorter on the sides?" I asked.
Pete struggled for a response. "That seems plenty short," he said hastily, staring at the mirror.
Now that he realized he was in for a very short haircut and was in a bit of a panic, I felt that it was time I take his mind off the transformation. I loved being in control of his thoughts and feelings! I swiveled the chair away from the mirror so that I could get access to the other side. With that, he had no choice but to go back to his phone. I resume the clippings.
A few swipes later, the cape was half covered with hair. Pete was sporting very short sides and a mass of hair on top.
It was time to tackle the moptop. I seized a lock near the cowlick with my broad toothed comb and quickly ran the clipper over the plastic teeth. The quick action took off most of the five inches! All that was left on top was a patch of bristles under a half inch in length. The severed clump fell to the floor with an almost audible thud. I was determined to clear the overgrowth that remained down to approximately the same length. Another huge wad was taken off with the clippers and fell away. The closely shorn pelt that remained looked wonderful.
As I worked my way forward using the clipper-over-comb technique and reducing the bulky locks to a tidy pelt, I decided to jerk him back into his uncomfortable situation. I began letting the clipped clumps add to the cape in front. On the next installment in my demolition drive, the mass of cut hair tumbled down past Pete's eyes, sending him an undeniable message that he would not look the same at the end of it. The wad of hair fell directly ontop of the phone, covering the screen.
"Sorry about that," I said with a chuckle.
"Are you leaving anything up there?" Pete asked nervously.
"Of course, and I dare say you will like it. Too much hair gives a man an untidy look. Especially when it's dense and coarse like yours. Would you like to see how it's coming along? I can turn you back to face the mirror," I offered.
"Uh, no, that's okay. You're the professional; I trust your judgment," Pete said nervously.
As I got closer to the bangs, I started to allow a significant amount of length to remain. I crafted a very modern look with a tidy clipped pelt over most of the head that gave way to a signifant forelock in terms of bulk and length -- one that could be combed to the side or even styled into a quiff!
It was the only patch of hair left that I could subject to the thinning shears....and so I did. I whacked away at it, removing bulky clumps. After a few chops, it lost its fullness. Then, in a fit of zeal, I went too far and overdid the thinning. The thin longish wisps that remained looked ratty -- a far cry from the dense, plush forelock that had first hung in the prime position. Using regular barber shears, with three quick snips the bangs were gone! I quickly pared Pete's hair down to nothing short of a traditional crewcut!
By this time, the whole cape was covered with a dense padding of shorn hair, and most of the floor as well. I took more hair off that one head than I had cut the whole week! Pete looked very different shorn of his dense mane. His features -- the lashes, jaw and eyes -- were magnified without the distraction of the shimmering mane. But, I wasn't finished with him.
I took out a small set of edgers, and began clipping the nape and around the ears to further sharpen the already sharp taper.
As I was working, I casually swiveled the chair back around so that Pete could see his new clipped haircut. I saw his eyes dart to the mirror and lock onto the new image. He was speechless. His eyes swung down to the cape and back to the mirror like a clock pendulum. I let him take in the new reality and then pushed his head forward more forcefully. I peeled off the stubble up to the occipital bone. The crewcut was getting tightened up sharp!
"Would you like me to lather shave your neck and around the ears?" I asked. One of my techniques was to give a person an option.....it gave the illusion that they had been part of the decision making process in getting their hair cut (drastically short in this case).
Pete struggled to sit up straight. Finally, he got a good, clear look at himself. "Yes, I think that would be good," he responded in a semi-daze.
I rubbed the warm lather into the skin. Pete studied his new haircut throughout the whole process of me scraping away the foam with a straight edged razor.
Finally, I finished the haircut and dusted his face and ears with a flourish. "This haircut should last you a good while!" I held up a mirror so that he could see the back -- including the swaths of white skin, revealed for the first time from beneath the overgrown padding of hair, that dazzled. "What do you think?"
"It's so different from my normal look. I'm not used to such a short haircut," he said in a weak voice. Then he recovered a bit of composure. "But it looks good...."
I couldn't tell if he really felt that, or was a way to save face. Like, what was he going to say?!
"The crewcut is probably the best option for dense, coarse hair. And, if you need to go straight from the airport to a business meeting in Munich, there will be no worries about having to wash it or even comb it. It's ready to go from the moment you wake up!"
Pete chuckled a bit, "I guess that's true...." He reached out from under the cape and felt it. "Wow....." was all he could say.
I carefully removed the cape and shook the huge collection of shorn locks to the floor. It looked like an artist's pallet! The cacaphony of cut locks contrasting with the rigid black and white tiled foor.
Pete could not stop sneaking looks of himself in the mirror while he struggled to pay. It was like he was in a stunned estate. He handed me $30 and told me to keep the change. That was one indication he wasn't too upset. He did look good with the crewcut, I thought. I especially liked the combination of conservative business suit with the slightly casual crewcut. The sharp, tight haircut matching his slender frame and tailored look of a nice skinny suit. I had taken great liberties at bush-whacking his thick mane. I smiled to myself, remembering how proud he had seemed of this thick, generous head of hair when we first started his transition...he'd get over it. And, even if he didn't, what would be the consequences?! He had said I was the professional and that he trusted my judgment....
I watched Pete amble across the lobby, feeling his shorn head all the way.
Sweeping up the huge field of cut hair on the floor made me feel good about being a barber. There were at least three dustpan loads of Pete's shorn hair dumped into the waste bin.
As I moved the chairs in the waiting area to sweep up, I spotted a brief case on the floor. Was it Pete's? I quickly rifled through it. Yep, it was his all right. He would probably realize he'd left it behind and come to fetch it. I waited for a good half hour. No Pete.
So, I rummaged through it again and found his passport -- he wouldn't be on that plane in the morning without the little blue book. I opened it to the photo page and was in for a bit of a surprise. There was Peter Carl Heinz, pictured six years earlier, sporting a tremendous mane of shoulder length hair! He must have just been finishing grad school when the passport was issued -- the longhaired look would not work in the corporate world, for sure!
Now that I knew his last name, I could contact him through the front desk. I locked up the shop and headed over toward the entrance lobby. As I did, I saw Pete get off the elevator and head to the shop. My instinct was to call out to him and turn over the brief case. But, I quickly formed another plan and hid!
While he was vainly looking into the shop to see if perhaps I was still in there, I left a message on his hotel room phone upstairs.
"Hi, Pete. This is Manny, the barber. You left your briefcase in my shop. I waited as long as I could. Give me a call at 253-209-2344 on my cell."
I hung out in the hotel lobby, waiting for the call. Finally, it came. Now I had Pete's cell phone number!
The voice was breathless, "Manny, I just got your message. The briefcase....how can I retrieve it? Where are you? My passport and work documents that I urgently need for the trip tomorrow are in there!"
"Pete? Gee -- I'm on my way home. I decided to bring it with me....I wasn't sure if you'd call. And I didn't want it left in the shop."
"I'm so sorry about this, but if I'm not on that plane tomorrow, I'll be in deep trouble," panted Pete.
"Don't worry, I'll head back to the hotel. I can bring it up to your room....or perhaps we can meet at the bar," I suggested.
"I hate to put you to that much trouble," Pete lamented. "But, I would be eternally grateful...."
"Or we could meet at the barbershop. Maybe you felt your haircut wasn't cut short enough..... If need be, I'll cape you up again," I chuckled.
"My hair is plenty short! Let's meet at the bar -- I'll buy you a beer, Manny," he offered. "Thanks so much for agreeing to come back downtown. I know you must be exhausted. Hell, my haircut alone took a lot of effort, I'm sure.... I feel so light-headed!"
I waited an appropriate amount of time before crossing over toward the bar. There was Pete, pacing around. When he spotted me, I held up the briefcase.
"Oh, Manny! Thank you sooo much," he said, and then clapped a huge bear hug around me. I savored the moment.
"You might need a new passport," I said as we walked into the bar. "I had to open it to get your full name so I could call you -- quite a photograph! With that lionesque mane you sported at the time it was issued, well, the immigration folk might not recognize you now!"
"I was so proud of that long hair....." Pete murmured nostalgically. Then he rubbed his hand across the top of his head, "Actually, I'm getting used to this new haircut. When I got up to the room and took a good look, I thought it worked well for me. The feel too, is amazing!" He laughed a bit and then continue, "I have to confess, at some point while I was in your chair I was thinking that I had really gotten myself into a bind.....and when I first realized how short you were cutting it, my stomach was in knots. I was like totally ready to freak!"
"I had thought about leaving it a bit longer in front, so that you could style it to the side or fashion it into a sporty quiff with a bit of pomade," I replied.
"Actually, I think the way you cut it is best. No fuss. Very practical and feels great. No more mussing about with hair care," Pete said happily.
"Tell your normal barber you want a classic crewcut, tapered tight to the crown," I suggested.
"My regular barber? That would be you, Manny! If this contract is signed in Germany, I'll be transferring to the branch office just two blocks from this hotel!" Pete said. "Now, I've already found a great barber and also made my first friend in this city. Come on, let me get you a beer, Manny!"
With that, he reached over and tussled my own amazing mane of silken, chestnut-colored hair with fiery auburn highlights that hung thick and full, to the base of my collar.
"Hey, careful with my hair, Buddy!" I said playfully.
"And after we're finished in the bar, maybe I ought to give you a haircut, Manny! I might make a good barber.....and you might look handsome with a nice tight crewcut too!" he laughed.
I looked wistfully at his newly shorn head and thought.....'one day, when I find the right barber, I just might.....'