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Give this a try by A Recruit (recovered)

Give this a Try

by a Recruit

By November it starts to get dark earlier. I love it because it means that by late in the day when it’s darker outside you can see all the details of what’s happening in a barbershop when you pass by. One time when I was a teenager in the late seventies I was walking in a run-down area of town on just such a night in November. I took a route which took me past a very old fashion barber shop and, sure enough there was young guy in the chair. Most of us had long hair at the time, myself included, but this poor guy had short back and sides with his dark hair parted on the side and he was faced toward the window. What a great sight.

Then I remembered that the next day was what we call remembrance day in Canada, they call it Veterans’ Day in the States. He was probably in the armed forces and had to pass inspection. I felt sorry for him but the sight is still grilled in my memory. As the next week went on I relived it and relived it until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to go in and try it.

I can still remember the day, it was exactly a week since I’d been past the shop. I was so nervous that when I was changing the bit in the drill press in woodshop I started it without taking the chuck key out. I stopped it before it got going but the teacher wasn’t impressed. Finally school ended and all I had to do was drive to the city. I had, like most guys at the time, hair well over the ears and covering my collar in the back with a part in the middle.

By the time I parked and walked up to the shop it was getting dark. My heart was pounding and I had trouble swallowing. I walked up to the door and in to the barber shop. There was mounds of hair and tissue paper strips around the chair where the barber was working. There was an older guy in the chair and a couple more waiting. I used the coat rack and eventually one of those red leather chairs with the curved chrome arms. I took a paper to read and tried to look calm.

After the barber had buzzed a couple of older guys and one more had come in, it was my turn. I stretched and walked over to the chair. It was chrome with tan naugahide upholstery. When I stood on the footrest, I still had to pull myself up into it, boy was it high. The barber threw the bib loosely over my shoulders and then went and rang in the money of the previous client. I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn’t believe I was actually sitting there. Finally the barber came back, pulled a tissue paper band tightly around my neck, tightened the bib and clasped it with a metal clasp.

“How would you like it?” he asked. “Just a trim” I said, “maybe try a part on the right”. Without another word he nervously moved his hands over the pile of scissors and combs on the counter in front of me. I was facing the mirror as he stood to my right. He moved the scissors faster than anything. Scissors over comb went up my right side incredibly fast, gathering a ball of brown hair which he let fall with a clack before moving back. He systematically moved around my head doing this, wad after wad of brown hair falling first on my lap then on my shoulder, then to the floor. My ear looked funny, not only with no hair over it, but also with no hair behind it. It kind of stuck out.

He came all the way around to my left side, then almost without pausing, he started into the top. He simply pushed the comb into the top, just forward of the crown and made a big snap with the scissors. He ploughed further in and again went snap, snap with the scissors. A third time he went further across with a a third snap, snap. Then he moved forward and did it again. Finally he went across the front in the same way. The top was mess by now. Then, somehow, he just combed it over. Massive amounts of hair were combed out and fell all over. What was left was a neat, short haircut with a part on the side. “not bad, I thought, shorter than usual, but not bad”. Little did I realize.

The chair swung around to face the window. I didn’t know what he was doing. I heard a clack, clack behind me. Then the clippers wailed. He made two passes across my left side, from front to back, two more passes across my right side and then started to scoop the back off. The phone rang and he cursed, as if he’d been enjoying himself. The clippers stopped, he took the call and then they wailed again as he came back to finish.

Then something happened which I will never forget. As the barber was finishing the back, a guy walked by the big front window and looked in at me. He had long dark curly hair. And I realized, “oh my God”. That was me a week ago only now I was the cadet in the chair, short haircut, part on the side. It was me.

The barber finished the buzz. He combed my hair, still dry (I’d been used to the stylists wetting it to cut it) He combed it neatly and turned me back to the mirror. Oh, boy. My sides and back were buzzed, my ears were really sticking out now. I couldn’t believe he’d cut off so much hair and changed me so radically in such a short time. I was maybe seven minutes in the chair. I nodded my approval and he turned the chair back around, undid me and I got down.

The world didn’t end and I only got a few snide comments at school. I felt so self-conscious and yet now what I wouldn’t give to be able to become a regular at that barber-shop.

The End

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