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Chad's Chair, Chad's Charm by Manny
I was running late for breakfast, but not too worried knowing the other fellows from the office weren't that punctual. The historic hotel had a great breakfast buffet; the outdoor seating area on the huge front porch was very nice with the large shade trees and views of the charming Main Street in the small town that wasn't far from our big processing facility.
The only thing that I really disliked about the hotel was that the blow dryer seemed very weak. It was taking forever to dry my hair, adding to my delay in getting ready. As I worked the brush through my thick brown hair, I noticed that it was getting quite long. No wonder the damp locks were taking so long to dry! I took a break from drying and combed the forelock straight down. The bulky fringe was my best barometer to indicate that I needed to schedule an appointment at the salon. Freshly trimmed, the bangs fell to just below my eyebrows. They remained manageable for another inch in length when blow dried and styled back off the brow. But once the forelock was hanging down towards the tip of the nose, well, it needed a good pruning!
Imagine my surprise when I observed my forelock hanging down to my upper lip! Oh my, a good two inches needed to be snipped off -- at least! Then I began noticing how long and bulky my hair was all over -- the sides lapped well over the ears and in back, I could even manage a small pony tail!
Mental note: get haircut as soon as business trip was over.
The drying session continued on for quite a bit longer -- and I went from noticing how long my hair was to how nice my hair was! Thick, shiny, lush -- the envy of every man approaching middle age. No thinning, no graying....it was my pride and I pampered it. I took the hand mirror and admired the back. Oh so nicely styled and full, spilling liberally to the base of my collar.
My relationship with my hair was something of a paradox. Despite my attachment to it, I frequently noticed men with extremely short haircuts -- military length and even tight butch cuts -- and felt jealous of their close crops. I admired the tidy looks and practical lengths. I also admired how masculine they looked. And I wondered what it would be like to have a barber take a clippers to my own lush mane! Just the thought of entering a barber shop sent a shiver down my spine. A wave of fear and excitement all rolled up in one emotion. Deep down I knew, one day it would happen. One day I would visit a barber shop. One day I would feel the clippers being driven through my pampered hair. And, one day, I too would have one of the ultra-short crops I so admired and feared.
Directly across the street from the front porch of the hotel was a small, traditional barber shop called Chad's. It was in a time warp -- with a whirling red and white pole outside and a huge plate window that showcase the single, elaborate antique barber chair that was a bit of a work of art by itself. Lovely upholstery, enamel pedestal, fancy iron work on the foot rest. I had casually strolled past the shop many times during the periodic visits to the town and quickly examined its interior. If ever there was a barber shop that I wanted to enter, it was Chad's!
The other attraction was the handsome young barber -- Chad, I presumed -- clad in his traditional white tunic that buttoned on his shoulder with matching white slacks and loafers. He was dressed like an old geezer, but he couldn't have been more than 30 or exuded a more virile appeal. His muscular arms bulged out of the short sleeves and he had a discreet tattoo of barbed wire encircling it just where it emerged from the tunic. Chad wore his own hair clipped into a short military style, just like those I so admired. If ever there was a barber that I would have take a clippers to my locks, it was Chad!
As I arrived at the table, my colleague asked, "Running late again, Sean? Or did you get the text about the delay and decide to take your time?"
"Delay, what delay?" I asked.
"Power outage at the plant. That storm last night. Won't be restored until afternoon at the earliest. There's no use heading out there until we get word that the power is back on," he replied.
There was a lot of discussion about what to do with the unexpected, free morning. Several of the fellows decided to see a local museum that featured a huge array of antique cars.
"I've already been there," I explained. "It's well worth it, though. Highly recommend it. But, I think I'll just hang out here for the morning." Then I saw the neon light in the barber shop flicker on and the pole start to whirl. As I watched Chad flip his door sign to 'open', I commented, "Maybe I'll pop over to the barber shop there for a haircut. I've been so busy of late, this has gotten a bit out of hand," I said running my fingers through my hair.
"I'm sure the barber can give you a nice 'short back and sides', Sean!" one of my colleagues laughed.
"It should be a lot cheaper than that fancy salon you normally use," another one noted.
I sat alone on the porch nursing my coffee, excited about the plan I was considering. Excited, but afraid. I watched Chad cape up his first client. What if that was me in the chair? Chad took a clippers to his nape. I squirmed. Oh my, what if those very clippers were being driven tightly up the back of my head? My locks falling to Chad's feet?! The man was getting a very short haircut which wasn't a surprise because his hair was already quite short when he'd entered the shop.
The waiter approached the table with a coffee pot and asked if he could top it off. I decided to engage him in a chat about Chad's.
"The barber shop there, is it a good place to get a haircut?" I asked.
The waiter smiled. "Well, there aren't many options in town here. Chad is a fine barber -- a veteran too. Very proficient at military length cuts. Very good with other standard men's lengths. Not sure, though, about longer styles like yours."
I pawed at my hair. "I've been wanting it cut shorter, so I thought I'd risk it at that shop."
"In that case, Chad's your guy! Just $13 bucks a cut too. I see he's finishing off the fellow now, so if you hurry...." the waiter suggested.
"Oh, but you just refilled my cup here," I pointed out, feeling a bit relieved that I had an excuse to delay any drastic action I might live to regret.
The waiter left, and I continued to sit on the porch, nursing my coffee very slowly as I watched Chad tidy up after his first client. He dusted off the chair and draped the cape over the back.
I asked myself what the odds were I'd end up in his chair. 50/50 I gave myself. I ran my fingers through my locks. The back was very full and long. I changed the odds to 70/30 in favor of my taking a seat in Chad's chair.
Unexpectedly, Chad opened the door to his shop and came out of the sidewalk. He looked like a hunk in his extremely tailored barber outfit. Slowly, he lit up a cigarette and took a drag. His eyes met mine as he casually blew a few rings of smoke. I smiled and nodded.
"Nice morning," he called across the rather narrow street.
"Sure is! That was quite a storm last night," I called back. My heart pounded. Chad had actually engaged me in a bit of chat!
He took a few more drags. My heart beat quickly. I wanted to keep engaging him. "How much do you charge for a haircut?" I asked, pushing myself forward a bit towards a haircut.
"It's a good deal here - just $13 bucks. No wait if you come now," he urged playfully.
"That's a beautiful chair," I called out from the safety of the porch.
"Was my grandfather's!" Chad called back.
I stood up. "Cool! So barbering is in your genes." I ran my fingers through my hair. "And I'm fairly much in need of a barber."
Chad put out his cigarette in the ash tray. "Come on over. I'm your man....." He turned and entered the shop.
I found myself leaving the porch of the hotel and crossing the street almost in a daze, like I was on auto-pilot. My heart pounded quickly and my legs felt like jelly. I saw my lush mane in the reflection of the window. How much of it would fall? A lot!
I pushed the shop door open and stepped in. The shop looked circa 1952! A chart of "official haircuts" hung in the waiting room. Oh my! I should ask for one of those. I almost peed in my pants at the thought. Perhaps the flattop?! If I could ever muster up the courage, it was my most heart-pounding fantasy!
"That chair is a real gem, Chad! I'm Wayne, by the way," I said.
"Have a seat, Wayne. It feels as good as it looks." The barber was propelling me to the chair! I began to feel like he was anxious to tackle my locks!
I hesitated a bit, and glanced in the mirror, "Uh, you're not that experienced with longer styles like this, are you?" I asked skeptically.
Chad pointed to the chart. "Those are my specialty." We both paused, and an awkward silence reigned. "Uh, but I can manage a trim too, if that's what you prefer," he finally tacked on to break the impasse.
I gathered up courage and took a seat in the antique chair. I had come this far, I was determined to get my first barbershop haircut. And, Chad was right, the antique chair felt divine! Despite the comfortable upholstery, I shifted nervously.
Chad snapped the cape, which made me jump a bit. "Hey, calm down. Didn't mean to startle you. I said I could give you a trim, remember?" he mentioned casually as he smoothed my hair a bit. Then, Chad surprised me by letting his fingers linger momentarily in the plush locks of the nape. I sat submissively trying to conceal what stirred beneath the cape.
"Sorry," I murmured. "I guess I am a bit nervous. Never been in a barbershop before. The truth is, I've been toying with the idea for a while now about a change....going shorter."
"Since you're so nervous, I take it you're contemplating a big change," Chad purred, smiling, as he fastened the cape snuggly in place. There! I was caped! Immobilized in the chair! Should I spur Chad on to take me down or should I work hard to reign him in and save what I could of my precious locks? "Or, maybe just a bit shorter -- perhaps a taper cut," he said grasping the copious locks again at my nape, this time grasping them in a more authoritative manner. "Clippered short at the nape and around the ears?"
I looked at myself in the big mirror and gulped. Then I saw the line of clippers hanging from the counter. The fascination and fear hit me simultaneously.
"That's what I'm trying to decide. What do you recommend?" I asked Chad.
He took a brush to my hair and began working it through my locks, combing my hair straight down. My thick, long forelock veiled my eyes. "How long has it been since you've had this cut?" he asked.
Did it matter? Was he mocking me or shaming me into a short cut?
"Too long," I sighed nervously.
He brushed the forelock up and grasped it between in fingers, like it was imprisoned, right near the base. "I'd start by taking this off to here....and go from there."
OMG! There were at least five inches dangling, on Chad's chopping block.
"That would be quite short," I said nervously.
Chad took the barber shears out of his pocket and snapped them open and shut, putting me on notice that he was not going to let me leave the shop with an overgrown thatch of hair.
"You did mention going shorter...." his voice lingered as he toyed with my captive forelock. "Of course, if you prefer this flopping down in your eyes...."
"Whatever you think, Chad," I blurted out.
Simultaneously he snipped the forelock off, sending five full inches to the cape. I was astonished by the truncated lock that hardly measured more than an inch. It fell awkwardly well above the mid-point of my forehead!
"I love it when a client opts for 'barber's choice'! I think you'll like a nice, crisp taper, Wayne!" He tussled my hair lightly. "You're going to lose a few pounds from up here by the time I finish your first barbershop haircut!" Then he pushed my head forward, so that my chin almost touched my chest. I heart pounded wildly as I was held by his strong arm, immobilized, in a penitent position. Then I heard the snap of the clippers being brought to life.
My first experience of the clippers at my nape sent a jolt through me. It happened quickly, and it was intense. In a professional thrust, he scooped off a huge chunk of my hair from the nape -- the same hair that he'd fondled moments earlier. He repeated the motion several times. I sat quietly, trying to picture the damage he was inflicting on my plush mane.
Then he wrenched my head to the side and brought the clippers up through my sideburn and temple. A huge clump fell to the cape. I eyed it warily as it fell away. Then he clippered more off around the ear. I could see the beginning of my transformation in the mirror. I was getting a crisp taper!
"What brings you into town?" Chad asked, suddenly deflecting my attention from the makeover.
"Business. That big processing complex just out of town on US-29," I replied.
"My cousin works there! Says it's a great place to work," Chad replied.
I watched a bit apprehensively as Chad took the taper shorter and further up the side of my head. The one side was still plush and falling in soft, gentle waves over the ear while the side Chad was working on was clipped quite close to the scalp a third of the way up and then tapering away in a very tidy business cut.
"Glad to hear that. Is he one of the managers?" I asked.
"Like Hell!" Chad laughed. "Worker bee. On the assembly line. Nice fellow though. Sports the most fantastic flattop, courtesy of yours truly. It's my signature haircut," Chad said, pausing from his taper.
I clung to the arms of the chair under the cape to keep from quaking in the chair. Chad was pushing all my buttons.
"So what do you think?" he asked, smoothing the long hair on the left side. "Before or after?" he chuckled as he fondled the clipped bristles on the right side.
"Is that the after? I mean, you're not going any shorter?" I asked spontaneously.
Chad smiled broadly, "Oh, getting a bit more daring, are we?"
"Well, perhaps just a bit shorter," I replied, shyly.
He quickly combed down my short bangs. "Sure thing." Then, to my shock, he scissored off another inch! They were now up to the top of my forehead almost!!
I was about ready to explode under the cape. Then, I could not control myself. "Would a flattop work for me?"
"Would a flattop work for you?" he repeated slowly, very animatedly. "Let's see...."
He fiddled with the clippers and snapped off the guard. He wrenched my head in the opposite direction and brought the clippers up the side, very tightly, all the way up through the crown! The left side was clipped clean, down to the scalp all the way up!
He turned the chair away from the mirror. My stomach churned with excitement and fear. His hands flew into overdrive. Hair poured down onto the cape. I felt lightheaded -- almost nauseous.
What had I gotten myself into? The naked teeth of the clippers were stripping virtually everything off the sides and back.
"You are going to turn heads with your new flattop, Wayne," Chad commented as he urged me to sit up straight and keep my head very still as he began flattening out the top. "Now that I've stripped off that pretty boy look you sauntered in here with, I say that your new look will be the talk of the office."
"You can bet your bottom dollar on that," I commented, thinking how my colleagues were going to laugh at my haircut when they got back from the antique car museum.
"You have great hair for a flattop. I could leave it plush and long on top, but I'm thinking I want to take you down to a very, very short military length....landing strip and all. Let's go for a very manly, stud-look!"
"As a sort of penance for that girly boy look I sauntered in here with?" I asked, feeling a sting of shame at my previous length.
"Precisely! What I'd really like to do is to 'shoe' you!" Chad exclaimed.
"Oh, Chad!" I gasped. "It's barber's choice....all the way." I gripped the arms of the chair and braced myself for an extreme adventure.
Chad pushed the clippers up through my cowlick and straight down most of the top of my head, pulling up just short of the hairline at the top of my forehead. He leaned over and whispered in Wayne's ear, "The more hair I take off, the more handsome you become, Wayne."
I squirmed with pleasure under the cape, "Then maybe you should shave it all off, Chad. Go ahead, put an end to it all, to my love affair with my hair."
"Your wish is my command. It'll be a pleasure to stroke your smooth virgin scalp once plush, pampered mane is history, Buddy! Maybe I can take the rest of the day off and show you a good time here...."