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New barber, new me by Manny

The first thing I noticed as I pulled up to Charlie's Barber Shop was the absence of my regular barber's pick-up truck in its usual spot near the side entrance. In fact, the shop appeared empty, although the light was on and the pole was spinning. That meant that at least one of the other barbers was there.

My instinct was to drive on. Come back some other day. Charlie was the only barber I had ever used since moving to the community five years ago. He was the only one I trusted. The geezer, whose name I didn't even know, was very old school. Everyone left looking extremely "barbered". Plus, his trembling hand did not inspire confidence.

Then there was Dan. Several times when I'd entered the shop and Charlie was busy, Dan would invite me to take a seat. I felt a bit guilty as I explained I was "waiting for Charlie" even though I had been assured several times that waiting for a preferred barber was fine.

My hesitation about Dan was his tendency for shorter-than-requested haircuts. "Just a trim" meant very little to him. Ironically, he himself had quite long hair for a professional barber -- his thick dark curls lapped well over his ears and collar. Perhaps it was his little thing -- the shaggy barber scalping his paying clients.

During the times I waited for Charlie, Dan would look at me very intently. He always insisted on politely inviting me to take a seat in his chair when I'd enter, even though he knew I only trusted Charlie with my hair. It began a bit of a joke. And, to be honest, I had toyed with one day accepting the offer and letting him have a go at my mane.

I had always been a bit protective of my thick chestnut locks. Oh, why not confess it? Quite possessive of them -- kept my hair styled in a longish business cut. Several inches on top, fairly full at the sides and back.

The idea of getting scalped absolutely terrified me (and secretly excited me).

Just as I was deciding to leave and return another day, Dan came around the corner of the building from a smoking break. He waved at me and then strode over to the window of my car. "Charlie needed to go into quarantine. He was at a wedding Saturday and the person he was sitting next to became symptomatic. COVID. But, I can take care of you. Come on in. Or Elmer can, your pick today."

Dan had that same keen look in his eye. Immediately, my trepidation with Dan came to mind --the very short haircuts he gave. I hardly ever saw him using scissors. He was clippers all the time. I squirmed in my car seat, thinking of him pushing my head down firmly and taking the clippers to my shag.

"You've never cut my hair before, have you?" I asked, stalling for time, feeling my throat beginning to constrict and my lips turn dry.

"Nope, but I've wanted to," he said, staring at my glossy locks. "And you look way overdue. How long has it been since Charlie last gave you a haircut?"

My eyes darted to the rearview mirror. The forelock was quite long and heavy, threatening to cascade down into my eye at any moment. Dan would have a field day with it! Again, the flash image of me caped in Dan's chair sent a jolt throughout my system. I looked up and saw his eager stare gnawing away at my resistance. Then, I felt myself reaching for the door handle.

"A while. I am way overdue. Can't wait two more weeks, that's for sure," I said as I opened the car door. "You'll finally get your chance today, Dan." I ran my fingers through my hair. It would not be this length when Dan finished with me, that was for sure.

Dan did not try to conceal his eagerness as he led me into the shop.

Elmer rose from his chair, as if it were his turn to administer my haircut.

"He asked for me, Elmer," Dan said with a slight wink to ensure I proceeded to his chair at the back of the shop.

As I approached Dan's chair, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was about to let eager Dan take the clippers to me. I felt a bulge of exhilaration.
"Whoa, it is quite long," I said, running my fingers through it. I was getting him primed to unleash his clippers, and I knew it!

Dan patted the seat. "Not for much longer, though. I'll take care of that shag! Pronto! I come from a distinguished line of Italian barbers -- both my father and grandfather were barbers."

"That surprises me -- I would expect your own haircut would reflect that," I commented, staring at his mass of curls.

"There's an Italian saying....'the cobbler's son runs barefoot'. I guess there's a corollary about the barber's son has hair in his eyes. Plus my Mama doted on my curls," as he laughed and his curls danced about his handsome face with verve.

I was seated, facing away from the mirror, as was the custom in the shop. Clients were always treated with the big reveal at the end of their haircuts.

The faint smell of cigarette smoke became apparent as Dan fastened the cape around my neck. I felt a bit woozy. I gripped the arms of the chair to steady myself. What I was planning for my plush business cut, letting Dan take his clippers to it, made me tremble with fear and excitement.

"So, what'll it be for you today?" Dan asked as he combed through my hair. His hand smoothed my silken hair down, and I felt his touch linger a bit.

"I've never seen you give a scissors cut before Dan. You seem more comfortable with the clippers," I noted.

"Yep, my instrument of choice," he replied.

"What do you suggest?" I asked, pushing the envelope.

Dan continued combing my hair a bit more....then he combed the forelock straight down. The thick, bulky lock covered my eyes and approached the tip of my nose.

"Not this," he quipped. He was mocking me!

"It has grown very long and bothersome," I noted.

"Well, I could attempt a trim a-la-Charlie, or you could get a real haircut for a change," Dan said eagerly.

"Haircut sounds good. How short?" I asked with a touch of anxiety in my tone.

"Very short," Dan replied, laying his cards on the table. "Truth is, I've been wanting to take the clippers to you for years." He picked up a huge set of Oster's. "Every time I'd watch Charlie gingerly taking off the tips, I'd think how much better you'd look with a real haircut."

"And today you will finally get your chance," I said, now feeling quite excited. I shifted anxiously in the chair under the cape.

"So, something short and tidy with the clippers?" he stated his intention in the form of a question.

I squeezed the arms of the chair beneath the billowing pinstriped cape. "Sounds like a plan!" I urged.

The clippers sprang to life and Dan lifted the massive forelock with his comb. Then, he quickly ran the clippers over it, sending almost the whole length of it to the cape!

The thick chestnut-colored lock sitting in my lap made me heave with excitement. "Whoa, you didn't waste any time. Is anything left in front?" I inquired nervously.

"Not much!" he exclaimed.

I imagined the truncated bangs at the top of my forehead -- hideously short. The forelock in my lap was almost intact.

"And now for this thatch back here," Dan said, forcefully pushing my head forward. "Is a #2 up the back to the crown okay or shall I taper it a bit and leave a little length on top?"

I sat there, my heart beating, scared to death....but determined to move forward.

"It's up to you, Dan. You've waited long enough to take the clippers to me. So, let it be barber's choice." The instruction sent a jolt of excitement through me.

He needed no additional encouragement. The clippers screamed tightly up the back of my head. I felt my plush executive cut giving way to almost stubble. He flicked the wad of shorn hair and I saw a clump sail to the ground via my peripheral vision.

Dan enjoyed holding me firmly down with a tight grip. "Going to have you looking like a real man when you leave here today," he quipped.

"Giving me my money's worth, it seems," I replied.

"You bet," Dan said. "I was thinking about a tight ivy, or possibly a crewcut. A real change for you."

Just then the barber shop door opened, and Charlie walked in.

"Charlie!" Dan stammered. "What are you doing here? I thought you were in quarantine."

"Well, I was until I got a call from the people who do the tracing. Apparently, I was nowhere near the wedding guest who was diagnosed. There was a mix-up, and they said I didn't have to quarantine after all," Charlie explained.

Then he looked at my forelock in my lap and the clumps of my hair at Dan's feet.

"And what's going on here?" he demanded. "This is not his usual cut."

Dan struggled to explain, "Uh, um, uh, he said he wanted something shorter."

"But it looks like you're giving him a crewcut!" Charlie exclaimed.

I needed to give Dan some cover as it was Charlie's shop and I didn't want any friction between the barbers.

I swallowed and explained, "Yes, Charlie, that's what I asked for, a crewcut."

With that, Dan triumphantly brought the clippers up to my forehead and ran them straight down the top of my head. Hair cascaded off and covered the cape. He clipped my whole head repeatedly, removing all length. The quick transformation left me feeling a bit numb and dizzy. The cape turned to almost a complete chestnut color. My hair was everywhere. Then Dan swapped clippers and took the slides and back down to a #1.

Charlie watched the haircut progress with great curiosity and commented, "I would never have guessed that you'd go for such a short haircut."

"Well, if we all go into lockdown again and the governor orders barbers to close their shops, he'll be set for a few months with this new crewcut," Dan commented.

"Or, if you do house calls, you could drop by my place and keep me clipped," I remarked, winking at Dan.

"Just let me know your address. I'll be there with cape and clippers in tow," Dan replied.

"I think I'm going to really like this shorter, more practical length." I picked up a wad of cut hair and fingered it before dropping it back to the cape.

"The crewcut makes you look quite virile," Dan replied, taking a duster to my head and examining his handiwork.

Then, Dan swiveled the chair around and I got the first look at my new streamlined haircut. I beamed broadly. I looked like a different person, and I loved it! I reached out from under the cape and felt the stubble. The back of my head was almost naked.

I looked up on the schedule above the cash registers. Thursday was the only day the barbers on duty were Elmer and Dan -- Charlie's day off. I knew, regardless of what happened with the pandemic that Dan would be my new regular.

Then Dan began to apply lather around my ears. Oh, his signature final flourish -- exaggerated arches!

As he began carving them, my mind turned toward work. Fortunately, we were all still telecommuting and had the option to dispense with the video option during meetings. Once I got used to my new look and worked up my courage, I'd put it in video mode and let everyone see the new me.

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