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The Element Of Surprise by Snipped Sam

It was always a treat to ride in my next-door neighbour’s vintage car, with all the soft leather and polished wood and chrome. He was giving me a lift into town, I thought it was especially good because my older brother was not with us so I got to sit in the front, as we turned for the car park, he asked me how long I thought I needed.

"I just have the reference library to look up a couple of things up for my school project and change my over my books in the main library"

"Well as you know I have the dentists and then I shall take myself for a haircut"

I glanced at Mr Kittel’s hair it looked very short already

"When you’ve finished you may as well come and meet me there, I go to Mr Ash on Lambert Street"

"To wait for you?"

"That’s right Simon, saves waiting for me in the car park"

"And I don’t have to have a haircut?"

"Did I say you had to have a haircut Simon?"

"No Sir"

"I think you have your answer, but if you decide you would like to have a haircut or think you need one, I’m sure it can get taken care of"

Once the car was parked, we went our separate ways having arranged to meet at Mr Ash’s barber shop, whilst I was in the reference library, I was thinking about going to Mr Ash, I had never been there. I did what I planned to do at the library and then head towards Lambert Street and Mr Ash. It was easy enough to find with the static red and white striped pole and the G. Ash and Son sign above the door. When I got there Mr Kittle was already in the barber’s chair having his haircut, he saw me walk in from my reflection in the mirror and spoke to me and told Mr Ash that I was Simon who he had arranged to meet there. Mr Ash greeted me with a warm hello and I was pretty sure that it wasn’t my imagination that he was looking at my hair. I sat down on the wooden bench with my library books beside me, there was no one else waiting.

Their conversation centred around mild politics and Mr Ash remarked to me that they were putting the world to rights, I replied something to the effect that great minds think alike. As time went on Mr Kittle’s hair was so short and I was impressed with the care taken by Mr Ash with the haircut There was something very masculine about this establishment, something rather special I had not experienced or felt at the place I went to have my haircut. As Mr Ash held the mirror for Mr Kittle to see he was at pains to see that he was completely happy with his haircut. Mr Ash was younger than I had expected, perhaps late thirties and how smart Mr Ash looked in his short navy-blue barber’s jacket, light blue shirt and tie as well as dark grey trousers and smart black shoes. His thick black hair was cut short at the back and sides, he removed the cape from Mr Kittle and turned the chair, so Mr Kittle could step off. He was clearly a man very much in control, because Mr Kittle called him Joe I assumed that the G. Ash must be his father.
Mr Ash attended to Mr K brushing his shoulders, then taking him to the counter to pay having first held his jacket for him to put it back on. It was very clear to me that H. Ash and Son treated gentlemen with respect and I wondered if the junior customers got a similar treatment.

"Right young man, we better get you in the chair"

I was a bit taken aback by the barber assuming that I too would be having my haircut.

"But I haven’t said I would be having my haircut"

"No, but I just did, this way young man"

Before I really thought about it, I had stood up and followed Mr Ash to the chair and sat on it, the chair was turned back to face the mirror and the large white cotton cape was soon in position.

"I tell you what Joe, the anaesthetic from having my filling is wearing off, so I’m going to take a walk round the block while you’ve got Simon in the chair"

"No problem Sir, take your time we will be a while"

"Thanks Joe, I’ll see you in a while Simon"

I began to turn my head to speak to Mr Kittle but it was quickly held and move back firmly and I just managed an okay before a fine mist of water from a chrome dispenser was dampening my hair and he was combing my hair.

"So, you live next door to Mr Kittle"

"Yes, that’s right, have done for about six years"

"Such a nice chap"

"Yes, he is"

"And very much of the old school when it comes to haircuts"

"I know, he is that age"

"You make him sound ancient; he isn’t that old you know"

At this point he now had hold of a pair of scissors and had begun cutting my hair

"Probably not"

"A little bird also tells me that your dad is a short back and sides man as well"

"Not very hard to work out who that little bird was…but that doesn’t mean I have to have my hair short"

"I’m not so sure"

"What do you mean?"

"I was told that if I get you in the chair, I was to make the most of my chances"

"And you didn’t even really give me a choice"

"My father taught me to use the element of surprise, this is his shop but he is more or less retired although comes in once in a while, he trained me how to cut hair and look after customers"

"I had more or less decided to have my haircut anyway, but I’m worried how much hair you are going to take after what Mr Kittle has said"

"I can see that you would worry, but really there’s no point in worrying, I’ve got things all under control"

He was cutting the hair on top pulling my hair tightly between his fingers and snipping it really short, it was easy for him to say that there was no point in me worrying. He didn’t care what I thought, I wasn’t a regular customer of his but Mr Kittle was, he was to make the most of his chances. The element of surprise had certainly worked getting me into the barber’s chair, and after all a fourteen-year-old was easy enough for him to handle. We continued to chat away, no sign of Mr Kittle, after a good brush down of my head and face with a soft brush, he combed my hair making a severe parting on the left side.

"Looks pretty neat heh Simon?"

"I must admit it’s very neat and smart"

Having put the brush back, his left hand rested on the top of my head,

"You know I don’t have a choice about this"

He said, as his right hand selected some clippers from the counter in front of me, but before I even had a chance to answer my head had been quickly and firmly moved into position, with my head right down and my chin almost touching my chest. The clippers were sprung to life, the cold metal head touched the back of my neck and he started to run them up the back of my head.

"Oh no"

"I know old lad, it’s not fair"

"It’s not"

"I blame the man who invented these mean devices, then I wouldn’t have to use them"

"You didn’t have to use them"

"But we know what Mr Kittle said, make the most of your chances Joe… I’m only following orders"

It was quite hard to talk with my head pushed down and the clippers buzzing away through my hair, so I didn’t bother to reply, but I wasn’t in the least bit convinced about it only being about following orders. My head had been readjusted and he was clipping above my right ear when I heard Mr Kittle’s voice.

"We are almost done here Sir, how are your gums now?"

"A bit tender, but I have taken a couple of painkillers so it should ease a bit soon … gosh Joe you don’t hang around … that is some haircut you’ve given Simon"

"I don’t think that at the moment Simon is the biggest fan of Mr Leo J Wahl, the inventor of the electric clipper"

"Well, I think if Simon’s father was to meet this man Mr Wahl, he would shake his hand and buy him a drink, mind you Joe I think he would do exactly the same with you"

"I think you get the credit Sir, so a drink for you too"

"Oh, that’s for certain, Simon’s father and I had a little wager on whether I could get his hair cut shorter"

So, it all made sense now, my haircut was a bet and well planned and orchestrated by Mr Kittle and my father got the haircut for me that he wanted. Mr Kittle won the bet and thinking back to a conversation the other day, I had heard something about a bottle of malt whisky, Joe would probably get me as a new customer. Having finished my clipping, Joe embarked on a bit neck shaving with a flat razor and just above my ears. Having lifted my head back up, and powder dusted the back and sides he used a soft brush to remove any loose hairs. He then put a couple of dabs of Vaseline on my hair followed by a couple of larger dabs of Brylcreem, having rubbed it in a bit he used a stiff hairbrush on the top of my head. My hair lay completely flat with a severe side parting, saying that the Vaseline and Brylcreem together gave the perfect finish. When Joe held the mirror to show me the back, I was not really surprised just how short it was, I knew what he was doing when the clippers were going as high as they were.

Whilst I was wiping my neck with the fresh tissue that Joe had given me, Mr Kittle paid him for my haircut handing him a one-pound note and telling him to keep the change, as my haircut in 1974 only cost forty pence that was a great tip. My haircut more than passed inspection with my father, my older brother found my short haircut highly amusing and thought at sixteen he was invincible.I had very mixed feelings about Joe and I was yet to meet Mr Ash Senior, but that day would come!!

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