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Mr Brown in Charge by clippered kid

Let me take you through what would happen on a typical visit to Mr Brown's shop. I'd stopped going with my Dad around the time I started secondary school, about 11. At first I was given strict instructions to behave and just ask for a short back and sides. Also because the finished look of the haircut still did'nt matter to me, I even said yes when Mr Brown made the offer of " anything on it ".
At some point however Mr Brown took it upon himself to dispense with the petty formality of actually asking me what I wanted. Instead once I was settled in the chair and caped up, he would place his hands on either side of my head forcing me to look straight ahead into the mirror and pay attention. Then rather than ask me what I wanted he would simply announce in confident tone.
"Good short back and sides for you son eh". To which I always felt compelled to reply
"Yes please sir". On hearing this Mr Brown would give me a smile to confirm I'd given the correct and expected response, before adding another of his little barber's comments such as. "Shorter the better for you lad is'nt it " or
"I know you come to me for a proper haircut David don't you son." Again all I could do was smile and politely agree and Mr Brown would commence my full 1950's type scalping.
This became the regular routine. It might seem a bit odd until you remember that Dad was still a regular visitor to Mr Brown for his own haircuts, and I imagine that while he was in the chair my situation would of been discussed and decisions made on my behalf. Anyway, I had no real objection to this practice, at least not at first. At that time I liked to think of myself as one of Mr Brown's favourites. I was one of the regulars. Mr Brown knew how I had it. He did'nt even need to ask and in a funny way it made me feel a bit special, a bit grown up. But it never changed, even when I got older. Not once did Mr Brown offer me the option of a trim or tidy up. So many times just before the clippers first touched the back of my neck, I'd try to say something. Nothing too outrageous just
"Not too short sir" or
"Not quite so high over the ears as last time please," but the words just would'nt come out. For me to make any of these comments uninvited would definitely been seen as cheeky back then. Even though Mr Brown was friendly and I liked him, he did have this natural air of authority and I was far to polite to risk offending him. Plus if my behaviour at the barbers was'nt up to scratch Dad would get to hear of it the next time he came in.
Even when it came to the grease, somewhere along the line Mr Brown stopped asking if I wanted it or not, and two handfuls of the stuff were applied to the finished haircut without question. This was my normal visit to the barbers routine for many years, and for many years none of this bothered me. Both Mr Brown and I knew our roles. As I said before I looked upon him in the same way as a teacher at school. The overwhelming feeling I got was that he was in charge and I'd always have to do whatever he said in his shop.
There was only one time when I did try to speak up a little for myself. It concerned the application of the grease and as you might imagine it did'nt go exactly to plan. This happened when I was about 13 just before Mr Browns haircuts really started to bother me.
First let me explain Mr Browns technique, I can remember it vividly to this day. The grease was contained in plain clear plastic bottles and there was always 2 or 3 of them sitting on the counter top in front of you just lying in wait. When the haircut was finished Mr Brown would reach for the nearest bottle and take up position behind the chair. I was instructed to hold my head up nice and straight which meant like it or not I had no choice but to view the whole process in the mirror.
Mr Brown would hold one hand over the centre of my head and squeeze the light brown goo out of the bottle until he had a good handful. This was then plonked straight down on top of my head. Then he'd walk forward, hold his hand over the sink in front of me and squeeze out a second handful. Putting the bottle down and cupping his hands together to make sure he did'nt spill a single drop he would re-take position behind the chair. This second handful joined the first on my head and the two handfuls of grease were vigorously rubbed into my hair till every bit was thoroughly coated in the stuff. Mr Brown would even use the roughly clipped hair on the back and sides of my head to get as much grease off the palms of his hands and on to my head as possible, before wiping his hands with a small towel.
Now came the final combing, a nice sharp part with the fringe at the front combed up and back to form a sort of wall of hair straight up off the forehead. Mr Brown often told me I had very thick hair which made it hard to part. So the final act of all my haircuts, before being shown the finished job, was Mr Brown reaching for his clippers again and dabbing the edge of them up and down the part several times to make it more clearly defined. Only then did Mr Brown pick up his big hand mirror and allow me to view the finished job in all it's glory. And of course allow me to thank him profusely for all his efforts.
Remarkably at this time my objection to the grease still had nothing to do with the finished look of the haircut. I sort of felt that having the grease on was just all part of having a haircut from Mr Brown, it was just what happened. Mr Brown liked to "finish the job off with a little drop of grease" as he sometimes put it and he was in charge, simple as that. My objection to the grease was'nt the look of the stuff, but the feel of the stuff. Not so much when it was first applied in the shop but a couple of hours later. The grease would dry out and stiffen up. I really could'nt stand it. It felt awful and every time I went to the barbers I knew I was going to have to wash my hair when I got home. It was the business of having to wash it out that bugged me.
So it was that on one particular visit to the barbers I somehow managed to pluck up the courage to actually say something. With the haircut finished Mr Brown reached for the nearest bottle of grease, turned and gave a little nod in my direction. On this occasion however, instead of smiling and nodding back to acknowledge it was time for the grease as usual, with my heart in my mouth, in a nervous hesitant voice I spoke.
"Erm I don't---I don't really want anything on it tonight please sir."
Although it was a perfectly reasonable request I felt that just by uttering these few words I was being really cheeky hardfaced and ungrateful. It would'nt of surprised me in the least if Mr Brown had simply said
"No you don't son. So long as your in my shop and I'm your barber I'll decide what you have and don't have, that means it's grease as usual for you tonight." He might even have followed up by promising to have a word with Dad about my behaviour next time he came in. I never really thought it would be as simple as
"Fair enough it's your hair" Mr Brown just was'nt the type. But that's not what happened, instead Mr Brown set about talking me out of it.
I sat caped up in the chair going nowhere as Mr Brown stood over me, still with the bottle of grease in his hand and a puzzled look on his face. It was a long time ago so I can't recall what was said word for word but the conversation consisted mainly of Mr Brown saying things like
" What's put this idea in your head, we always have a little drop of grease on as a rule son, don't we." and
" A little drop of grease does'nt do you any harm son doe's it. I'd much rather see you walking out of that door with a drop of grease just to finish the job off. Would'nt feel right otherwise would it ?"
All I could do was sit there dumbly nodding in agreement. Clearly Mr Browns attitude was I was just being a bit silly and he'd soon put a stop to this nonsense and get things back to normal. He went on
" I'm surprised at you David making such a fuss over a little drop of grease." and
" Be honest with me son don't you think it looks a lot better with the grease on eh, much smarter is'nt it."
It had taken all my nerve to ask Mr Brown not to put anything on it in the first place. There was no way I could argue with him while he went on and on about how much better he thought a haircut looked when finished off with a little drop of grease. It quickly became clear to me that Mr Brown had no intention of letting me out of that chair until the grease had been applied and the haircut properly finished off to his satisfaction. What I wanted was irrelevant. There was nothing else for it but for me to give in and accept the fact.
Now there's something I'd like to point out. A kid today faced with a similar situation might pout, sulk, go all sullen and miserable. Reply only in grunts or snappy answers like "yeah" "go on then" or "suppose so." Back in the 70's that sort of behaviour was unthinkable. I was far too polite and respectful. I even felt I was in the wrong. I knew that not only was I going to let Mr Brown grease me up, I was going to have to endure it with a smile on my face. I was going to have to admit out loud that he was right and I was wrong, then we could forget the whole incident ever happened. Mr Brown went on
"All these years son we've always put the grease on and it's never bothered you before son has it?" Eventually I spoke
"Actually, now I think about it you're right sir. It would'nt be right getting out of the chair without the grease on would it."
On hearing this a big smile spread across Mr Browns face. I was being a good lad again, he'd won, he'd put a stop to all this no grease nonsense, and of course he'd re-established just who was in charge. Mr Brown proceeded to apply the grease as usual whilst at the same time praising me for seeing sense, coming to him for proper haircuts, and not making a fuss over a little drop of grease.
With the grease applied, clippers down the part, and my hair combed into it's immovable solid lump, up and back off my forehead, Mr Brown picked up his big hand mirror to show me the finished job. Tonight he took a little longer over this process. As he manouvered the mirror round the back of my head Mr Brown spoke in a positive encouraging tone
"That's better son is'nt it. Don't you think that looks much smarter David with a drop of grease on." He continued
"Be honest with me son you have to admit it looks a lot better does'nt it."
Again were a kid today might of sulked, gone miserable and made his feelings plain saying things like
"If you say so." Back then I could'nt conceive of doing anything like that. Instead I agreed and thanked Mr Brown wholeheartedly for my short back and sides just to get things over with. I said
"Yes sir it does look better you were right. It feels right now too sir."
"Course it does son, makes all the difference. Finishes the job off nicely does'nt it, gives it that just come from the barbers look."
From that day on up until Mr Brown retired the issue was never mentioned again. I accepted the fact that Mr Brown wanted to finish off every haircut with a drop of grease to make sure I had the "just been to the barbers look." And that was the only time I ever made any kind of request regarding my haircut to Mr Brown.

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