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Going Local by Manny

The move went well, better than expected. No glitches signing the lease or having the furniture delivered. I even had an extra day to settle in and check out my new neighborhood, plus the weekend, before reporting to my new job.

I decided to walk a bit and see what sort of shops were in the small plaza about a half a mile from my new place. I'd seen the big sign for the fitness center as I drove past earlier in the day and thought I'd check it out -- what equipment it had and how reasonable the rates were. There were about another 10-12 shops in the complex, as well, that I thought I could check out.

Approaching the plaza from behind, I surveyed the expected array of dumpsters, trash cans and big A/C units. One of the doors opened, and a middle-aged man sporting an immaculate white tunic emptied some a dustbin into the dumpster. Dentist, perhaps? But what would he be throwing away? Soiled white paper towel bibs?

I came around to the front and instantly adjusted my guess -- the swirling red and white pole screamed out 'barber'! I glanced at my reflection in the plate glass window of the shop I was in front of. Hair was just a tad longer than normal, but it looked fine. I pushed my forelock to the side a bit and felt the plush, full back. Yep, I'd be needing a bit of a trim before long.

As I passed the barber shop, heading towards the fitness place, I glanced in. Very traditional! Right out of the 1950s with the matching huge red and white, the checked linoleum floor, the strips of neon lighting above the mirror....oh, and the array of clippers! Dozens of them. One older man was clipping away at a geezer. The barber who I'd seen empty the trash was fiddling with the cash register.

A window sign caught my eye -- Thursdays: senior discounts - open till 7 pm. Well, I was no senior...and really not a barbershop-type person for haircuts. I kept walking. But, I did like the idea of supporting local businesses....and I also liked the idea of being able to walk to the plaza from my place. Even though I lived in a medium-sized city, I thought I could pull off a small town existence by doing as much business as possible locally, even some by foot. Good for my health, and good for the environment.

Legs of Steel Fitness Center had everything I needed, and the price was reasonable. Yes, going local would be my mantra. And that meant for a haircut too! In fact, I would get a trim on my way home....that is, if there was no wait.

I was feeling quite good about my day as I opened the door of the barber shop and stepped in. The move was behind me, I had a new gym membership....and in a few minutes, I'd have a fresh trim to start my new job.

Both barbers greeted me. The geezer in the chair was being uncaped, so I was a bit unsure if I would get the older barber or the middle aged one.

The younger of the two waved me back to his chair. "I'm Les. Have a seat," he said.

I felt a bit weird mounting the foot rest, as I'd never sat facing away from the mirror before to have my hair cut.

"Oh, I'm Martin...Marty, actually. Just moved into the neighborhood behind the plaza. I'm checking out the local businesses," I said.

Les cast a huge white cape and pulled in snuggly around my neck. "Welcome!" He ran a comb through my thick hair with a bit of difficulty. I felt like suggesting he use a brush, but thought it might be bad form. "So, what'll it be for you today? Any special instructions?"

"Not really. Just tidy me up for my new job. I need to make a good impression on day one," I said cheerfully.

I felt the comb being yanked through my dense forelock. The barber was combing my bangs straight down. And they were actually quite a bit longer than I'd imagined. In fact, they completely covered my eyes.

I could hear the barber priming his shears a bit. Again, I was torn between suggesting a length ('just below the brow, please') and letting the barber do his thing.

Les decided for me. I suddenly felt the blades of the shears slipping behind my thick forelock. It became clear he was not going to inquire about a length. My heart rate jumped dramatically when I realized that the shears were about half way up my forehead. Certainly, I should say....


The barber's very first action was to whack off half of my forelock. I glanced down in my lap -- there, amid the white cloth, were two-inch chunks of cut hair, my hair!

"So, Marty, where did you move from?" Les asked nonchalant as he combed through my forelock again. He decided to take off another half inch! Snippets fluttered in every direction around the cut chunks of hair that still had my undivided attention.

"Rochester, New York," I said, gripping the arms of my chair, trying to steady myself a bit. I tried to imagine how short my bangs were now.

"Shoot, you'll love it down here....away from all that snow," Les said.

"I won't miss those winters at all," I agreed.

Then, I felt Les, pushing my head down. I resisted a bit instinctively, but he was firm. Slowly but surely I was made to bow my head, deeply, staring right at all the cut hair in my lap.

Then, I heard the clippers. I felt the naked metal teeth vibrating low on my neck. OMG. At most, in the past, I'd have a barber gently lift my locks with a comb and clipper off the tips. That was not Les' intention. No, not at all. Say something, I told myself.

"Uh, I, um, uh..." All I could do was stammer a bit.

Les would not be delayed. The clippers came up tight against the skin on my neck, through my lush nape. I had never had the clippers pushed tight up the back of my head like that! The first dramatic swipe made me feel woozy. I continued gripping the arms of my chair. A third of the way up the back, the clippers eased away. My haircut was going to be VERY short!

He did a second drive, like the first. Just let him cut your hair, I told myself, and managed to relax a bit. Yes, it's going to be short -- very short....but no one knows you here.

A lightbulb sort of popped on in my mind. I'm brand new here -- no one knew me. I could arrive at work with a crewcut and no one would look twice at me. I kind of liked that situation -- a makeover for me and no angst about what people would think.

My heart beat suddenly quickened. Could I do it?! A little game of this unexpectedly short haircut. Yes, I could -- and I would! I felt so excited by the idea! When I was shown the finished haircut...I would suggest taking it a bit shorter even. Especially the bangs!! I had never had my bangs snipped off to the top of my forehead before, but now, seeing so much of my forelock in my lap, I had a hankering to be rid of nearly all of it!

"Do you get a lot of business on Thursday nights when you're open late, or is this generally the way things are?" I asked, actually sounding very casual and calm. The relaxed tone was a sharp contrast to the roiling excitement inside. I was going to leave the shop with virtually no forelock to fuss with!

I felt Les taking the clippers around my ears. He was mowing it off into a very short taper. "The last Thursday of the month is payday for a lot of our clientele. That's the day to avoid. Tonight is a bit slow. You just can never tell."

He cocked my head in the other direction and began tackling the opposite side. "I imagine with your move and everything you hadn't had time for a haircut in a while. It had gotten really long. So thick and overgrown...." Les noted with a slight tone of disapproval.

"That's right. I was so glad to stumble on this shop. I was thinking to myself I'd go crazy if it went another day so long like that -- hair in my eyes and over the collar in back," I said.

"You like really short bangs?" Les asked, already combing them down again. "I can manage that...."


Now they had been chopped off to near the top!

I watched Les fuss with a set of clippers and consider a variety of guards. "For the top....a #4 or a #3? Any preference?" he asked.

Was he really going to take the clippers to the top of my head?! "Shorter is better," I suddenly blurted out.

"Right!" Les replied. He snapped the smaller of the two plastic guards on over the teeth. Instantly, he was driving the buzzing machine over the top of my head and mounds of hair was falling to the cape. Again and again, he drove the clippers over the top, removing every vestige of length. "You're getting your money's worth, Marty!"

"So, glad I popped in on a whim!" I said. "I have a feeling I'm going to be a regular here."

I enjoyed the feel of the clippers taking away the vestiges of growth. Finally, Les snapped the machine off.

Then, he took a duster to me, whisking vigorously around my ears and neck and face. Finally, he swiveled the chair around. My hair was so short! A crewcut, really! I stared in disbelief and wonder. I looked boyish -- at least ten years younger than when I'd walked in.

"What do you think?" Les asked, holding up the mirror to show off the back. Oh, it was very short and very tidy! Clipped to perfection.

I summonsed up my resolve, "Would you mind terribly? In back and on the sides...a bit tighter?" I requested.

"A bit, or a lot?" Les asked with a twinkle in his eye. "Let's make it a zero on the sides and back and a #2 on top! I want you leaving here completely satisfied."

"Let's!" I blurted out, bowing my head, waiting for the clippers to begin another round of shearing.

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