Let’s face it, at my current age a haircut is not the traumatic event it used to be. For one thing, I’m not as vain as I used to be, so if the haircut isn’t “just right” it’s no big deal. Even the best haircut only looks good for about a week, and who wants to get their haircut every damn week?
And then there’s the fact that there’s not much I can do with what’s left of my hair. The bald-on-top-long-in-the-back deal looks horrible, as does the bald-on-top-with-ponytail. Good Lord. And no, I’m not completely bald on top, but close enough at this stage. So I just have the barber cut it really short – not a buzzcut but short enough that I don’t have to part it or mess with it when I get out of the shower; just towel-dry-and-go.
I had been using one of these styling shops like Fantastic Sam’s or Cuts By Us, but the results were not always satisfactory. The cutters they seem to attract either girls with little experience who only know *one* particular men’s haircut (the one they learned in school), or gay guys who are too chit-chatty and therefore take too long to do a relatively simple job. Just cut my damn hair the way I ask you to, alright? If I say, “Don’t touch my sideburns,” I mean DON’T TOUCH MY FUCKING SIDEBURNS! I don’t know why, but many/most barbers (male and female) like to trim your sideburns up to above the top of the ear. Just leave them be, okay? I like looking like Elvis!
Another thing, my hairline in the back is goofy. It’s actually in the shape of an “m.” But a lot of haircutters obsessively want to force a straight collar hairline on me, which means it often ends up halfway up the back of my head! “Just taper it to a point in the back,” I always instruct them. Most of them either never hear it or totally disregard me.
Anyway, there is this old-fashioned barbershop in town: Four chairs, bunch of old guys sitting around reading the newspaper and watching Fox News while waiting for their turn. First time I went in there a relatively young guy cut my hair. Did a pretty good job, too, even though he ignored my “Just put a #8 guard on your clipper and mow away!” request.
So I went back there yesterday for my “Summer In Washington” haircut which I’m hoping will last me until August when I come back to Pensacola. The owner, an old guy who I believe was cutting hair in Nazareth around the time of Jesus’ birth, beckoned me to his chair. He said nothing…nothing to me after my initial greeting when I walked in the door. Just wrapped me up and went to work, never asking me how I wanted it cut. I wondered: Could he read my mind?
As soon as I sat down, one of the old guy’s regular customers walked in. There were two other barbers that were open, but this old dude wanted my barber. I figured I was in for the bum’s rush.
As he began cutting my hair, I noticed that he had some sort of palsy, perhaps the onset of Parkinsons. I kept thinking about a horrible line I once read in CAR AND DRIVER magazine. They were describing how convertibles are hard to keep from flexing because they have no roof structure. The author of the story called the latest version of the Ford Thunderbird, “the Katherine Hepburn of convertibles.” He later apologized. But that’s what I was thinking yesterday, that mine was the Katherine Hepburn of barbers. I wondered how this was going to turn out? I was worried for my ears.
When he got to the back I warned him about my hairline: He complied. On the sides, I cautioned him about my sideburns: No problemo. And I’m thinking, “I wonder what he has in store for the top?” Well I needn’t have wondered. Without so much as touching the few strands on the top of my head, he whipped the sheet (or whatever they call that thing) off me and I was done. Out the door…next! Quickest. Haircut. Ever. He didn’t even spin me around so I could see the back.
“That’s it?” says I, a little surprised.
“That’s it,” says he, adding. “Ten bucks.”
I forked over the ten and for the first time in my life did not tip my barber.
Mind you, I’m not unhappy with the haircut. It’s just not as short as I’d prefer, especially on top. But maybe I got off lucky with Shaky McFlakey there.
I often ponder the question of when to quit flying. One day in the hopefully-distant future I’ll be too old to fly safely…or maybe too old to inspire the necessary confidence in my passengers that I can handle things safely. Legally I can continue as long as I can pass a flight physical and 24-month checkride. Practically is another matter. It’s like driving: When are you too old? When you find that no one wants to ride with you?
I think it was time for this barber to quit. Only, he owned the shop and I’d bet that none of his employees had the heart to tell him his hands weren’t in it anymore.