It is Aug. 16 and I am waiting for a hair cut at my local mane crop shop. It has a doc in the box feel, but the soundtrack is a pair of clippers and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
I haven’t had a regular barber in two years. The last regular was Christina (this isn’t her real name of course, but I’m telling truths and that involves telling some small lies) in Chattanooga. She worked at a family-owned barber shop downtown near the river front. She and I would gossip like old ladies, about work, about her boyfriend who was having some trouble with the law, about her life as a single mom. I grew a beard and she gave it a thorough going over with a comb and scissors, no clipper.
She was one of my two favorite barbers. The other was a guy in Tuscaloosa. I don’t know his name but I’m pretty sure it was an alias anyway. He could cut my hair with one hand and use his other to negotiate a secretive transaction on his cell phone. I admired his ability to multitask and his pragmatism. Everyone does need a skill, even if they aspire to more glamorous professions.
The week I turned in my notice in Chattanooga, Christina called. She asked if I needed a haircut. I told her I did and asked when I should drop by the salon. Oh no, she said, can’t do it there. I’ve been let go, she said.
A few hours later I was on my duplex’s comically hilly front yard, sitting in a lawn chair with a bed sheet draped around my shoulders. Christina had her clippers plugged into an orange extension cord. She skimmed the outer edges of my neck line to make the corners symmetrical. Chunks of black hair fell into the scraggly dead winter grass.
She gave me the latest news. Boyfriend was out of jail, facing deportation or some such. As the talked and snipped, I felt a bit of sadness. She had been an attentive barber, but she also had that rare gift of conversation.
It’s a hard one to master, but it influences immensely my opinion of any barber. I find the good barbers are great listeners who keep up with current events. They’re opinionated in a blue collar sort of way that’s fundamentally decent. They see people as they really are and have the ability to shape who they want to be.
Barbers are cheaper than therapy and you learn a great deal more from them, if you’re lucky.
Christina finished my with my hair. I paid her in cash and told her I’d miss her. I have no idea what she’s up to now. It was strictly business, but I thought her life was far more interesting than my own.
It’s Aug. 16, I’m waiting for a haircut.
The new barber is a tall woman and she’s from New York. She wonders why our public transportation in Atlanta is in such dismal shape. Don’t they hate driving here?
I can never remember her name. I may be subconsciously forgetting it because I don’t want to get too attached.
She’s not at a mom and pop barber, like Christina was. It’s one of those chain places, Right Smart Chop or something or other. Sometimes she’s there, sometimes not. The managers at the chain barber shop like to change the schedules around and I never can get into a groove with any of the stylists.
Maybe I should place a classified advertisement.
Minimum qualifications: Can work with curly, cow-licked hair. Knows how to shoot the breeze. Must not argue. A man’s hair style isn’t up for debate.
Preferred qualifications: Former pirate sorcerer with relationship drama and target of the Japanese mob. At any moment I must feel as though the stylist can flick their wrist and take out a ninja creeping in from the shadows.
Job description: Compulsively deliberate writer will need hair cuts on a bi-monthly schedule, or tri-monthly schedule as circumstances and strike beards allow.
Compensation: Market rate, plus incentives for laughing at my jokes and feigning interest in Batman.
Maybe I can hire Christina as a head-hunter for qualified applicants.
Besides, I’d love to catch up.