My father keeps telling me about how much he likes the work his barber does. Now, Dad has very little hair left at this point, so it’s not as if I expected his barber to be a corn row connoisseur or a faux hawk aficionado. But when he told me that his barber charges only four dollars (plus tip), I was sold. I decided to put up with my sideburns for a couple of months in order to get my ears lowered both competently and cheaply when I headed south to visit my parents for Thanksgiving.
On Black Friday, my wife and I drove from my parents’ house out in the country to “the big city” of Fresno to get coiffed. (Well, really so my wife could use her computer to get some work done, since there is no high-speed internet connection or wi-fi out on the rangeland where my parents call home). My father warned me that his barber might have the day off, but that “one of the girls” would take me.
When we arrived at the shop, we were greeted with a CLOSED sign on the door. My wife told me this would happen!
Fortunately, we had just passed an open barber shop a few blocks away. Inside, three barbers were working away on customers while another family waited their turn. I sat down patiently and waited about 20 minutes to be called. This was definitely not a discount hair establishment like the place my father patronized. A sign advertised that a regular haircut would set you back $12. But I was there already and I just wanted to get this itchy stuff off my ears and face. I was not about to drive around looking for someplace less expensive.
The last time that I had my hair cut back home, I told a young woman at a salon that I wanted a “3.” For at least 20 years, I’ve been familiar with the numbering system that many barbers use. Before I was married, I used to get a “one,” which is basically your Marine special. Just a bit of fuzz on top. My wife says that this style makes me “look like an escaped mental patient,” so I began leaving some hair on my noggin. I am now used to having the sideburns removed and keeping a reasonable amount of hair north of that. Still, I thought the “3” was a bit too short. Therefore, this time around I requested a “4.” “You know what a 4 is, right?” the barber asked. Yes, I assured him, I know what it is. Upon which I blinded myself by removing my eyeglasses and hoped for the best.
The barber was a young guy who insisted that I used to be a tutor at his high school (I have never taught), urged me to get a lump on my head checked out (I explained how I obtained it forty years ago) and griped about how Heald College closed down when he had almost completed his associate’s degree and how Fresno City College wouldn’t transfer any of the credits.
I should have told him that he missed his calling. He should have been a bartender. I wished I had the nerve to tell him to shut up and pay attention to what he was doing.
At that point, the barber requested the details of my Thanksgiving. “Whad you grub on?” he inquired. I explained that my mother prepared the traditional turkey, cranberry sauce and potatoes, but that I very much enjoyed my eggplant and tofu, thank you.
“You a vegetarian?” he asked, incredulous. I answered in the affirmative, in no mood to explain the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan. Then he asked when was the last time I ate meat. “About 25 years ago,” I responded, upon which he wanted to know what my last meat meal consisted of. “I really don’t remember,” I admitted. “It was a long time ago.”
“If it was my last time eating meat, I’d remember,” he remonstrated. “I’d have a triple cheeseburger. But I could never stop eating meat.”
About this time, the barber offered me my eyeglasses and I glanced in the mirror to check out the new me with a “4.”
Welcome to the Marines, son.