The Other Barber

Sir Alec doing his impression of me after every visit to the other barber

There are two barbers in my hometown. And every year, my interaction with them is exactly the same. This year is no different. It’s Tuesday and I am suddenly overwhelmed by one idea: Get a haircut. Today. Now. Next, I sit up – I am usually prone on my vacation – and put down my fattening drink. Then lie back and go over the two barbers in my head.

There is the good barber. The good barber is busy and has the ability to cut hair. The good barber has a full barbershop all the time. The people wait there in glee, their overgrown locks begging to be shorn by a competent hairsmith. The good barber has technology, magazines from this century, and a mirror not covered in wallet sized high school graduation pictures. He serves drinks. I love the good barber.

The other barber stares out his window all day long. The other barber cleans his combs for two hours a day and organizes his table covered by Field & Stream and Highlights issues from the 1980s. The other barber has an ‘all or nothing’ approach to cutting hair. He talks about his medical problems, he points them out. I do not love the other barber.

I walk up to the good barbershop and it all begins. The good barber is closed; a small plastic clock in the door tells me he’ll be returning at 12:15. It is 12:25. I knock. The good barber does not answer. I peer through a pane at the cozy interior with the longing of a kid looking into the lobby of FAO Schwarz. There’s a frosty pitcher of something red, a glossy magazine. I sit on the stoop and open my book, but I know the good barber isn’t coming. Every year the good barber teases me with some variation of this situation: opening late, closing early, off for lunch, Monday.

This wouldn’t be a big problem for a normal person. A normal person would shrug, go home, come back the next day. A normal person would go for a Frappuccino and come back in twenty minutes.

But I am not normal; I am an idiot.

For some reason when I have decided to get a haircut, nothing will stand in my way. It must happen immediately. Not in twenty minutes. Not tomorrow. Now.

And so (at 12:34) I step off to the other barber.

I reach the other barber in thirty seconds and he greets me at his window as I approach. He looks at me hopefully and when I open the door he looks at his watch.

“Do you have time for a cut?” I ask. We both know he does, but he appreciates the gesture.

“Sure.” He points to the chair.

I look in the mirror in front of me, and start making faces. I am framed by no less than two hundred high school graduation photos, leaving about four square inches for my mirrored self. I sigh.

The other barber starts to cut without asking what I want to be done to my hair, immediately going into a hip replacement procedure. When I try to interrupt, he shows me a tick bite. The other barber moves around my head and nips at it with decade old clippers. He is making a grimace which suggests that I have turkeys mating in my scalp. I do not react to any of this. I close my eyes, let the inevitable happen. I curse my tendency towards instant gratification.

“How’s that?”

I open my eyes as he touches my hair gingerly, as though it’s a house of cards that will collapse under the strain of touch or air. There is no difference between my hair now and when I walked in the door six minutes ago.

“Can you take a little more off?” I close my eyes again as he lays into my hair with his clippers. It’s as though he now has decided to cut my hair. When I open my eyes again, I am glad for the mirror’s limited scope. I can tell that my sideburns aren’t even and my hair is short. I look like a Monchhichi.

The other barber brushes on the talc, and, though we both know I shouldn’t, I thank him. Then I step outside and implore the heavens with a “My God, what have I done!” that it realistic enough to be done near a bridge, the River Kwai, and William Holden. Then I leave, wondering if the good barber is still serving drinks.

Ever get bitten by your obsessions, folks?

  1. #1 by Julia on August 1, 2013 - 3:57 pm

    I go through something similar. There’s a great hair stylist near me, but you need to call a couple weeks in advance, which I’m too impulsive to do. Further, her prices are ‘à la carte’ which means if they smile at you , you get to pay extra. So, now I just swing into Hair Cuttery, which is basically throwing some serious caution to the wind.

  2. #2 by Andy on August 1, 2013 - 7:34 pm

    Ah the barber, my old nemesis. I’d collected enough barbicide-induced horror stories from the States that I didn’t try to find one in Prague for at least two years. Of course, that resulted in very long, drain-clogging locks and a number of nicknames.

    • #3 by Damien Galeone on August 3, 2013 - 3:18 pm

      How are you wearing your hair these days, old buddy?

      • #4 by Andy on August 7, 2013 - 8:07 pm

        As short as possible without shaving it. Although, I’m tempted to begin using clippers and going clean-shaven again. Alas, my wife loves a beard…

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