Photo by Al Blanton
Graphic by Sarah O’Mary
It’s Saturday morning and I need a haircut.
I’ve been putting it off for weeks but it can’t wait any more. People are starting to talk. I’m hearing words whispered in my presence that I haven’t heard in decades. Hippie. Long-haired freak. Sheep dog.
Parents shield their children when I pass by. Don’t look, children. He’s hideous.
It’s been raining hard and steady since yesterday. I think I see a big boat full of animals floating by. I brew a fresh pot of coffee, inhale a gallon, and step into the shower. Later I towel dry and check the mirror. This won’t be pretty. Girding my loins, I grab my brush and comb and commence fighting with this tangled mess. Minutes later, battered and bloody, I slip on jeans and a shirt, step into my boots, and head for the door with my car keys.
My barber is the best in the county. He’s also a twenty-five minute drive, and I don’t fancy driving much on a rainy Saturday morning. I aim the car down the highway toward another shop that will take me half the time to reach. Time is of the essence. On this day, I have photos to shoot and promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep.
I swing the car into a parking lot the size of a shoebox and shut off the engine. There’s a bearded guy sitting at a table in front of the shop. The table is covered what appears to be an oversized checkerboard. I nod and he grunts a hello, then opens the door. I step inside and he leads me into a room with a barber chair.
“What are we doing today?” he says. He sounds either tired or bored. Maybe both. I give him a vague description of how I want it cut. He takes one of those plastic poncho-type coverings and snaps it once. I slide into the chair and he drapes it over me.
Something about the chair feels odd. I look down at my feet. The chair feels like it’s leaning forward. The scissors dance in his fingers and I grip the armrests so I don’t pitch forward like a 200 pound sack of wet cement. I rest my chin on my chest as he shaves the back of my neck with his magic clippers. He doesn’t speak a word. Then I hear chunks of hair smacking on the floor. I’m still holding on for dear life so I don’t follow them down.
Once I ask him if they’ve been busy this morning. He tells me no one wants to get out in the rain. I nod. If I didn’t look like Professor Irwin Corey in a wind tunnel, I wouldn’t be here either.
Finally he puts his clippers down and shoves a mirror in my face. “How’s that?” he says.
I squint. After surveying his work, I conclude that it definitely is an improvement. “That’ll do,” I say. I let go of the armrests, sliding forward, and standing up, all in one movement. I take a $20 from my wallet and put it in his hand. He thanks me and I bid him a good day.
I slide behind the wheel of my car and check the mirror. No more sheep dog.
I start the engine and make my way back home. I have much to do today. Photos to shoot. Coffee to drink.
And miles to go before I sleep. 78