Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Barbershop Etiquette

I was getting a haircut today, that I might look neat and well groomed for Thanksgiving but have thick and luxurious locks come Christmas/Hanukah/Dick Clark Day.

And as my barber's sheers darted gracefully about my earlobe, a thought occurred to me: how does one come back from having one's earlobe partially cut off by one's barber?

I don't mean to ask how one copes with that. I cursory simulation in my head yielded a surprising amount of restraint in my cursing, though much more blood than you would expect from a wound that isn't gushing. I believe I would freak out quite a bit, but likely I'd have to calm my barber down and thus keep from getting too mad myself. Long term? The hospital is only a few blocks away and I'd have a fairly cool scar after they reattach it, giving me ample time to develop a cover story involving ninjas and epic swordplay.

No, my real question was "How do you repair that relationship?" Honestly, I can't imagine finding an other barber. I don't just go down to Cost Cutters and say, "Yeah, same basic style just half the length please?" I have had my hair cut once in maybe the last ten years by a person other than Frank, my trusted and amiable old Italian barber. Before that there was an awkward period, an other Italian named John, and before him two Austrians, one of whom was also named John. That's it. You can maybe count my Mother and a few one-timers, but that's the entire history of my hair cutting experience. I am faithful, chiefly because I'm terrified of change, but also because the Franks and Johns of the follicle industries know their shit.

So yes, if Frank were to absently lop off a piece of my ear I would scream and be very upset and, obviously, I'd make him drive me down and pay the hospital to reattach it, but seriously? Think about it. I'm not going to leave that guy. I'm going to get like free haircuts for life after that.

I thought about asking Frank if he'd ever cut someone. It makes sense, so many people and so many menial tasks over the course of thirty years in the business. Especially when one's starting out as a young and inexperienced stylist, accidents are likely to happen. It's expected even.

But it seems to me asking a wise old barber if he's ever cut a man is like asking a Renaissance master if he ever painted boobs just for the hell of it. Yeah, it's probably happened but that's something pretty embarrassing and personal to ask a man who's holding sharp scissors to your face.

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