I don’t know what has always intrigued me about barber shops. Maybe it was my first impressions as a child of High Plains Drifter where Clint Eastwood kills a man who is sent to kill him who seems like a sitting duck. Maybe it was The Godfather where the guy in the chair is spun around by a barber to be executed by a mafia member. As far back as American history goes, the barber shop was always a place of interest and always a hub in the community. And see those spinning stripes of red, white & blue outside the barber shop? This signifies its a barber, but also they are licensed so they can cant hair, are qualified to touch a knife to skin, and when the doctors are closed on wednesdays, they are open to help with that skin infections, they can act as dentists with disinfectants and anesthetics until the other doctors returned to work.
So, I don’t know why all the barbers in my town or most towns are Italian, but they are from what I see. And not just Italian, but many speak very broken English, if any English at all. Ok, so keep up with me here. Its actually a funny story and I’ve written about it before, but here is the update.
I stopped going to my barber after 20 years because I was charged full price and I don’t have much hair left. He liked cigars, so I would always give him full price plus a cigar which in reality cost me anywhere from $22 to $25 (hair cut being $16). He is closed on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I work Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, so if I do not get to his place by Monday, when I sleep till 11, I don’t get a haircut, because by the time I make it over to his shop, its 12 noon and he is having lunch and/or tells me to come back later. But I really don’t have “later” because I too have to get back to work. Besides, don’t most people do their errands and chores around lunch time? The last time I was there he did not say hello he just said “you have to wait” somewhat disturbed that I came into his shop at lunch hour when technically he is open for business. No “Out to lunch” on the door… door wide open. Ok, no problem, I left and had something else pending, so that day I could not return for my haircut. So, now its Tuesday, he is closed Tuesday & Wednesday and I had to be at a wedding on Thursday, so I tried a barber down the street. He did a good job, straight edge razor and all. He talked a lot and I often had to wait, plus he charged more, so with tip I had to go out of pocket $25.
So, I went to the other guy across the street. Old school Italian, really old school. Haircut is only $17 but I hand him $20 and he does a great job, no nonsense, hot gel, razor and all. Here is where the story gets amusing (at least for me).
Its been at least 7 months since I’ve seen my original barber in person. Quite frankly, I feel bad after al these years. But it seemed like I was not appreciated or welcomed there. I was one of those customers that was more of something you had to take care of rather than wanted to take care of. That’s not a good feeling. I have money, and he does not want it because he really does not appreciate my business. I have little hair left, so that 20 minute haircut would take only 10 minutes if he stopped to gossip and tell jokes every minute or so.
Today the Olympics were on TV. It was Brazil vs. Netherlands or some other Scandinavian country. All I know is, on one side there were beautiful dark bronzed amazon beauties and on the other beautiful fair skin blonde beautiful women. So instead of him facing me toward the mirror like he usually does, he faces me toward the TV so he is still behind me but now able to watch the Woman’s Olympic Beach Volley Ball. I don’t mind either. My girlfriend is Brazilian, and other than the chance to look at beautiful women, I have something to talk about later when we speak about the day’s events.
He asks me how I want my hair, and I only say “short. shorter than last time”. And he says ok. 20 minutes later (and I wonder why it took 20 full minutes uninterrupted), the match is over and he turns me toward the mirror and I see my hair is shorter for the first time since the day I was born. He said in Italian “molto bene, meglio per il caldo, non dovete preoccuparvi di questo” In other words, “its better in this heat, you don’t have to worry about washing or combing it” or something to that effect. He then proceeded to clean me up with the straight edge razor. Something I was glad he did after the volleyball match was over.
So, the next day I just need a simple bite to eat before heading off to work on a long day of photographing a wedding. Something simple, something fast and inexpensive. I don’t want to go to the local diner because I know my old barber is there often. So I go to the smaller diner tucked into a strip mall where the crowd is limited. I sit at the counter and when I am leaving I see my former barber. I had not seen him in over 7 months. I saw him, was surprised, but happy and I said hello with an enthusiastic smile. He basically nodded his head and did not seem pleased. I said hello to his wife and continued to exit the diner. He was pissed, I could tell, and my super short haircut obviously showed I was getting my haircut somewhere else. Never interrupt an Italian while eating, and certainly he was holding a grudge. Awkward, but life goes on. You can’t mistreat people for years, friends or not, and then expect them to stick around. I don’t imagine an Italian immigrant in his 70s to reach out to me, and at the same time, if I tried to reach out to him, I am sure he would dismiss me, mostly out of pride and a bit out of anger and feeling betrayed. So be it. In the end, all I wanted was a haircut on my schedule, not be on a waiting list and not told to come back some other time. After 20 years if I am still paying top dollar as a regular, and I am not treated as a VIP or a regular, what would any normal person do? They would find a better place to get a haircut.