I get a ridiculously simple hair cut. I sit down, say, “I want a half all the way around.” For the uninitiated, the clippers are numbered by the amount of hair they take off. The “half” is pretty much the shortest you can get. Quick explanation, quick hair cut. I’m an easy date.
When I go to a new barber (which is often – when your haircut is as simple as mine, I feel little need for a regular barber) I inevitably get the same response: “A half? You sure?”
Nothing wrong with that – it’s a pretty short hair cut, and the barber is a little taken aback at how drastic things have gotten. Maybe they think I’m having some sort of emotional breakdown. “Yeah, take it all off. Then I’m taking my buzzcut and enlisting and that’ll show you Mom and Dad!”
So when my barber asks, “Are you sure?” I’ve developed a stock response I use. It’s a stupid Dad joke I use to lighten the mood. I say, “Yeah, I’m sure. Hopefully, it’ll grow back.” It’s almost not even a joke, it’s so inoffensive. And usually the barber has a quick chuckle and it’s onto massacring my hair.
This past Tuesday I went to a barber shop in Astoria I frequent and I ended up going to a barber I’d never been to before. So I tell the new guy I want a half, all the way around.
“Yeah. Hopefully, it’ll grow back.”
I laugh to myself. I look up in the mirror and am greeted by a cold stare.
“Yeah. I KNOW it’ll grow back.”
This guy thought I was doing one of two things: being incredibly snide (“Yeah, it grows back, Chief. Know hair much?”) or insulting to his intelligence. If the second interpretation was how he saw it, it doesn’t get more condescending than that. “I’m not sure if you were absent this day in barber school, or if maybe your curriculum didn’t cover it, but y’know…hair DOES IN FACT grow back. In fact most of the people whose hair you cut today? There’s will grow back too. I tell you what, how about I come in here a few days a week to get you up to speed on some human biology? I’d be happy to tutor. Hey what are you doing with those clippers- ”
The reason this freaked me out is because your barber is the last person you want to be mad at you. He basically spends 15-20 minutes with me basically defenseless while he positions potential weapon after potential weapon near my head. I don’t know how he’s going to react now that he thinks I called him a moron. Maybe he’ll start introducing new weapons even you wouldn’t normally see during a hair cut. “Yeah, this club helps me balance out your side burns.” “Yeah okay, but what are the brass knucks for?”
All in all the dude didn’t seem too mad at me and I gave him a solid tip so all seemed forgiven. But if you’re reading this, and you thought I was insulting you, New Barber, know this: I don’t think you’re an idiot. I’m sure I’ll be able to go back.
Or maybe I’ll just find a new barber and open with something stronger.