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Todd at The Barber Shop

Not one person looks up when the bell dings as the door drags across its bottom, signaling to the room that somebody else is in need of a trim. Everyone knows the drill, even on a busy Saturday morning. People enter, find a seat and then try to figure out how far down the list they are. Get in line. I’ve been relegated this morning to one of the individual chairs lined up against the large window that spans the front of the shop. They’re wobbly and old with torn pleather seats, the last resort when the sofas are full. Like today. Actually, I could sit on one of the sofas, there’s technically room, but I’d have to squeeze into an awkward slot near moms and unclean kids. The solitary seating is more appealing. It’s a personal space issue. The sofa represents zero boundaries, always leaving at least one open flank. Women think man-spreading is about selfishness and lack of awareness but it’s really an attempt to keep others out of your zone. So, yeah, it is about selfishness.

Andy Griffith is on the television that’s hanging on the wall because I’m on the ladies’s side of the shop. The majority of the barbers working here are women but the two male barbers tend to work on the other side. Is the word barber gender neutral? Probably. Everything else seems to be headed that way. It’s a big place, at least for a regular barber shop. And that’s what it is, a barber shop; it’s definitely not a salon. It’s split down the middle by a wall, four stations on each side, but there’s an opening to move back and forth. The men’s side also has a TV but they are either showing sports or war movies. Cliches are alive and festering at the barber shop. The side you wait in depends on who you want to cut your hair. Today, both sides are packed.

I think this is the episode where Andy and his girlfriend go on a double date with Goober and some girl he’s admired from afar. Such an uncomfortable situation, the blind double date. Regardless of everyone’s intentions, the odds of it working out are so finite that it hardly seems worth the effort. But there are enough success fables that it keeps hope alive, I suppose, although I’m confident there’re infinitely more disaster tales that no one speaks of. Probably some code of dishonor that doesn’t allow anyone to speak of failures. Basically it’s a conspiracy to pump optimism into the lonely and confidence into the kind of people that set up their friends on blind dates. Like my mom.

The fellow next to me is rough looking. He’s wearing a baseball hat with an un-ironic feed store logo on it, a red t-shirt, dusty blue jeans, boots. And it’s August and hot as heck outside. My deductive reasoning senses he works outdoors for a living and works hard. He’s tan, has wrinkles around his eyes and gives off a vibe of seriousness I can feel sitting next to him. I wonder what people think I do for a living when they look at me? I’m not unique looking, normal height, probably twenty pounds heavy but I compensate with baggy shirts, hair starting to turn grey on the sides but it’s mainly brown. It’s unfortunate that today my plaid shorts and t-shirt go together and could almost be classified as an outfit. It helps that I’m wearing cross trainer shoes but they’re red which doesn’t help. The modern equivalent of a red sports car. I could be anybody and do anything for a living. Except work with the guy sitting next to me. No one would guess that.

Yep, this is the double date episode. It contains my favorite line from any TV show ever produced. When Goober’s getting ready to knock on his date’s door, Andy—who’s standing behind him—suddenly says, “Goober, your hair’s drippin’!” Goober frantically wipes his finger along the hairline across the back of his neck and then rings the doorbell. The casualness of Andy’s warning always cracked me up. “Goober, your hair’s drippin’!” I’m glad this is on. Lady barbers rule!

There’re only two lady barbers working this side today which is odd since it’s the last Saturday before school starts. This place is hopping so I assumed it’d be all hands on deck. Barber shops always smell a little funky but add in a bunch of sweaty boys and their stressed out parents and its a little uncomfortable. One of the sofas I refuse to sit on currently holds a mom and her two boys with her third son in the chair of the Blonde Barber Lady. Although I’ve been coming here for years, the transient nature of the barber career and the fact that none of the barbers have their name displayed anywhere combine to stunt my ability to remember their names. The Blonde Barber Lady is cutting the oldest boy’s hair. If I had to guess I would say he’s twelve and each of his brothers continue the pattern of two years apart. So twelve, ten and eight. They’re all quiet—thank the Lord for phones and whatever kids do on them—but their mom is loud. She’s engaged in a running dialogue with the Blonde Barber Lady about every inane thing she can think of. Shopping for school clothes, vacations, the weather—and and every subject is being covered by Loud Mom and the Blonde Barber Lady. The Blonde Lady Barber. Blonde. Whatever. I wonder if there are any true blondes here? Not on this side of the shop.

I just realized the most famous barber on TV was on the Andy Griffith Show. There hasn’t been a Floyd scene yet but I like the irony of being in a barber shop with his show on. I admit it’d be better if he was actually on the screen but TV Land may be running an Andy Griffith Show marathon so there’s still a chance. I really hope I’m not here that long. I can live with imagined irony.

The Curly Red Hair Lady Barber just finished with someone so the cutting of eyes and silent mental calculations by the rest of us begins. Who’s next? Who was sitting in here when I walked in? Who came in after me? Will someone lie? I’m not picky when it comes to who cuts my hair. As simple as my haircut is, I assume anyone with minimal credentials can give me what I want. Four on the top, three on the sides. Straightforward, uncomplicated. I guess the people that come in and request a certain barber each time have their reasons but the downside is they may have to wait while those of us less discerning clientele will be in and out quickly. Although today is so packed it seems we’ll all be waiting longer. The Shaggy Blue Collar Dude next to me gets the call. He’s a bit of a grooming mess and may take a while. Bless him.

I’ve never been able to whistle the Andy Griffith Show theme song. I guess somebody did since the show was filmed long before sampling and computers. I’m glad the person who spent years wondering what they could do with their unique talent, besides annoy their friends, found an outlet. It had to be hard to wait and never be sure they’d ever know. Then along comes a friend of a friend of a cousin who knows a producer in need of a quality whistler. I don’t know if that person found any other whistling work but they can hang their hat on the fact that this one job was iconic and will be part of “guess this tune” games forever. Well done, Mr. Whistler Man.

My turn. I get to sit in the Curly Red Hair Lady Barber’s chair because the Blonde Lady Barber is still working on the three sons of the Loud Mom. Her pace is hindering the flow of cattle. My barber is minimally talkative, engaging in enough conversation to be polite but she’s obviously not interested in a lengthy dialogue. An older couple just walked in and sat in my chair. Not together, both in one chair, but in the two chairs left unoccupied by Shaggy and myself. The old man is big—tall and wide—using a cane and moving painfully slow because one of his ankles is jacked up. I can’t tell if it’s an injury or an aging issue. Doesn’t matter, I suppose. He’s struggling regardless. His wife held the door open for him and helped him into his chair. She looks healthy and spry although around the same age. She obviously takes care of him, like driving him to the barber shop on the Saturday before school starts which could be interpreted as passive-aggressive, I suppose. They’re sitting quietly, staring blindly straight ahead. They have the foggy veneer of familiarity about them, like they know each other really well and they’ve reached the point that words are nice but not an absolute. They’re quiet and they seem good. I hope they’ve had a solid run together.

I know Andy dating Helen was a popular story line on the show but I can’t remember if Goober got any run after that first date. I would assume it would take a Herculean effort during dinner to get past the idea that your date is called Goober. And his brother is Gomer. That’s a relationship hole that’s hard to rise above.

I’m done. My cut is easy and fast and I got Curly Red Hair Lady Barber to trim my eyebrows as a bonus. I never thought I’d use the word “unruly” to describe my eyebrows but that day has arrived. Actually, I didn’t use that word, the Lady Barber did. I liked it and decided to adopt it as my own. I feel good. Blonde Lady Barber seems to be close to finishing the third son of Loud Mom. Another mom with two young boys just walked in the door and headed straight for a sofa. This place is like a factory. She drops in heavy, obviously tired. Her sons seem well behaved but the mom’s dead eyes are telling me otherwise. Getting your kids to act civilized in public is noble even if they are orangutans at home. The oldest boy—seven?—sits down next to her and the youngest boy squeezes into the sliver of space between them. Mom doesn’t react so the boy’s take her lack of resistance as approval but, again, the eyes don’t lie. They’re just not savvy enough to read them. I’ll leave her to them. I have to pay and get on with my day.

The Blonde Lady Barber just asked the boy in the chair if he was wearing perfume. His face immediately glows red and he mutters, “No.” Loud Mom interjects that he probably picked up the scent from her since her youngest is her “hugger.” And, yes, she made air quotes with her fingers. The youngest child looks horrified as the two grown ups laugh. Loud.

“It smells good! What is it?” The Blonde Lady Barber will not let it go.

Neither does Loud Mom. “That new Lancome scent. I can’t remember the name. I think it’s French?” If possible, Loud Mom has gotten louder.

“The one in the orange bottle?”

“Yes! That’s it!”

“I seen it. It smells good!”

I smell good. And I look good. See you in two weeks. Todd, out.

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