Saturday, October 22, 2005

Only In Alabama

One of the joys of moving to a new city is the hunt for the perfect haircut. I began early this morning with a shaggy head and a hopeful spirit. I pulled into a strip mall when the "Barber Shop" sign caught my eye.

As I open the door, the Grim Reaper's older brother stands behind an ancient barber chair. I wasn't quite sure if he was alive or not. Perhaps a few days shy of 100 year old, the tall thin barber is propped up behind the one single chair in the shop, which is only about the size of a dining room. I am immediately glad that I'm not black, for as I looked around the room, I had just stepped back into the 50's. I truly expected to find some autographed KKK pic taped to the wall.

Armed with valuable Southernisms, I said, "Hey there, Fella. How are ya?"
Mr. Reaper crackles, "Waiting for you to sit down."

I take a seat, excited to get a haircut from a real Southern gentleman. A stained yellowish cape is draped across my front, though not nearly large enough to reach my knees. Mr. Reaper spends a few minutes trying to get his boney hands to stop shaking long enough to tie the little white ribbon around my neck. Each time his claw-like fingernails make contact with the back of my neck, eerie shivers shoot down my spine. Also, a strange smacking noise keeps coming from his mouth - kind of like when you eat a lemon. This stirs my imagination as I wonder just how old the candy is in the 10¢ machine next to the door.

The whir of the clippers actually startle me. They sound more like a portable lawn mower than anything designed for beautification. For the next 20 minutes, Mr. Reaper clippers the back and sides of my head. A surprising amount of heat is generated from the device and I wonder how he can possible manage to hold it without an oven mitt. I finally get a true moment of clarity (which only happens a few times in life). I realize that I'm going to die in this chair today. Oddly, I'm not panicked at all. Though disappointed that I'll never have kids or see China, I quietly accept my fate and stare out the window at what must be my last glimpses of life. Mr. Reaper gently coughs on the back of my neck as I feel Death getting ready to claim its latest victim. I ready myself for meeting Jesus.

Finally, a coarse brush comes across my neck and shoulders. I feel a lever below me get kicked and the chair whip around to where I'm no longer facing out the window but into the dirty mirror. Mr. Reaper slowly croaks, "Is that alright?"

What?? He didn't even use any scissors. The top and front still look messy and shaggy. There is no hair behind my ears reminding me of the little Lego man I played with as a kid. I'm speechless but manage to reply, "how much do I owe you?" I then hand over $2 more than the $10 he requested and thank him for his time.

I could view this experience as a rip off. I don't though, Rather, I figure that 30 minutes in the 1950s was well worth the $12 and bad haircut. I must admit that I did feel funny walking into the salon across the street moments later. The lady immediately noticed my dilemma and offered, "Did you just get your hair cut across the street?" Apparently, I'm not the first to have a brush with Death during the last 45 years.

$31 for my hair to still look funny is making me feel a little sick to my stomach. But, the experience of meeting the world's oldest barber and living to tell about is well worth it. I wonder if my company with have a problem with me wearing a hat for the next couple weeks.

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