Friday, September 07, 2007

A barber shop of horrors

By Kevin Duling

Most of rural USA is close to keeping pace with the urban areas. We can get our Internet via satellite, we can have our movie rentals mailed to us, Starbucks coffee houses are crawling their way into small towns, and the bad cell phone service that urbanites complain about is equally bad out here. There is one area where the city dwellers can out-stride the country folk though; they have choices on where to get their hair cut.

As for myself, my hair used to be nothing more than an annoyance to be dealt with. Now in my mid-thirties, it is much more conceivable for God to have each hair on my head numbered. My number seems to drop every day. I tell myself that I won’t be one of those guys who compensates for the lack of hair up above by growing it on his chin; however, I tell myself many things.

I believe I was in college when my first negative haircut experiences began. I attended a university in a small town where there was one beauty shop and one barber shop. I walked in to the latter and found three barber chairs; two were occupied and one was free. There were five people waiting ahead of me. I asked a couple of them if they were going to take the open seat and they all shook their heads as if I had just offered them some fresh rat poison.

The barber with the open seat looked friendly enough and even invited me into his chair. He introduced himself as Otis and then proceeded to ask some general questions on what to do with my hair. As he began snipping away I was watching the action in the chair over by the door. That barber was moving people through; about one every five minutes. One thing I did notice about all of his victims, they all had the same haircut.

I remember remarking to Otis, “Man, you could play cards on top of that guy’s head, Otis!” Otis just grinned. As Otis was getting close to finishing me up, he asked me if I wanted some sideburn left. Keep in mind this was the timeframe when long sideburns were coming back into style. I sharply replied, “No, thank you!”

As Otis finished up my sideburns, I found myself giggling at yet another flat-top on a now pale-faced kid who I swore was beginning to cry in the chair over by the door. Turning to the mirror to gaze at Otis’ progress, my smirk quickly faded to a callous, blank stare. Inside I was anything but callous and blank.

Apparently, some people’s definition of “sideburns” is much different than others’. I guess Otis defined a sideburn as anything not directly on top of your head. I paid up quickly and determined that as soon as I reached my rig, the hat was going on and it was going to stay on for quite some time. Ever wonder why so many country people wear hats? That’s right!

Back on campus I began to notice some of the haircuts other male students were sporting. “That guy sat by the door, that guy needs to go sit by the door, that guy saw Otis and answered the sideburn question wrong,” etc, etc.

Nowadays, I find myself calling the local beauty shop and scheduling appointments with the local beautician. Not only do I get a higher quality haircut, I get to hear all the rumors that have managed to circulate the town. If I tip her enough, she will even disclose the news items involving me.

For example, just last week I found out I was giving two-step lessons at my house, as well as dating a lady nearly twice my age. Anyone who has ever witnessed me dancing can surely deduce the improbability of me actually being able to perform the two-step, let alone even identifying it. Perhaps that rumor had something to do with my trip to the store the other day in which a lady opened her car door just as I was walking by, striking me in the knee. After dancing on one leg for a brief moment, I smiled at her to let her know I would be just fine. Perhaps I should quit tipping my hair lady so much.

The only trouble I’ve noticed with having a beautician instead of a barber is my haircut quality tends to go hand in hand with her mood. I’ve noticed when other ladies come in during my trim and gossip, (oh, I mean “visit”) my haircut can sometimes get a little skewed to the left or the right. At least I have some sideburn left.

If any of you should ever find yourself in a town other than your hometown and are in desperate need of a haircut, keep in mind if there is a chair open, there is probably a reason. If everyone coming out of a shop looks exactly the same, there is probably a reason and it is completely irrational believing you would fare differently. Lastly, take a long look at the facial expressions of the victims and make sure you have a hat handy in your car.

Kevin Duling is a wheat farmer and freelance writer from Maupin, Ore. His stories will be posted on the Capital Press blog every Friday. Comments are welcomed at

Copyright, September 2007, Kevin Duling

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been to small towns and had to get a hair cut. I feel your pain. Seems like there were a couple of people gossiping about other local people there too. Pretty funny

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