Up to this point in my life, getting a haircut has been one of those activities that has been merely endured. No longer, however, will a haircut be something that I will put off. For I have found a place that goes beyond simply taking my money and providing the minimum of service that is required. No, this gem that I have stumbled upon provides a full experience; surpassing a mere exchange of goods and services and inviting one into a community event, small though it may be, to share and laugh and listen. The story goes like this:
Because I cut my hair simply with a pair of clippers on the lowest setting, my hair does not require much maintenance nor frequent haircuts. In fact, I usually cut it about every month and a half. For the last year i have actually been mooching off of my good friend Jeremy Holmes, and he has been cutting it. Jeremy, you have done a great job, my critique on previous haircut experiences are in no way a result of the fine job you have done serving as my personal barber, but of the many barber/style shops/salons that I have visited in my life. Anyway, Heidi calls around to a few places in town to try and find the cheapest place for me to get my haircut, and scores with a place that is about 5 or 6 blocks away providing mens' haircuts for $10.
Now, this barber shop is located in the part of town that all of our acquaintances have warned us as being the "rough" side of town. However, I happen to know that the demographics of this town are like 70% white, middle class conservatives, and knowing what I know about wealthy white people is that they are usually afraid because they are ignorant, and this neighborhood happens to be home to the other 30% of the Morehead City population. Also, our house sits on this side of the proverbial tracks, so I was actually encouraged by the fact that the barber shop was within walking distance.
So Heidi and I make the pleasant stroll down to the barber shop and walk in to a building that to the naked eye is not much. A simple store front in a run-down shopping center. The first thing you see is an old bar room pool table quickly followed by three simple barber shop chairs. There is a younger gentleman already cutting someone elses hair and a very large man is sitting opposite the door we just entered and he is wearing an apron and talking on his cell phone. He acknowledges our entrance and gives me a simple head nod indicating that I should head on back to the last chair. I complied and sat waiting for him to finish his phone call.
Now, up to this point, this is a pretty normal experience, that is other than the fact that there is a pool table in the middle of the room. When the larger gentleman, I found out later his name is Jerry, got off of the phone he got up and promptly attended to me. After a quick conversation on how I would like my hair cut, Jerry grabbed the clippers, and to my surprise, the business end of a vacuum cleaner hose, somehow attached the two, and began cutting/vacuuming? my head. (that last sentence is meant to be read with an inquisitive expression on the cutting/vacuuming part). It was at about this point that I found myself fairly amused and yet oddly relaxed by the sensation that the vacuum is eliciting. It is also right as Jerry is really going to town with vacuuming my head, that about four other people walk into the shop.
This is where things picked up. A couple of the people who came in were there to get haircuts and others were not, they simply came in to hang out, talk, solve world issues; you know, normal conversation. I quickly infer that Jerry is someone of note because the newcomers say hello in tones of familiarity to the other barbers, but go out of their way to the last chair to give a fist-bump to Jerry. Everyone takes a seat, either to get their hair cut or just to settle in for what seemed like a rather routine barber shop conversation. It seemed as though they felt there was an elephant in the room with Heidi and I being outsiders, but only for about 2 minutes, once the conversation started everything seemed to flow. I politely sat and listened, not wanting to jump into a conversation that I was not a part of, but obviously responding to jokes that were made and making eye contact to show interest in the story being told. Then, Jerry, obviously being a true barber and conversationlist and treating me as a guest and not just a client, decided to invite me into the conversation by directly asking for my input. Now, I have sat as a third person to many conversations that people just kept talking as though I were not there, and would have been quite easy for the locals at this barber shop to do the same, but Jerry seemed to know when the right amount of time had passed and did it in such a way that I was welcomed by everyone else as well. Noting that Jerry had given me my que to develop a rapport, I made a brief input to the conversation and then sat back and listened pretty much for the rest of the haircut, not wanting to overstep my bounds. Jerry would stop cutting for a minute to express a thought or add something to a conversation and then would resume, and the whole time he paid great attention to detail for such a simple haircut, and i can assure you he did not miss one hair. The whole process probably took thirty minutes; there would have been times when I would have been annoyed if my haircut had taken thirty minutes, but this was the best thirty minute haircut of my life.
As I said before, this was more than a simple haircut. It was a small community event, and one that I hope to revisit and become a regular into their gatherings. Getting a haircut will now be something that I look forward to doing, and will likely go every few weeks for a trim just so I can partake in the experience. So my advice is, whether it be a haircut or nail salon or other personal services that you need performed, seek out those places that are not only conducting business, but are communities of people that are experiencing life together; you might learn something.
Is that something or is it nothing?