I hate getting a haircut. It’s one of those things that I always put off for way too long. I never even think about it until somebody says to me something like, “Hey Rob, you could sure use a haircut,” and then it goes from something that I hadn’t even considered to something that I can’t stop thinking about, not even for a second. I’ll always be told I need a haircut at the least convenient time, like right as I’m about to start an eight-hour shift at work, or on Saturday night, right after the barber has closed up shop until Tuesday morning. I’m told that I need a haircut and now I have to wait a ridiculous amount of time, all the while not being able to think about anything else other than my pressing need for some grooming. Every time I walk by a mirror I’m reminded of how awful it looks. How could I have not been thinking about getting a haircut? It’s so obvious now.
So finally a moment becomes available where I’m able to go get it cut. I’m hoping that one of the haircutters will be totally free, just completely available to immediately have me sit down and get started. But that’s never the case. I’ll be sitting in the little waiting area, listening to the barbers try to make ridiculous conversation with the people that are sitting there having their hairs all cut off, just hoping that they’d hurry up, because I can feel my hair growing, faster by the second. I’d just like to have this taken care of as soon as possible, please.
There are always a few barbers giving haircuts and, even though I usually have a preference for who I’d like to cut mine, I’ll never act on that preference. I’ll always just take whoever is available next. Trust me, if you tell the next available barber that you’d like to wait for somebody else, that guy’s never going to forget it. And someday you’re going to come back for a haircut and, whether it’s a time constraint or just a lack of available barbers, you’re going to have to settle for this barber that you had passed up that first time. And, well, maybe he won’t give you a purposefully bad haircut, but he’s not going to give you a great haircut. He’s not going to take his time and make sure it’s one of his better haircuts. He’s probably just going to crank on the old autopilot and zone out to whatever the TV is showing. Ten bucks. An OK haircut. Seriously, just take whoever’s next, and if you get the barber that you wanted, then it’s good luck. You can’t always have the barber that you wanted.
Growing up, my dad, my brothers and I used to go to this barbershop called Primo’s. It was located in a small shopping center by our house, right in between a Pathmark and a sushi place called Sushi-Ya. (Every time my family went to Sushi-Ya, I would scream out “Sushiiiii-YA!” and give a karate chop to one of my brothers or sisters right as I let out the “YA!”) The sign was really old, and the P and the R had fallen off, so if you didn’t know any better, you would think that the place was called Imo’s. But it wasn’t. It was Primo’s.
There was always a huge line of people waiting to have their hair cut personally by Primo himself. But, like I said, it’s totally ridiculous to request an extra wait just to have Primo cut your hair. He’s going to wind up resenting the fact that he has to work so much harder than all of the other barbers. He probably felt rushed, and his haircuts probably reflected that feeling. I’m sure he was flattered at first, but after a couple of months, he’d look at this ridiculous line of people impatiently waiting for their turn, and then he’d turn to his other side and see all of the other barbers relaxing and reading the newspaper.
So Primo was basically unavailable. The other barbers left were Ross, Abraham, and Tony. Each barber had his own advantages and disadvantages (except for Tony, who only had distinct disadvantages. I’ll explain later.) Ross must have been a childhood friend of Primo’s great-grandfather. It’s the only possible reason for why this hundred-year-old man still held full-time employment. And I’m not saying anything bad about old people. If the guy still had it, I’d be first in line for a Ross haircut. But he was so shaky with his tools. You could feel the tremors in his hands as he pressed the buzzer to the back of your head. And he insisted on having at least somewhat of a back-and-forth with his customers. He would fish for small talk, but completely out of left field, like, “Hey, don’t you work at Pathmark?” “No.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” With the pleasantries out of the way, he’d be free to zig-zag his way through your hair all while making vague comments about how the neighborhood sure isn’t what it used to be anymore, which, I’m assuming that whenever any old person says this, it’s always a thinly veiled racist remark, like look, there used to be more white people around, but now there’s a Japanese restaurant next door. (Sushiiiiiii-YA!)
Then there was Abraham. If I had to choose, and if I had to choose somebody other than Primo, I’d pick Abraham. The drawback of Abraham was that he never used any scissors, ever. It was strictly buzzer cuts. So you always came away from an Abraham cut looking as if you’d just enlisted in the army. But he totally owned it. He would brag about how he didn’t even need to use a pair of scissors. Ross hated Abraham, and let everyone know it. “What kind of a barber don’t use no scissors?” he would mutter way too loud to nobody in particular. I’m not sure where Abraham came from, but he had a big mustache and a thick accent. Maybe Turkey? I don’t know. I’m sure Ross knew, and I’m sure he didn’t approve.
Abraham wouldn’t use scissors, but he always finished up the haircut with a straight-razor. In fact, Abraham’s proficiency with a single blade was probably his most redeeming quality. You could always use it to get out of a Ross haircut. If Ross were available, he’d wipe off his chair and motion for you to come over. All you had to do was request a shave. Ross at some level must have known his own limits. He’d stare down at his shaking hands and say something like, “Sure, uh … Oh geez, I must have forgotten my straight-razor at home. You’re going to have to wait for Abraham.” And then Abraham’s face would light up. You could just tell what he was thinking, “Ha! Primo thinks he’s so popular. Looks like Primo’s not the only popular one around here. Now Abraham has a line too! Now Abraham is popular!” And while Abraham reclined your chair back and lathered up your face, he would openly brag, probably to just rub in Ross’s face a little more. “Now you are going to feel the magic! Abraham’s magic hands!” It reads a lot creepier than it sounded in real life. But it was a great shave, one of those shaves where your facial hair wouldn’t come back for close to a week.
Then there was Tony. Nobody ever got a haircut from Tony. I think it was just a generally accepted fact. For a guy who made his living in cutting hair, he had the worst haircut imaginable. It was these long, flowing, permanently wet-looking locks of thick hair. Normally, I would have assumed that the haircutter with the worst haircut has to be the best barber, because he’s the only one who can’t benefit from his own great haircutting skills. But that definitely wasn’t the case here. My brothers and I would all sit there and squirm and complain if we got called up to a Tony haircut. And my dad would get all pissed at us for making a scene and would say, “Fine, I’ll take a Tony haircut,” as if to show us that a haircut’s a haircut, that it didn’t really matter and that we were all being babies and making this whole family haircutting outing much longer than it needed to be. But then my dad would walk out with a weird new-wave hairdo and we would all try not to laugh for fear of getting yelled at on the way home. After a few visits, we would all just kind of try to avoid Tony’s pathetic gaze, his empty chair. He would gesture to my dad towards his seat, but my dad would just kind of shrug and look over his shoulder, almost saying, “Who me? No, you must be gesturing towards somebody else. Um. What? What?”
I recently went back to Primo’s, but some guy named Davy had bought the place. Apparently Primo had sold his majority stake in the firm and got relegated to second barber chair. Tony got the boot. But Davy got jealous because everybody still kept waiting for Primo. So then Primo got the boot. And then Ross came in to work one day and Davy just looked at him and said, “Really?” and Ross understood that he had given his last haircut. So it was just Abraham and Davy. I went with my brother and the place was empty, which, while terrible for the business, was great for us. I got Abraham, my brother Davy, and we both requested shaves. Abraham hadn’t lost any of his magic touch, but Davy clearly had never given a straight-shave before, and he totally mangled my brother’s face.
After that my brother started going to a new place. The new barber asked him where he had been getting his hair cut, and he told him at Primo’s. The guy apparently went into a huge rant about Abraham’s lack of talent, how this other guy makes the majority of his money fixing Abraham’s botched haircuts.
I started going to this Korean nail salon that also happens to give super cheap haircuts. It’s OK, but I hate going there because they always ask me if I want a shampoo first, which I don’t, because I always just shampoo in the shower, so why would I get another one here? But I feel like they resent me for it, or think I’m dirty, or cheap or something. Like I said, I really hate getting a haircut. It’s never a good experience. Some happen to be less terrible than others, but they’re all terrible, just terrible, terrible haircuts.