Finally, The Ol’ Barber is Back Doing What He Loves
Back on March 21st, a man who had only known one profession his entire life, was told he had to shut it down. For this longtime Albany barber, who had been cutting hair since his early 20's, the shutdown was his most difficult cut ever. It was a decision that came at the hands of CDC officials and the Governor of New York State, not his. But this stubborn ol' man - resistant to change - rallied. And yesterday, he was back doing what he loves.
Over the course of the last two-plus months, my dad, Harry the Barber (Papa Codes to many longtime listeners) was heartbroken, angry and frustrated. He knew one day he'd be able to cut hair again, but when? At his age, we worried about the big guys' return. My father is extremely resistant to change, hates be told 'what to do' and isn't very technologically savvy. Operating a business in the new, vastly different COVID-19 world meant that operating out of his shop may be completely different.
Long gone are the handshakes, hugs, outdated magazines and the old coffee maker. New rules and protocol for barbers and stylists mean less interaction and comfort, and more disinfection and sterilization.
My father has been cutting hair for over 55 years and built a business rooted in reliability, good service and loyalty. I've always contended that my pops give a great haircut, but he gives an even more honest price and fun place to hang. It's the kind of shop where old-timers can pop in unannounced and shoot the breeze about sports, politics, families or nothing at all.
It's not that these things are gone as a result of COVID-19, they're just different. Marvin won't be swinging by with donuts anymore and JB can't sit in the waiting area all day looking over the Daily Racing Form. The time in between haircuts, which used to be for heated political and sports debates, will now be used solely for contactless payment and deep cleaning.
My Pops is as resistant to change as anyone you'll ever meet, and I'd be lying if I told you we weren't concerned about his ability to adhere to the strict protocol needed to operate his business. But he rallied, and quite frankly surprised us all. He may not be able to operate an iPhone or turn on a computer, but he does know how to operate a business.
And so there he was on day #1 of Phase 2 equipped with his disposable apron, gloves, face mask and protective shield doing his thing like he's been doing it this way for years. My 78-year-old father made his way around chair with scissors and comb in hand, delicately snipping and trimming as he peaked out from behind his clear shield, paying extra attention.
It's was awesome to see.
As I listened in on the conversation my father was having with "Mike", his first client of the day, I heard your typical small-talk; catching up life after two months of the pandemic. And while the conversation may be insignificant to most, the sight of this was significantly powerful. This isn't just a barber shop, it's my dad's life. These aren't just clients, they're his friends, his people. Operating his barber shop was stripped from him for two months, just a blip on his 55 year career, and yes things are vastly different now for a man who hates change. But he waited it out, and so did his clients who were booked all day.
I couldn't see it with all the face gear he was wearing, but I could tell he was smiling.
I'm honored to share a really cool piece that was featured on News 10 ABC on Wednesday afternoon. Thanks to the superb Anya Tucker and her videographer Kenny, for making our family very proud with this story.