For This Ol’ Barber, Shutdown Is Toughest Cut Ever
A long-time barber in Albany reluctantly cut his last head of hair on Saturday due to the government mandate closing the doors on barbershops, salons, tattoo parlors, and piercing shops and quite frankly, he's not happy about it. Despite the urging of family, that at age 78, he was in the high risk coronavirus category and he should NOT be working, he still went about his business. Up at 5 AM, drinking Stewart's coffee by 5:30 and at his chair on Central Ave ready with fresh newspapers, sharpening the sheers waiting for his first customer. Barbers have Sunday and Monday's off, so today was have been a regular workday for Harry, a lifelong barber, who also happens to be my dad. Today was the first day in over half a century that he was told he couldn't do what he loves - cut people's hair.
Haircuts are $16, shampoo $10, and beard/mustache trims were a few bucks - 1980's prices. He uses an old fashioned cash register that dings when it opens, the TV is 19 inches (no cable) and the coffee isn't bad, but the powder used to lighten it up leaves something to be desired.
Sometimes the older gents that came into his shop were there to actually get a trim of their few remaining precious locks, but mostly they're longtime friends of my dad who stopped by to shoot the shit about sports, politics, the days news, or just to get away from their wives for an hour or so.
This barber shop in Albany is as much about seeing old friends and familiar faces as it is shampoos and hot shaves. I can see why my old man didn't let the coronavirus or anything else in his 55 plus years of cutting hair prevent him from showing up at the chair, waiting for his loyal clientele to drop in.
This shutdown, although he's probably too proud to admit it, frightens the hell out of my pops. His friends and clients are older, and who knows how many more visits to the chair they have.
On Saturday, at around 1 PM, my pops dusted some hair off the chair, dropped a few combs in the old blue disinfectant, and taped a sign up on the window that said he'd been forced to shut down, walked out of his barber shop, and headed home.
My father will probably still wake up at around the same time each day - never with an alarm clock - because that's what his body knows. My dad is like a bull, and I know that physically he's fine. What I fear is that it's his mind that may be the most affected by his inability to work. I don't think he loves cutting hair. I think he loves what cutting hair affords him; the friendships, the politics, the ball-busting, the muffins and donuts and the ability to connect with and shoot the shit with people.
My dad won't use Zoom or FaceTime to interact with his loyal customers he might not be seeing for some time. To my pops, Zoom are the $2 readers that he bought from Rite-Aid and FaceTime for an old school barber like him, is actually people in front of one another talking face-to-face.
"Brian", he said to me optimistically yesterday "Did you hear that Trump thinks businesses could re-open in a few weeks?" "I did dad", I shot back "and I hope he's right"
My father has actually considered driving to his clients' homes to cut their hair despite the emphatic disapproval from my sister, mother and me. He's just gonna have to ride this one out.
In the meantime, he knows I'm up early enough in the morning and can always call me when I'm on my way to work to catch up on sports, life, politics, weather, or just to get away from his ol' lady for a few minutes.
You know, barber shop stuff.