Friday, March 10, 2006

Pedaling for a Haircut

Locating a real barber shop in Orange County is a tough prospect, especially finding one in easy cycling distance from home. The stylist chains are so hit or miss, with all of the recent graduates of various cosmetology schools permeating their ranks. You can walk in to those places and never know who is going to cut your hair until you are sat down. Hair salons aren't my bag either, mostly because I don't wish to overpay for a simple man's haircut. Call me cheap, but it's the truth.

There are a few barber shops close by that looked consistent, so I decided to drop into the one that looked the homiest. It wasn't the closest to home, but that didn't matter. There was plenty of room to park my bicycle near the side door without locking it up, or blocking access for anyone entering or leaving the shop. There were a few customers inside waiting for a turn in one of the three antique chairs, all sitting in nice and cushy waiting chairs with plenty of elbow room. The lone barber was busy finishing a cut on a young man in his 20's who looked like he might have been active military on leave. I didn't mind waiting.

One of the other customers waiting was conversing with the young man in the chair about the military. The waiting customer engrossed in this conversation was an elderly gentleman in his 80's who looked and sounded a lot younger. The story he was relating to the young man in the chair was about his flying fighters in WWII for the US Navy. His British accent would have been the only thing to bely the sound of a true American Patriot from this man. I enjoyed listening to his story, as well as the subsequent anecdotes he related while taking his turn in the chair. People who dismiss the elderly just because they look/sound/are old don't know what they are missing. The wait was made intriguing and entertaining.

This place where men gather is adorned with the usual barber shop decor. Sports memorabalia is a mainstay, especially Angels baseball photos and plaques. A 21" television on one side of the shop has a sign over it stating something to the effect that there was no liability if "the game is on". The Barber is a season ticket holder for the Angels. The most interesting inanimate items in the shop are the chairs themselves. The cushions are definitely not original, but the metal base, frame and mechanicals were obviously made in a time long gone, when things were built to last with minimal care. The wait was almost not long enough to take it all in.

My turn in the chair arrived after another elderly gentleman had taken his turn in the chair and conversation. I didn't feel too chatty as the Barber worked his way around the mop on top of my head, but made a few interjections during pauses in the ongoing topics as I had during my entire visit. There is a strange sense of community in this place that no other barber shop I had ever been in has had. I enjoyed it, almost to the point of looking forward to my next haircut. The wait never dwindled the whole time I was there, at about four or five customers deep. My turn in the chair ended and I paid the Barber for his services while the next customer slid into the chair. I pedaled away with the cool breeze hitting my scalp like it had not done so for about two months and couldn't help but think that I had gotten a great bargain on the whole experience, including the tip.



Blogger greyloon said...

You are about the age when styling salons became the in-thing. Barber shops almost died. What you relay experiencing is exactly what barbershops were like in my youth and on up into my mid 20's (I'm 59 now).

I've mixed feelings about barber shops. I miss some of the feel. That doesn't exist even in most of the newer shops that have tried to return to the old style. On the other hand, because I had difficult to cut very curly hair as a youngster and young adult, I seldom got a good haircut twice from a barber. The stylists were a bit more able to replicate their cuts. Actually, I believe the bad cut second time around was the barber's way of telling me he didn't want my business as it too too long to cut my hair.

But, it was great to go into the old shops, smell the smells, and talk the talk. Some of the best conversations were with the shoe shine guys. I also miss the tissue collars barbers used to keep hair off your neck and the compressed air that blew the hair away after your cut.

04 July, 2008 20:30  

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