Sometimes, you have to place your trust in the hands of someone you’ve never met. Most times, things turn out all right. On rare occasions, however, that trust is grossly misplaced. But it’s how you handle times like this that truly show the person you are.
I had a gut feeling that something might go wrong when I walked into my neighbourhood barber shop and was directed to a seat right at the end, a seat I have never sat on during past visits, and manned by a guy that has never cut my hair.
As he started prepping me, I gave my usual instructions. “High slope, sides and back.” And he set to work.
Halfway through buzzing up the highest slope I’ve ever received, and amidst the usual banter barbers make while they are working, one of the other barbers made a wisecrack, causing my designated barber to laugh – midway through shearing the top of my head.
It was a sickening feeling – the sudden additional and seemingly unnecessary pressure pushing down my head, then the sudden cool breeze from the air-conditioning that hit the very same spot where the buzzer was applied just a split second earlier.
At first the barber did not react. Keeping his cool, he tried to make up for it by applying an additional stroke with the buzzer, but I made him stop. “What are you doing?”, I asked him with a cold calm.
“High slope, right?” the barber said, already sensing I knew what happened.
“Show me,” I said, putting on my spectacles. Then he picked up a mirror and positioned it over the back of my head for me to see. Staring back at me was a patch of skin shaped like the Eye of Sauron set just right of center of the peak where my slope met the rest of my hair at the top.
I looked at my barber. my barber tried not to look at me. Then I took off my spectacles, and placed my right hand on my face. The barber banter stopped. Around me, 5 other barbers stood stock still, wondering what was going to happen next.
$10 Barber Tip #1: When you sense something is amiss, keep quiet and let the barber finish his job. Because if you let him know you sense something amiss, it will only go downhill from there, no matter how you try to salvage the situation.
And I think this is the ultimate example of how men will differ from women; given the same situation, you would expect a woman to get angry, cry, maybe even threaten a lawsuit. But then, that’s also why a guy’s haircut only costs $10.
I looked at my barber through the mirror and said, “Okay, put your buzzer down. I gotta think.” I looked around the shop, trying to ind a display photo of a guy with a short-cropped style I could ask him to follow. 30 seconds of tense silence later, I pointed at a photo of a Jersey Shore dude and said, “Can you do that?”
The barber looked at it, and said, “I try.”
$10 Barber Tip #2: the photos of representative men’s hairstyles you see plastered all over the shop are strictly for display only. So if you walk into a barber shop with a pictorial reference of what you want, it better be a photo you’ve taken of yourself after your barber’s done with you.
7 minutes later, I looked nothing like what the photo I pointed at did. After another facepalm and a little mumbling about why it had to be me today, I said to my barber, “Okay, we’re done.” By this time the tubby old guy was beginning to look rather guilty.
“Bro, no need to pay. I also ashamed to collect money from you.”
I took a deep breath, and sighed. “No, man. I sat here for 15 minutes already, and you cut off more hair than I’ve ever had cut since I was in full-time NS. I’m paying you.”
He cleaned me up, then I got up and handed him a 10-dollar bill. He took it humbly. Then as he was dining up his cash register, I tapped him on the arm with the back of my hand and asked with pursed lips, “Got discount or not?”
He laughed, opened up his register, and then he gave me a $5 bill and a pat on the back. Then I turned around, and saw the 5 other barbers staring intently at me. I shook my head and left, digging out my phone from my pocket to call my wife and tell her my barber laughed mid-shear.
$10 Barber Tip #3: If you get into a hair mishap with a barber who’s attending to you for the first time, make it a point to go back to the same barber the next time you need a haircut, because he’s gonna remember what he did to you that first time, and he’ll jolly well make sure he takes care to give you good, proper haircuts every time you visit.