Well, I went and got a haircut. Here’s what happened…


Over the past month, my hair was pretty much out of control. For months before the pandemic, I’d been getting it cut really short — too short to comb — so as it grew out, it grew out kind of weird.

Finally, I recognized it.

Finally, I recognized it.

But it started looking sort of familiar. Finally, I recognized it: Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments!” Too bad people don’t make biblical epics in the 1950s style any more. If they did, it could have been my ticket to stardom, with Heston no longer around.

Anyway, a few days ago, I heard some encouraging news: A friend told me her husband had taken their son to another outlet of the same barber shop chain I go to, and had been impressed by the COVID security — everybody in masks, people not entering the shop until it was their turn, dividers between the chairs.

For the past year, I had been taking my Dad to get haircuts at that chain. It worked for us because we could just go when it was convenient for both of us — no appointment. You sign in on an app before you leave the house, and by the time you get there it’s your turn.

And I had come up with a system that meant it didn’t matter which barber I got — use a No. 4 clipper guard on the sides, and a No. 7 on the top. My haircuts would only take a few minutes, it took almost zero time to wash it in the shower, and I never had to comb it — I just let it lie down kind of like a classical Roman cut. It was veni, vidi, vici — I had the grooming thing beat. Et tu, Brad.

So this week, I decided to give it a try — alone. If I was impressed with the procedures, I could take my Dad another time.

Here’s how it went:

  • The shop we usually go to was closed, according to the app. Fine. I went to another that I’d never been to.
  • At first, it was awesome. Although when I left the house the app said I had 15 minutes to my turn, when I arrived it said zero, and I was the only customer there. Two women were at the counter, and both had masks. One of them accompanied me to a chair. Before we got started, she explained that she used to work at the shop I usually go to, that it would be reopening Saturday (so, today), and that she hoped to go back.
  • There was some confusion before starting because the computer told her to cut all my hair with a #3. I said I couldn’t imagine where that came from. It was a 4 and a 7. No biggie. She said she’d fix it in the computer.
  • Now the real concern: She had on a mask, but it was pulled down so it only covered her mouth. Every time I looked at her, I was looking up her nostrils. I didn’t say anything. I’ll try to explain why in a moment. I, of course, was wearing a mask, properly. I asked whether it was going to be in her way, and she said no, she was used to working around them. Fine.
  • Second problem. She did the sides and back with a #4, but then started working on the top entirely with a comb and scissors. Which meant it was going to take three or four times as long as usual. She asked if it was short enough at one point, and I said I didn’t think so, and mentioned, in a nice way, that maybe she should try using the good ol’ #7! She responded by, after trimming some more, taking the #7 and holding it to my hair to make sure it was the right length. I got this vibe that she was trying to show me how careful and skilled and artistic she was — something she had time to do, since there were no customers waiting (someone came in at one point, and I think the other woman handled him). I think she thought this was a good way to make a good impression on the client. But this was not what I wanted.
  • Why was I so reticent? Well, she spent the whole time telling me what a rough time she’d been having, and was still having. She couldn’t work for two months. She was still waiting to get her unemployment (she had finally learned, several days earlier, that it had been sent to her old address). She was also still waiting for her stimulus check (I was about to ask whether she’d checked to see whether that had gone to the old address, but I got distracted and we never got back to it, so I feel bad about that — surely she’s thought of that, right?). And the whole time, her landlord was being a total jerk and threatening to evict her. How big a jerk? When she learned a new unemployment card would be sent to her current address but would take seven to 10 days to arrive, she eagerly went to tell her landlord, who said, “I don’t see why it would take that long.” So, that big a jerk.
  • Also… sometimes I don’t trust myself to say things in a nice way. I had noticed that my hands were really tensed up under the sheet they put over you. Not fists, exactly, but tense. I know myself well enough that I didn’t think I’d be able to say, “You need to cover your nose with that,” or “Could you do the haircut the usual way so we can get done?” in a tone, or in the words, that would produce a constructive result. And I was very conscious that she was pouring out how she’d had a tough time. Now that she’d finally gotten back to work, I sort of figured she didn’t need the final straw of her one and only customer telling her she wasn’t doing the job right. I didn’t want to  be another landlord in her life.

Maybe I was overthinking it.

Anyway, I got home and figured my mission was accomplished when my wife laughed at me and said, “Your beard is bigger than your head now!”

But I don’t think I’m going to go back for another cut soon. I may not wait another four months, but I can wait a while



14 thoughts on “Well, I went and got a haircut. Here’s what happened…

  1. Floyd Lawson

    If you have them do a #4 on the sides and a #7 on the top, why not just buy a clippers and set of guides and do it yourself?

  2. Scout

    My hair looks like medusa. It doesn’t grow long so much as tall. It’s fluffy. My cat likes to touch it tentatively as if to say, what is that. I suspect we may go to the same hair cut place. My regular one is closed now also. I was just about to work up the nerve to go and then got scared with the numbers going up. So I still have crazy covid hair. Maybe you should just buy a set of clippers and let your wife do it, since you know the numbers. That’s what my husband finally did. I do his hair. But he uses a 1 everywhere, so it’s next to impossible for me to mess up, which is very good. After about 3 hair cuts you pay for the clippers.

    My sister has a friend who cuts hair. Today she is coming over to my sister’s house to cut hair in the back yard wearing a mask. I am so happy. I will be able to see again soon.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I have thought, MANY TIMES, about getting clippers and the guards. But the major part of the reason I go to the place is to take my Dad. And I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to cut his. It’s complicated.

      The funny thing is, when I was growing up, I was the one with the long hair, and my Dad always had a crew-cut. If I could get him to go back to that, maybe I could cut his and mine both…

  3. bud

    I quit going to a barber years ago. The time, aggravation, nauseating barber shop smell and the cost just aren’t worth it. I think tipping is expected which seems awkward. My own cut looks good enough, not great, but good enough. Not sure why all the angst when you can probably do a decent job yourself with a little practice.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ve thought of Hemingway a number of times recently. I’ll look in the mirror and think, “The Old Man and the…” But I’m nowhere near the sea. Would it work to say, “The Old Man and the Laptop?” That’s where I spend most of my day, laboring to bring the fish home…

      I was a HUGE Hemingway fan when I was young. I still enjoying reading him now and then. But now that I’m five years older than he was when he killed himself, trying to look like him in later life has less appeal. Earlier, I wouldn’t have minded. I’ve always liked this one, with the typewriter…

      Maybe I should go for a Tolstoy look. Except I want to keep my hair. (Actually, I’ve never been a big Tolstoy fan. I prefer Dostoevsky. But he died at 59, and his beard never turned gray, so…)

      Here’s another pic from before the haircut (anticipating this post, I tried doing the selfie several times). In this one, though, I look less like Heston and more like somebody whose statue would be getting torn down about now. I’m even dressed in gray…


      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of course, what I’m really doing with the beard is seeing how long and thick it gets while I’m working from home. So no trimming (except the mustache, to keep it out of my mouth).

        I think I last shaved on March 18. I’m pretty sure that was the last day I went in to the office. So on Thursday, it will be three months…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It had been almost four months on the haircut. The lady who cut it said I’d last been there in February.

          Of course, she also had that I was supposed to get it cut with a #3, and that was wrong…


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