May 24, 2006

Master Barber

I went to get a haircut after work yesterday. The place that I go is this hole-in-the-wall shop that has been there for years and years. It is small and dingy, with a lot of junk on the walls, mostly joke items. There are 3 chairs and a cast of about 10 barbers who seem to come and go. The patrons are a mix of mostly older guys who wouldn’t be caught dead in Supercuts and some younger fellows looking for a particular cut. My haircut always costs $9 + tip. I go there because the guy who owns the joint is a survivor and I think he deserves my support. The owner of the business next door tried to squeeze him out by various dirty stunts and he had to win a court battle to keep from being driven out of business. Also, I am a traditional barbershop guy. If you want Chez Henri to style you or want to go to a franchise place, knock yourself out. I like clippers, not scissors. People who make their living in personal services depend on "turn". They need to get you in and get you out so that the next butt can occupy the seat. The trick is to provide good-quality service as quickly as possible and move one, leaving the customer feeling good about the experience. Today I met Pat, Master Barber. That is what his gold metal nametag said, Master Barber. It was pinned on his black barber smock. When I arrived there were two barbers working. One barber, Terry, cut my hair last time and did a good job. He was already with a customer, so that left Pat and me. Pat was busy cleaning his equipment so I thought about telling him that I would wait for Terry. I didn’t want to offend him, so I hopped up into his chair when he indicated that he was ready for me. This guy was an amazing barber. Normally, I get a haircut in 15 minutes tops. Pat took about an hour to cut my hair. He first used clippers to rough in things. Then he began to fine tune, snipping here, trimming there. It was as though he trimmed each hair individually. What made the experience though was not so much the result as the process. My hair gets cut all one length, about ½”, so it looks like what it is, not much. The experience was in watching a craftsman at work. Pat took care to make each detail of a simple and boring haircut look just right. He took time he didn’t have too. He could have spent half the time with half the effort and I would have looked just fine to everyone but Pat. The haircut wasn't done until Pat was satisfied. He did his job out of respect for his craft and the title Master Barber. Tag:

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