Thursday, May 29, 2008

Take a little of the top and shave back the conversation

Is there a better, more gratifying feeling than walking out of the barber shop with a freshly trimmed head of hair? Sure there is, but for the purpose of the blog post, we'll leave it rhetorical.

I dislike haircuts quite a bit. While I appreciate the end result, I dislike the process. The barber shop nearest the house has three barbers, and I have the same problem with all three. I hate the conversation.

When I lived in Plainfield, I did not have this problem. The barbers could contently trim the head without but a few words of pleasantry, not afraid of silence. Better yet was when they got a TV and they spent more attention to the news than on pointless, in-person talk. For five years, I did not appreciate the glorious-ness of that simple, main street barber shop.

No, in Blaine we just have to have a conversation. I'm not much of a socialist to start, but I do have a pretty decent knowledge of current events. I follow sports more than the normal patron, which in a barber shop you would think would be more than enough to get me by for the 20 or so minutes it takes to give me the same haircut I've had. But no, it's never enough. For there are four types of barber shop conversations that I inevitably fall into.

Conversation #1: Where do you work? I'm notoriously bad at discussing this topic. It's not that I hate work, I simply don't like rehashing it with a perfect stranger. Furthermore, just because I work at a pharmacy does not mean I'm a pharmacist.

Conversation #2: Various weather comments. The most neutral and meaningless of topics is that of the weather. If we could just let it go at "it's cold" or "lots of rain" we'd be ok, but there's always carrying on and some type of historical analysis. Furthermore, this is the conversation I have fifty times a day with the customers of Walgreens, and I'm tired of it.

Conversation #3: The great outdoors. By far the most popular of the barber shop conversations, I frequently get asked about hunting, fishing, camping or whatever else these people do in the wilderness. I don't do any of the above, and despite Minnesota having an unofficial holiday whenever the fishing or hunting season begins, I could care less about whatever wild game these men brought home last weekend.

Conversation #4: Barber shop jokes. Usually crude, not that funny, and poorly told. I don't get this one very often, but when I do it's the worst of the four.

And so the other day when I walked into the barber shop, I dreaded the conversation. I figured we'd end up going with #2 as Coon Rapids (next town over) and Hugo (the town over the other direction) were hit with tornadoes this past weekend. Having an account of the storm to share, I figured I was in good shape. I can talk for a little while about my side of the storm, the barber talks about his side, we exchange cash, and I walk out of there unscathed.

Additionally in my favor was a "new" barber in the shop. This guy isn't new, in fact he's the oldest of the bunch who I've seen a couple times filling in whenever one of the regulars is either sick or on vacation. It just so happened that he was the one available, and I was up next.

Since he did not even recognize me as the others in the shop do, we immediately went for conversation #1. Right away, I was asked if I was a pharmacist. He then promptly told me in a roundabout way he doesn't like Walgreens and doesn't go there. He's the second of the barbers who has told me that. Nothing creates an awkward silence like a man with scissors telling you why he doesn't like your place of work.

With all of 60 seconds eaten up with conversation #1, we glided into conversation #2. Sure enough the recent tornadoes came up. I was already to go with my story when he shared that he commutes in thirty minutes to fill in and not only was nowhere near the storm but hadn't seen any of the footage. Damn! Foiled in my attempt to get by with #2.

That naturally slid into #3 as he was not in town because he was at his cabin over the Memorial Day weekend. I then suffered through another fishing account while trying feebly to feign interest and grunt approvals and disgusts at the right moments in the story.

In a surprising twist, he wrapped up the story and began yet another topic. An unforeseen change! A life preserver! The topic? Sports!

Having seen me wear my Valpo t-shirt in, he quickly ascertained that I was an Indiana fan in all things. I told him that despite the shirt, my allegiances were actually for Cleveland. That presented a problem.

He wanted to discuss hockey and Cleveland doesn't have a hockey team. I tried to meet him halfway and say that I had loosely followed the Minnesota Wild this season even going so far as to knowledgeably know that the Wild lost in 6 games in the first round of the playoffs. He shot that down saying he only really liked high school and collegiate hockey. To which we sat in silence for the final three minutes.

At least I was spared conversation#4. And I look good.

Photo from


JR said...

I have discovered the self-haircut is the key to solving your problem. My purchased razor has been a key to looking good and not having to talk much.

Please note that I am also bald.

CHCgirl said...

In case you were curious, the same problem exists for female haircuts, except the time for the cut is longer at salons and like you, I often have very little to share in the areas (and the first two are definitely the same categories, with general Chicago being #3). I usual just make things up for number one... I find that it works better. Not completely untrue just not completely accurate. You might want to try it.