For the summer I had picked up job delivering sandwiches for a sub shop downtown. It stayed pretty busy with all the surrounding shops on Main Street taking advantage of the business.
I delivered sandwiches to just about every store but had manged to successfully avoid the one place I had no desire to enter. The City Barber Chair.
It was a dreadful place, I had a couple haircuts when I much younger there and they always were horrible experiences. Being told to ” get in the chair” and ” sit still” while prepped for a shearing. And the feeling of the huge barber chair jolting upwards and the spinning around and back while strands of hair fell to your caped lap.
It gave me butterflies to think of it.
I answered the phone to take an ordered on Saturday and didn’t even realize I was talking to the barber there until he gave the address for delivery. I began to shake at the thought of a barber chair waiting for me with a cape draped over it, and being ripped off by a eager barber patting the back of the chair.
With quick thinking I took my break and handed over the order to young Kelly who had just started working the day before. I felt a little guilty about it but what harm would a barber do to a young girls hair.
The order was ready and out the door she went, with a sigh of relief from me.
About ten minutes passed and I began to wonder where she was because it was only a block away and she should have been back.
Against my better judgement I left the shop and slowly turned the corner to approach the barber shop and immediately noticed something that took my breathe away.
Kelly was sitting in the barber chair with a anxious look on her face and fidgeting about helplessly.
What was she doing I thought out loud!?
I kept watching from a safe distance, now the old barber was behind the chair and tossing her blonde locks around with a dissapointed look on his face.
I could see her pleading with him as her hands gripped the armrest of the chair but the barber already had the red shiny cape out in the hair in front of her. It billowed out slowly and dropped over her small frame covering her entirely.
I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t get up and run.
The barber left the ends of the cape unsnapped and walked to the counter where he fetched a neckstrip and came back behind her. He pinned her hair up and fastly wrapped her neck with the tissue.
Then he pulled the shiny cape up around her neck and snapped it tightly shut.
It seemed eminent now, she was trapped.
The barber began to jostle her hair about more and suddenly spun the chair holding her away from the mirror so she was now looking out the front of the shop towards me. We actually made eye contact and I could see the fright in her face as she was a pure victim in that huge barber chair.
A few people walking by the shop front looked up in at her and shook there heads as to think” better her than me”
And then while our eyes were locked the barber chair started jolting upwards, the first movement of the chair shook her and the barber placed his hands on her caped shoulders and steadied her. He must have kicked down on the lever ten times until the chair was elevated very high up.
I couldn’t believe I was watching this happen and it crossed my mind to go in and stop it but what of the chance of me being chaired and caped.
The barber reached in his tunic pocket and produced a pair of shears which he snapped open and shut a few times beside her ears. I could almost here the snipping sound from across the street.
Then something I had never seen but had heard of happened.
The barber placed a shiny silver bowl on top of her head that sat just above ear level .
I saw her lips pleading once more and without hesitation the barber started spinning the large leather chair slowly around.
He placed the shears under the bowls edge and began slicing hair evenly from Kelly’s head in a straight line.
She spun around slowly several times as he snipped and snipped each time she made eye contact with me as she went around.
He stopped the chair again with it facing the front of the shop .
He pulled the bowl off her head and with his hand on her shoulder spun her around once more to examine his handy work.
I had never seen a more helpless display in my life.
Kelly looked defeated.
What could possibly be next I thought as he used his comb to swipe the long hairs from shoulders.
The barber walked out of view to the counter and I saw her turn her head back to look at him and suddenly he was back in view and grabbed her chin, he turned her head back forward and then pushed it down so her chin was now touching the cape.
He placed his foot on the lever and the barber chair jerked upwards several times.
I could see now he had the clippers and the look on Kelly’s face confirmed it.
I could tell the moment he flicked them on and hit her neck with them by the way she jumped a little.
He made pass after pass up her neck line . Turning the chair to and from to get the sides up to the point where the bowl rested earlier.
He worked slowly and methodically as he buzzed her lower head.
Kelly looked complete different, poor thing, almost like a boy.
With the barber now nearly done I thought to myself I should get the hell away from here and back to the shop. He was blowing her off with the hairdryer as I turned to go back to work.
I waited in the sub shop for her to walk back in but she never did.
About an hour later the owner came up to me and said” kelly called in and quit just a moment ago, said it wasn’t for her. Looks like your doing all deliveries now.”
I gulped and thought to myself that is not good.
For several weeks I answered every delivery call with a level of stress I had never experienced. I waited for the barber shop delivery like a man on the way to the gallows.
Enough time actually went by and I forgot about it. School was starting back next week and this was my last Friday working. I had made some great money and had dodged the barber shop where kelly met her unfortunate fate, that of which I still didn’t understand.
Walking back in from my morning break, the owner threw me a bag of subs and said ” shoot down to the barber shop and deliver those”
I turned pale at the thought and just turned towards the door and walked out into the street.
Oh shit how had this happened, in and out, no worries.
I walked down the street and there was the shop, waiting for me.
I approached the door and opened it slowly, a bell chimed as I walked in and the sight in front of me rattled me to the core.
There was the old barber standing next to an empty barbers chair with a shiny red cape over his arm. He patted the back of the black leather chair firmly and said ” up you go, boy you need a good trimming.”
I stood motionless and couldn’t say anything.
I stared at the chair as he spun it to face me and patted the back of it again. His evil grin now cutting me down.
” I think I’ll just leave these here ” I said and started to set them down.
” No sir , that won’t do, I pay for my subs with haircuts and your gonna clear my bill with that mop”
I’ll never know why I did it but I started moving towards the barber chair, my jello legs barely got me there. As I approached the barber opened the cape open wide and shook it out with a violent snapping motion. The thick material made a whipping sound and I saw little hairs in the light of the shop go everywhere.
I was now at the chair and only had to turn and sit but couldn’t do it. The barber looked me right in the eye and patted the back of the chair again.
I turned to sit and as I fell back into the soft leather seat I felt his hands on my shoulders pulling me back all the way.
” that’s a good boy ” he said sarcastically.
And then suddenly I felt the chair holding me swirl around to face the mirror and that’s when I saw how helpless I looked now.
The barber lifted the shaggy hair from my scalp with his fingers and shook his head frowning at same time.
” you haven’t had a proper snip up in awhile young man”
” don’t worry, well get you straightened out”
In an attempt to regain control of the situation I said” just a trim please”
He laughed as he opened the cape and threw it out in front of me.
The large shiny red cape fell like a parachute over me. It collapsed over my entire body and only my feet dangled out under neath. Once it settled over me he grabbed a tissue and wrapped it around my neck. As he snapped the ends shut I began to realize why kelly couldn’t escape. Something about the cape tethers you to the chair. It holds you in place and completely dismisses your spirit. Again he was going through my shaggy mop with his hands and looking for some way to cut it when he said” best just to make this altogether shortest possible.”
” what do you mean ” I said sheepishly from under the large cape.
” what I mean is sit still” he said and the chair spun swiftly away from the mirror and there I was looking out the shop front.
I had seen this before but I wasn’t in the chair.
Now I was and it had a dreadful feeling.
And then I felt the chair jolt as he stomped down on the lever. I began to inch upwards, my body shaking with every movement. A mother with her child walked to the front window of the shop and looked in. She had him by the arm and when he saw the look on my face he began to pout as she dragged him in side the shop.
As they entered the barber called out ” have a seat this one won’t be long” as he continuously pumped the chair higher and higher. I was sitting as high as the barber chair could go when the thuds of it moving upwards finally ended.
The mother watched with a approving look as the barber pulled the shears from his tunic pocket and snipped them beside my ear. I was on display, it felt humiliating.
And then I felt him grab hair from the top of my head and at the base of his fingers ” SNIP SNIPSNIP. Hair fell over my face and nose and into my lap.
It had begun
The young boy was almost in tears as he watched my scalping happen in front of him, he knew he was soon to be in the same chair.
The barber fingered through my mop and cut a way at anything he could.
My shoulders were covered with hair, my lap had a puddle of it , and the floor under the chair was littered with piles of my hair.
That mother waiting only feet in front of me commented” young man I bet you will make more trips to the barber chair now to avoid getting such a lesson taught to you again”
I ignored the comment as the barber raked through my shorter hair moving my head about forcefully finding hairs to snip away.
I had no idea where this haircut was going and had basically become submissive when I felt the chair being spun around slowly as the the barber examined his work. I spun helplessly in the chair slowly in a full circle and stopped facing at the mirror.
My hair looked mangled, what was this he had done.
” now that length is out of the way I can get down to buzzing you good and short” said the barber just before he used the hairdryer to blow the mounds of snippings from my shoulders and lap.
I saw him fidgeting with the clippers at the counter and almost started to cry . I didn’t want the clippers anywhere near me but clearly had no choice.
He turned to face me and clicked them on and off rapidly as to taunt me.
He was back behind me now .
” actually sir this is short enough” I tried to weakishly offer up but it didn’t work.
Before the words finished leaving my mouth he had my chin in his hand pushing it upwards so I was looking at the ceiling.
I heard the roaring hum of the clippers come to life and the the cold vibrating steel hit my forehead and ran from front to back.
What was left of my bangs collected on my nose and face and hairs flew through the air everywhere as he made pass after pass from the front of my head to the back side.
He let go of my chin and my head fell forwards. I then felt his hand on the top of my head pushing it down now. My chin made contact with the shiny cape and again the clippers ran up my neck to the top of my head. Several passes and not much hair later. He let go of my head and turned the chair so I was facing my audience again. The mother looked so pleased at the sight of a young unwilling victim getting what he deserved for dodging the barber chair all summer.
I figured it was over and the the barber pushed my head sideways and folded my ear down as he ran the clippers up the side of my head on both sides. It felt so cold in the shop on my scalp where my hair used to be.
The barber made several more passes over the top just to be sure and finished up with me facing the mirror. I looked stupid sitting there with my little freshly buzzed head poking from under the cape.
” now for that fuzzy neckline” he said as he placed the clippers on the counter and filled his palm with warm shaving cream.
He stood back behind me and started covering my neck with the cream.
He pushed my head forward and then I felt a scraping sensation up the back of my neck. .
” don’t move now” he said as he held my head firmly and shaved my neck with the other hand.
I was praying it would end when he finally let go of my head and wiped my neck with a damp towel.
The barber slowly turned the chair in a full circle again admiring the haircut he had just administered. As I spun past the mother and child waiting for his turn in the chair I could see the fright in his poor face.
I was back looking in the mirror and the barber behind me looked extremely satisfied with his work.
He stomped down on the lever and the chair dropped to the floor holding me.
Just when I thought he would unsnap the cape and release me he palmed the top of my buzzed head and pulled my head back again so I was looking straight up. He pulled his shears from his tunic pocket again and slowly put them at the tip of my nose. The shiny silver scissors shined in the light as he moved the tips into my nose and made several small snips.
” now blow” he said demandingly and I did as told. He made another entry and a few more small snips and released my head from his grip.
This had been the single most humiliating haircut of my life and now it seemed there was no end.
And like that, he unsnapped the thick cape and whisked it off me.
I stood slowly and couldn’t even look back as I walked away from the chair.
The mother at this point was raising her son from his seat and guiding him to the chair.
I got out the door and turned back to look in, the barber had the boy chaired and was watching his mother fish through the locks behind him. She held up his bangs and with a snipping motion of her finger showed she wanted them gone. The young boy gulped and fidgeted as the barber moved in behind him and whisked the cape out in front of him.
I simply couldn’t watch anymore.