A while back I wrote a column about a Saturday morning trip to a crowded barbershop. I was completely unprepared for the small flood of emails and old-fashioned, hand-written letters that arrived here at Storyteller Central from guys wanting to share with me their “barbershop tales.” And the emails and letters keep coming.
For example, Al from Gorham wrote to tell – in more detail than I want to include here – about his local barbershop and the regulars who gather there. He told about a customer who came into the shop one Saturday morning with his faithful bulldog on a leash. Before getting into the barber chair, the man looked around to see what he might tie the dog to so it wouldn’t bother other patrons while he was in the chair. The customer decided to leash his dog to a rugged gumball machine stand by the front door.
Everything was fine, writes Al, until the mailman poked his head into the shop to drop off the day’s mail, which caused the bulldog to stir. As the mailman left the shop the bulldog bolted out the door behind him with the gumball machine in tow. The dog ran down the street in pursuit of the letter carrier with gumballs and coins going in all directions. Great story, Al.
Rick emailed to tell a story about his local barbershop that he assures me is true, not that we’re too fussy about such things here at Storyteller Central. According to Rick, a customer actually died while waiting for a Saturday morning haircut. Now and then I’ve had to wait a tad longer than usual on Saturdays for my haircuts, but expiring while waiting? That’s ridiculous. Anyway, Rick said when the poor man’s turn came, so to speak, the barber suspected that all may not be right with this particular customer, but not wanting to cause panic among the other customers on his busiest day of the week, he merely went on to the next customer, who, fortunately, was still breathing.
Rick said the poor barber was concerned that if the untimely death was discovered too soon the police might come and string off his shop with that yellow police tape they always string around crime scenes and his Saturday business would be “deader than a doornail,” so to speak. As it turns out, the officials were eventually notified, the body was discreetly removed by the folks at the local funeral home, and the poor man finally did get his hair cut. Those who saw the deceased at the viewing before the funeral said it all turned out for the best because the undertaker gave the poor man a better haircut than he ever would have gotten that morning at the barber shop, and it was included in the price of the funeral, to boot.
Finally, Chuck wrote to tell about the time he was in the chair one Saturday morning getting his ears lowered when a well-to-do, self-important person in town burst into the shop and, when he saw there were four customers ahead of him, said, “I’ll give you each $2 cash if I can cut ahead of you.” Chuck rightly observed that any Mainer worthy of the name knows right off what this is – an open invitation to start dickering. Can you think of a more perfect way to kill time on a Saturday morning while waiting for a haircut? If the self-important person with more money than time starts the bidding for line-cutting at $2, one of the waiting customers immediately knew enough to raise the bid to $5, and before long each waiting customer said he wanted at least $10 from the self-important customer for the right to cut ahead.
Maybe figuring he wasn’t that self-important or his head wasn’t worth that kind of money or that he had better things to do, the customer left in a huff, probably to try his luck at a less traditional Maine barbershop.
John McDonald writes books about Maine, and his latest is “Moose Memoirs and Lobster Tales.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 899-1868.