I want to open a barbershop called the “No Talking Barbershop.”
I’ve written here about my long and sorry history with barbers. Barbers and me are like Liz Taylor and husbands.
The only barber I’ve ever been happy with for any length of time was a Polish guy around the corner who never even acknowledged he knew me but said every time I walked in, “Regular?”
Not meaning my regular, I don’t believe. Just meaning, a regular haircut.
Yes, that’s exactly what I want. And that’s all I want. A regular haircut.
And no talk.
I don’t mind talking to cabbies or Uber drivers. If I’ve had a couple of pops, I’m usually even happy to chat with someone next to me on an airplane. I’m pretty good with people—and they’re pretty good with me.
I don’t like talking to barbers. It’s not them, it’s me.
There I sit, my glasses off and looking like a hung over owl. (Rhymes with jowl.)
I used to love staring at myself in the mirror. When I was in college, and beautiful, inside and out. When looking into my own soul didn’t feel like taking on a treacherous underwater cave dive, solo. If I liked gazing into this withering, flaking, scabbing, barnacle-encrusted visage, the barbershop wouldn’t be the only place I ever do it.
And now the barber wants to chat. (Or feels compelled to chat?) While my gray hair drifts like filthy asbestos flakes into my lap, and I sit on the edge of the chair wondering if my hairline can recede even faster than the barber can cut it.
And these days, I’m wearing a mask, so the exertion of talking takes my breath away. Gasping for air to speak to a barber I’ve never met—this is a chain I go to (I’m back to Floyd’s 99)—who is also in a mask. And because I can only bring myself to talk about the weather for so long, I start going Studs Terkel on the barber, who begins oversharing in response. It’s like having a conversation with a bank robber, about his hemorrhoids.
This last time, the barber told me all about her shrink. No one should ever bring up one’s shrink for the first time, through a mask.
And all this agony for a half-hour straight.
After a year of total introversion.
The No Talking Barbershop will mandate only five phrases allowed on behalf of the barber:
“Hi, do you have an appointment?”
“How would you like me to cut your hair?”
“If you don’t have any idea how to begin to explain the above, it’s okay to just say, ‘Regular.’”
Customers will be even more restricted:
“Like the last time, only ________-er.”
“Yes” or “no.”
I’m sure there’d be a lot of loquacious barbers who wouldn’t want to work at the No Talking Barbershop. And there are probably a lot of chatty customers who would feel uncomfortable with the silence, too. And of course in some communities the barbershop is a traditional gathering place, like the local tavern. Such places are precious, especially these days, and I would never do anything to undercut them.
But there should be a place to get your hair cut in peace.
P.S. Yeah, I’m not actually going to open the No Talking Barbershop, or any barbershop at all, because barbershops can’t usually afford a writer, untrained in cutting hair, drawing a CEO’s salary.
But if you open the No Talking Barbershop, in Chicago or anywhere within 100 miles, you’ll have my business—no questions asked.