The old fashion barber shop is going the way of drive in picture shows and drug stores with a lunch counter. It is nearly impossible to find one anymore.

A few years ago I accepted a new job and moved to Wake Forest, North Carolina.   After a couple of months, I went looking for a barber shop and all I could find were beauty shops that also had a side business of styling men’s hair.  An 80 year old friend had shared his experience at such an establishment with me.   He admitted that he was not so comfortable having a young lady brush against him as she styled his hair.  I told him I had gone through the same experience.  However, my young lady was wearing a nice perfume so I didn’t mind the touchy closeness.  I did finally have to tell her that I didn’t have enough hair to ‘style’.  “Just cut it off of the back of my neck and around my ears and I’m good to go.”  Fifteen bucks and a tip and I was out of there.

Two months later my wife insisted that I get another hair cut so I went to another salon. This time I got a male stylist.  His perfume was nice, too, but for some reason I was a little less comfortable with the touchy closeness.  It also seemed that our areas of expertise and interest ran counter productive to ‘small talk’.  When he finally asked, “How does that look?” and handed me a mirror, I replied, “I don’t need a mirror. It looks fine.” Fifteen bucks and a tip and I was out of there.

Two months later my wife was nagging again, so this time I looked for something manly.  I found this sportsman’s barbershop. They had several TV’s going with all sorts of sporting events and a rack full of sports magazines for passing time while you wait. I though “This might actually work out OK.” As it turned out the magazine rack came in handy because “waiting” must have been considered a team sport in their establishment. The barber was psychic because just before I actually got up and walked out he smiled at me and said, “You’re next!” I stood up and got the circulation going in my legs again and ambled over to his chair. He apparently didn’t find small talk with me to be interesting because he eventually directed his conversation to the neighboring barber and his customer, who I decided was a retiree with no discernible life because he apparently was a regular customer.  Forty-five minutes later I told the barber that I was sure my hair looked fine because I wasn’t too picky about it. He apparently was offended because he told me that didn’t matter because he was particular about how he cut hair. Thirty minutes more and twenty-five dollars and a tip and I was out of there.

Three months later, she’s at it again. (not the barber, my wife) So this time I scoured the phone book, drove all of the back streets and country roads in the area, and asked total strangers if by chance they might happen to know where I could find an old fashion men’s barbershop anywhere within 50 miles. Finally, someone told me a young man had opened a shop in a neighboring town. With my hope renewed, I drove over to the neighboring town and found the barber shop. There was one customer in the chair and no one else ahead of me. Things are really looking good.  As it turns out, perceptions can be deceiving. The customer must have been an old friend and they had a lot of interests in common. After a forty-five minute wait during which I memorized all the articles in the lone AARP magazine, he finally shook hands with his friend and turned to me and said, “You’re next!” I sat down in the chair and he draped the barber’s cloth around me then said, “Excuse me for just a minute.” He went outside and around the corner. When he came back in five minutes later, I detected the distinct odor of tobacco smoke. Oh, well, I thought, ten minutes and I’ll be out of here. An hour later and fifteen bucks and a tip and I was out of there. Cross that one off the list.

Now, I’m getting desperate. I know that in two or three months my wife is going to be after me again, so I decide to take precautionary measures. I’m scraping the back of my neck with the safety razor at home and trimming the hair around my ears with her nursing scissors.  I’m even holding clumps of hair between my fingers (I’ve seen barbers do something like that.) and cutting it off. What did it look like? Shorter!  And that was all that I cared about!  In the mean time I’m asking everybody I know if there is an old fashion men’s barbershop anywhere in eastern North Carolina. Usually they would say something like, “I don’t know, but you sure do need a haircut.”

There is a God in heaven. I ran across a redneck Bible School student who attended the local Bible seminary and he said, “You need to go see Larry.” Larry had this little barbershop near the seminary. His customers were mostly old geezers like me. He had a TV with rabbit ears attached and a bunch of old Outdoor Life magazines lying around. He did have a computer sitting on a desk in the corner that I think he had purchased with S & H Green stamps sometime back in the ’80’s. I introduced myself and said, “Larry, I need a haircut. I’m not too particular so long as it’s shorter and I’m kinda in a hurry. Does it take long?” He looked at me and said, “I learned to cut hair when I was in the military. Don’t take too long.” I sat down in his chair and he draped the barber’s cloth around me and asked, “How you want it?” I replied, “Make it medium on the sides and taper the back. Other than that I’ll be good.” Five minutes later he handed me a mirror and asked, “How’s that?” I said, “I don’t need a mirror. It’s wonderful.” He gave me his business card with his personal phone number on it. Thirteen bucks and a tip and I was out of there, but I hollered as I went out the door, “See ya next month, Larry!” The tears I shed as I drove back to the office were tears of pure joy.

Now I have moved toTexas, and so far I’ve been to two beauty salons and two barbershops. I’m thinking about calling Larry to see if he might be interested in living in Texas.

By Glenn Messer

For The Record