Weekly Whack: Barber Shop Quartet
Barber Shop Quartet
November 30, 1997

So this past Monday I got my hair cut. Nothing fancy about it, just my usual flat-top. All I do is bring in a picture of the kid from King of the Hill and say, "Gimme one of these." But the same day I got my hair cut, they had this special fund-raiser thing at school that I thought was pretty interesting. Apparently they had ten of the top hair-stylists in New Jersey, and for twenty bucks they analyzed your scalp, showed you on computer how you would look with different hair styles, and then cut your hair for you. Now that's great and all, but it just wasn't for me. I mean I have specific, and strict rules when it comes to who can touch my hair with any sort of cutting device. For example, it has to be a barber. And when I say a barber, I mean a BARBER. If there isn't a red and white pole outside, I'm not even considering going inside. I refuse to go to a hair-stylist, and under no circumstances would I ever consider stepping foot into a beauty salon. And I guess you could say that it is a man-thing. Think about it, barbers are all male, and all their customers are all males. It's like a little exclusive secret society we got going. We don't need, or want women around when we are getting our hair cut. A woman walking into a barber shop is kind of like a woman walking into a men's room. Sure nobody would say anything, and everybody would just sort of continue what they were doing, but it just wouldn't feel right. No matter how hard you try to act all natural, you just can't ignore the fact that there is a lady there. And the only thing worse than having a lady in the barber shop while you're getting your hair cut, is to have a lady cutting your hair. I would never go through that. I would never go to a female barber. Personally I don't think there is such a thing. But I would rather wear jeans while watching the Joy Luck Club than have a woman cut my hair.

Now that you know who I won't let cut my hair, let's get into who I would. I only go to a barber that is over sixty and has a vowel at the end of his last name. That's just a little rule I have. I don't want a young barber. I want somebody with experience. And I want somebody who I can go to if I ever got into trouble, or needed somebody killed. You never know when a good, well-connected, Italian barber will come in handy. And you got to be loyal to your barber. I've regularly gone to two barbers my entire life. The only reason I stopped going to the one is because he retired and moved to Florida. You can't just go to one barber one month, and then another the next month. You have to stick with one. That way he gets to know you, he gets to know your hair, and he trusts you. If I decided to go to a different barber one month, and then came back to my normal barber the next month, he would know. He would be able to tell instantly. And while he wouldn't say anything, I know that he wouldn't be able to trust me again. I betrayed him.

Anyhoo, aside from barber loyalty, let's discuss certain tell-tale signs of a good barber. Besides the whole Italian guy over sixty thing, there are other factors to determine whether a barber is good or not. I guess most importantly is how he cuts hair. He has to use the electric razors a whole lot more than he uses the scissors. The razors are for cutting the hair, the scissors are just for trimming. And a good barber has one of those big sinks in the corner for washing hair, but he just doesn't use it. You don't get your hair washed at a barber. The sink is there only for decoration. People could hang their coats on it or something. Also, the price list for a good barber only needs to have three categories. The first is "regular." A regular is always the same no matter who the person is, and no matter what special instructions you give the barber. A regular is a regular. And consequently, a regular usually ends up looking a lot like the hair cut that the barber has himself. The next category is "flat top." That's what I get. It's usually the same price as a regular, but shorter. The final category is "butch." If you don't have a barber that has a butch in his list of prices, then you don't have a good barber. A butch is usually two dollars cheaper than all other haircuts, and it involves no scissors at all. Barbers love to give butches because they are extremely easy to do, and they only take about a minute. If I walk into a barber shop and see five people waiting, but notice the four of them have butches, then I know that I won't have to wait very long at all.

Atmosphere is also an important thing when judging a good barber. The way the room is decorated is important. If there isn't at least one mounted deer head on the wall, then I wouldn't go near the place. In addition, for entertainment, a good barber will either have a television on with the volume all the way down, or have the radio playing with some AM station on where every other song is Frank Sinatra. Just nothing that would take away from the conversation, and I'll get to the conversation shortly. Finally, the magazine selection is essential. A good barber will always have a local newspaper, Guns and Ammo, Fields and Streams, Sports Illustrated, The New Republic, and Reader's Digest. If any of those are missing, then you may not be going to a good barber.

Finally, the last barber-related thing I want to talk about is the barber shop conversation. If you go to a good barber, that could be the best part of getting your hair cut. For example, when I got my hair cut this past Monday, I went at nine in a morning. To my surprise, the place was fairly crowded, and I was the youngest person there... by a good forty five years. The main topic of discussion is always the weather, more specifically the winter. Even if it is the dead of summer, there will always be someone there wondering whether the upcoming winter will be a bad one or not. From there the topics will range from sports, hunting, the government, and the good old days. To illustrate this, here is a typical barber shop conversation between three people, Jim the barber, Bill the guy waiting, and Bob the guy getting his hair cut:

Bill: So, how do you think the winter is going to be this year, Jim?
Jim: Well I don't know. I think the Farmer's Almanac said is going to be a bad one.
Bob: I'm hoping it is a bad winter.
Jim: Why's that, Bob?
Bob: I just hooked up a plow to my pick-up, and I'm hoping to make a little extra money this winter.
Jim: There's nothing wrong with that, I'll give you a call if I ever need my driveway cleared.
Bill: You see the Giants game yesterday, Jim?
Jim: Yeah, I can't believe they blew that one.
Bob: It's the coaching, he passes the ball too much instead of running it up the middle like he should.
Jim: It's not the coach, it's these stupid players making millions of dollars a year. I remember when I was a kid I would make more money on my paper route than most football players back then.
Bill: You're right Jim.
Bob: Yeah, and the players back then were tougher too.
Jim: You better believe they were tougher. There was no such thing as an injured list back then. They would play with a broken leg if they had to.
Bob: You think the players today would do that since they get paid so much.
Jim: No, they're too spoiled.
Bill: So what do you think of that whole British nanny thing, Jim, killing the baby and all?
Jim: That made me sick. I mean if the broad killed the baby, then they should kill her, plain and simple.
Bob: I thought she was found not guilty or something.
Jim: Hell, I can't follow all this legal mumbo jumbo. I watched the news, and it looked like she was guilty to me. I mean if she didn't kill the baby, who did?
Bill: You're right Jim.
Bob: Yeah, they should have shook her to death like she shook that baby.
Bill: So what do you think of the whole Saddam thing, Jim? Do you think we will go back to war?
Jim: I don't know. I say if the guy is doing something wrong, we should just go in there, get the job done, and leave. Forget about all this U.N. sanction shit.
Bob: Yeah, Eisenhower would never wait for the U.N.
Jim: You better believe he wouldn't. Eisenhower didn't need the U.N., he would just go in there and get the job done.
Bill: You're right Jim. So what do you think about...

Well I think you get the point by now. I think I will put this Whack's hair cut to an end, so to conclude, women can't cut hair, modern athletes make way too much money, and I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving.

For this Whack's special feature I thought I would try something new. I was cruising the Web, and I stumbled across the home page of one Jenn Goodland (http://www.du.edu/~jgoodlan) entitled Jenn's Redneck Heaven. In this page she had these things called Rants where she wrote about a random topic in a rather humorous light. And at the end of each Rant, she had a top ten list having to do with the subject of her Rant. When I saw this, I thought to myself: "Wow! What an original idea! I should do that for my Whacks." So I am, and I will start with the top ten magazines that you won't see in a good barber shop:

10. Time
9. Newsweek
8. Prevention
7. Redbook
6. George
5. Better Homes and Gardens
4. Ms.
3. Cosmopolitan
2. Modern Bride
1. Seventeen