I Decide Never to Leave the House.
I’m sitting on a bench in a barber-shop (not a hairdressers) waiting to have my hair cut; a necessary evil I have yet to find any way of avoiding.
The barber and his lady colleague are having quite the chuckle, loudly joking with each other and their respective customers. The barber himself is shouting at passers-by on the street asking if they still believe in Santa Claus, his colleague is singing to the unbearably up-beat music blaring from the stereo.
It seems this will be more of a chore than usual.
I’m in no mood for spontaneous jollity with strangers, especially whilst being touched in a ridiculously over-familiar manner by someone I’ve not even met.
The lady barber is – without consent – giving her young customer a bizarre mullet-type thing clipped around the edges that makes the boy resemble a foolish badger. I am hoping her colleague is finished first.
My God they’re loud. These really are a couple of happy cunts.
She finishes off, gives the boy a lollipop and announces that she is off to get a coffee. Thank Christ.
In a moment or two the barber is also finished with his customer and cheerily bids him farewell. I take my seat. There is now only the two of us in the shop. The compact disc in the stereo comes to an end. It suddenly seems very quiet.
Barber: [Needlessly jovial] So! What’s it to be.
I give my standard ‘amusing’ response that if he were to make my hair longer and untidier that would be ideal.
Barber: HAHAHAHAHA! Just a bit of a tidy-up then!
He starts snipping away. I pretend I am somewhere else.
Barber: So! [Here it comes, I think.] All ready for Christmas then?
I’m going to have to embark on a short period of fake cheerfulness with this fool aren’t I? I really haven’t the energy.
Me: No. I haven’t done a thing. I’ve been moving house this week so I’ve had other things on my mind.
Idiot. IDIOT, I think to myself. You’ve just given him some PERSONAL INFORMATION! He’s fucking got you now. It’s going to be ‘amusing house-move anecdotes’ a-go-go from now on you prick.
He pauses for a minute and looks at me in the mirror.
Barber: [Quiet now] Yeah. I know what you mean. Had a lot on my mind myself this week.
He silently snips away some more, with a troubled expression on his face.
Barber: It’s been the worst week of my life to be honest. My wife had a miscarriage.
It’s silent for some time.
Me: [Helpfully] Oh.
Barber: It was early on but …. Our first you know. I was all excited about being a Dad, just getting my head round it when ….. Don’t suppose you ever really get over …. you know.
Me: [Still helpful] Mmm.
I suppose I could have come up with something supportive, some learnt experience that I could have passed-on but really, I’ve come for a haircut and on top of that he’s really making a meal of trimming the hair on and in my ears – something no-one has yet been insensitive enough to do. He’ll be offering to dye my grey pubes next.
Having wordlessly completed his task, I settle-up with this gentleman.
It is for many an unpleasant time of year and he’s obviously not had the best of it anyway.
I give him a tip of fifty pence.