I remember the first time I went. It actually felt like I was a grown man. Completely cliché sounding, but it’s the honest truth. I felt like I was going with my dad into this ‘club’ that I didn’t quite belong in yet. Those guys seemed old, strong, and smart. They were. His shop was on Main Street in Bountiful, Utah and was like everything you would imagine. Everything. It smelled, it looked, and it felt like it should.
The big glass windows made it feel hot, even in the wintertime. It had magazine pages that had been turned a thousand times, but never read. The address labels on the front pages were cut out. The coat rack was always full, even in the summer. Laminate counter tops that were all worn out, peeling off, and the wood showing through on the corners. Someone was always there. Always. Sometimes there weren’t enough waiting chairs, so sometimes I got to sit in the empty barber chair at the end. I remember that being a big deal. The seat cushion was all cracked and you could see the yellow foam padding. It was the chair that had worn out and nobody cared to fix it. The footrest at the bottom would swivel between the metal and the cushioned side. I didn’t know why it did that. There was an ash tray built into the arm rest, but I knew nobody in there smoked, so I thought that was weird.
In my memory, when we went to the shop, my dad was young looking, and always wore his dressy cowboy boots (which he has now given to me) and his light denim Lands End jeans with his plaid button down shirts. Always. He wore the glasses that had the bar going across the top of the two lenses. Ha. He would talk to Doug the whole time he got his haircut, and the whole time I got my haircut. And Doug would talk back. He would open and close his scissors really fast, even when he wasn’t cutting the hair. It was his thing. Just scissors swishing and clicking. Everyone loved him for that sound. At the end, he would use a vacuum that was really quiet sounding to suck up all your little hairs. Made you way less itchy. At the end he would take your cash, (the cost was always like 12 or 14 bucks – an old barber trick to get better tips) and then offer to give you back the difference. Nobody ever took it. They would push his hand away, and wink, or say something like, “don’t worry about it”. Everyone loved to tip. It was only a couple dollars here and there, maybe a little more at Christmas. But everyone, my dad included, walked out feeling like they were the first person who ever thought to tip Doug. He was good at making people feel that way. Every single person felt great walking away from the shop.
Doug must be in his late 80’s and he still cuts hair. He looked old twenty years ago but he hasn’t aged since. He always looked happy and he still does, probably happier. He has made more friends than anyone around. He has had more conversations than anyone on earth. He will have more people at his funeral than anyone in town.
Why he doesn’t just retire and go spend his ‘tips’ on a beach somewhere doesn’t make any sense, but it does to him, and it does to me now too.
My dad dressed up on Saturdays to go get his haircut. I love that he did that. Why not…? I know my dad well, and I know that he found excuses to go get his haircut. It was his favorite errand. When he would ask my mom “should I go get a haircut?” what he was really asking was, Can I go see my friend Doug? I can’t wait for guys like my dad to come to my shop, and I can’t wait to never retire.