fifty five years in the business

In one of those sunny winter days of -10 degrees (feeling -19) in Ottawa, I felt like getting a haircut. After trying short and long styles, I wanted to get back to an average level-three on the back of my head and the rest long enough not to stand erect all the time. A friend recommended a particular hairdresser in downtown, which was open weekends, holidays, and almost anytime you went.

Barber's shop

As I walked in the hairdresser, I saw my friend sitting on the barber’s chair, covered with a black barber’s shawl tightly fastened around his neck. Running the scissors non-stop, the barber welcomed me with a polite look and continued cutting my friend’s hair. Bald, white beard, age wrinkles around his eyes, the barber looked as old as my grandfather. There was one more customer waiting. The first question that popped up in my head was “would he be able to give a proper haircut?” As I started chatting with my friend, I attempted to take a better look the barber’s hands to see if they were shaking, even a little. All I saw was a right soft hand running the scissors no stop, and a left one combing hair continuously. The only pauses the scissors made were after the comb would pause holding a portion of the hair for the scissors to cut. I was assured that he knows well what he does.

My turn. Once I was in the barber’s chair with the black shawl fastened around my neck, I explained the cut I wanted. He listened carefully and kept nodding slowly. I tried to explain once again to make sure he understood. He nodded again and started cutting. To spark a conversation, I asked how long was he a barber?

“55 years,” he said.

My friend laughed at me and said, “twice as my age”.

“One man, scissors, comb, and clippers, heads (no matter whose, but mine at the moment) and 55 years,” I thought.

I still think about him. I want to know what it takes for a man to repeat a 30minute performance. Every day, every week, every month, and every year for fifty-five years.

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