I enjoy going to the barbershop. I go to the same Bangor shop where my dad took me when I was twelve. Back then, the shop was owned by a pleasant man. He was a firm-handed gentleman named Ed Lingley.
Saturday morning at Ed Lingley’s barbershop featured a blend of dads, sons, and a porridge of fragrances made up of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum, wintergreen mints, cigarette smoke, and Bay Rum aftershave. I still relish the odor created by three of those ingredients.
To a twelve-year-old boy, the smell of that shop was almost as intoxicating as a fleeting glimpse of some of the lithe ladies who hawked cigars, automobiles, and beer from between the worn pages of the sporting magazines strewn about the beat-up brown coffee table.
The table also held a couple of discombobulated newspapers that were separated by section. These satisfied the reading needs of multiple gents at the same time. As any recently read section was returned to the table, a newly seated customer would get an opportunity to partake in a slim segment of Saturday’s news. The color comics might be left for the boys who were impatiently waiting their turn for a fresh a high and tight.
The only hair out of place on Mr. Ed Lingley was an occasional clinger from one of his many customers; his own haircut was neat and tidy. It was combed over with just the right amount of grooming tonic. He wore a light blue nylon jacket that mimicked something more commonly worn by a dentist. I suppose the nylon was whisk-broomed off more easily. Peeking out from the top of that jacket was always a shirt and tie. His shoes were polished.
His image was one of a gentleman who served other gentlemen; classy, but with no judgment toward what his clientele wore during their visit. The weather was discussed regularly, but golf and fishing were usually up second or third.
In the latter years visiting the shop—after the throat cancer took Ed’s voice— I recall that Mr. Lingley sometimes wore a pair of sneakers. I was in high school by then. He was probably seeking comfort after so many years on his feet.
He wielded electric clippers in one hand and his electrolarynx in the other. He never missed a beat when greeting folks who walked into the shop.
One or two second-string barbers worked alongside Mr. Lingley. They were equally skilled, but Ed was the quarterback. Many of the customers waited for a spot in his chair. They would wave off opportunities to a speedier haircut experience with another barber as they passed until Ed became available.
Even as a kid, I would feel sympathy for any new barber who did not have a full quiver of clients yet. I wondered if they felt slighted by the wave-off. While no one ever told me that I couldn’t wave off a barber while I waited for Ed, it was clear to me that I was always to take the next open chair when my nod came. I knew my place in the pecking order of the inner sanctum.
During my high school years, when I drove down to Exchange Street on my own, I waited for Ed. I had already done my time in the minors. I attempted to add a vague apology to the wave-off by vocalizing, “Thank you, I’m waiting for Ed.”
Still, to this day, I feel a bit of discomfort skipping the next open chair. In the decades since visiting Ed, I have learned that barbers understand that you need to feel at peace with the person who holds a razor to your neck.
I was in Lingley’s old shop last weekend; he’s been gone for years. The shop—essentially— has the same layout. It features newer equipment and multiple barbers and stylists. Most of my barbers have some connection to the original mothership that was Ed’s shop. Some opened new shops in other towns, and some returned to the old building on Exchange Street when they realized the frustrations that come with running a one-man shop.
Building a loyal following cannot be easy. Some folks will bounce from barber to barber with no concern about who is cutting their hair. Some give the wave-off with nary a second thought to how it makes a new barber feel. Even a loyal core group of the clientele cannot always follow their barber to new and exotic places. There is something— comforting— that lures you back to a place where you sat, one Saturday each month, over forty-five years ago.
The wait is different now; you have to call ahead. I ask for Dale. Over the last four decades, I have asked for George, Terri, Norm, Andee, a couple of Daves, and a fellow named Bob.
When the pandemic hit, I had to adapt—for a short time— to cutting my own hair. It was passable after several scary sessions, but I never did get the same results twice in a row.
I used multiple blade guards and dueling mirrors as I stood in front of the bathroom sink. I juggled, swapped the clippers from hand-to-hand, cut, shaved, and repeated the steps until it far less than perfect.
What I discovered during this time was that my hair only needed to be cut short. Oh, and that YouTube videos were not going to take the place of a professional.
I was pleased when the shop re-opened late last summer. Dale can trim around the ear strings on my mask with aplomb. We talk briefly about crime, but mostly about tractors, diesel engines, and future plans.
Sometimes we talk about kids, wives, and grandkids. You have to phone-in to make an appointment now. There is no more waiting inside and reading magazines, at least, for the time being.
Since masks became an everyday accouterment, I began keeping wintergreen LifeSavers in the center console of my truck. I utilize them to make for a better personal experience when breathing in— and out— of a mask.
This past weekend, I discovered that the employment of these mints has the power to induce clear and concise recollections. LifeSavers—used at just the right time—can take you back in time.
Sure, it was Dale doing the cutting. But sometime between the hot towel and the neck shave, I could have sworn that I caught a whiff of 1976 sneaking into the room. Dale asked if I wanted any aftershave, and I told him the same thing that I always do.
Of course, he had it. They always have it.
I don’t miss the smoke hanging in the air near the yellowing fluorescent lights, but I am considering picking up a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit for my next trip back to the shop. I think Ed would approve.
(Copyright March 2021 TimCottonWrites.com All rights reserved)
**Thanks for stopping by to read, or by getting my Newslog delivered right to your inbox. Subscribe above by selecting the “Get Tim’s Newslog” banner. We never share your email, and I won’t bug you but once a week.
For those of you who have utilized the BuyMeACoffee app on our page, thank you. It means a lot. If you are one of the individuals who has selected to become a member of the “Royal Order of Dooryard Visitors,” under the membership button, thanks for that. I avoided having a membership situation until several folks requested it.
When speaking to a few writers, video content producers, and purveyors of social media content (for money) they beckoned me to create a membership page for certain specialized content. They said that it would be tough to get support if I was not utilizing a continuing membership service (I.E. Patreon and those like it). They also said that I should write special and specific things for the paying customers. I told them that I just couldn’t do that, and I didn’t take their advice. My thought process was that I wanted all the reading on this page to be free to peruse for anyone whether they were willing to pay, didn’t want to pay, or couldn’t pay. This has been a tough year. My hope is that—in the long run—writing stuff that you want to read could help me sell a few more books. We will see.
When we added the BuyMeACoffee widget, some chose to donate to keep the website rolling, some didn’t, and some couldn’t. I love that all of you are here, and I am thankful for your thoughtful comments, notes. email, and the occasional donation to the “cup.”
Thank you, again, for supporting the webpage in the manner that works best for you. Have a great week
(Copyright March 2021)