I just had a great haircut. An almost “Seinfeldesque” experience. It was a step back in time—and the barber (eighty-something year old Luigi) was such an old school gentleman with a love for what he does that I just have to write about him.
In some ways I feel guilty. I’ve been going to the same barber for at least fifteen years and have been perfectly happy with him, but when I went to his shop today it was unexpectedly closed with a hand-written piece of paper on his door that simply said “Medical”. I hope he’s OK and I’ll go by next week to see what’s up, but in the meantime, I’m going out of town in a couple of days and I need a haircut.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a barber guy. Give me a black and white tile floor, an old-fashioned barber chair, a barber with a clippers and scissors, and I’m good. Actually, I’ve been wanting to try Luigi’s for a long time. He’s located in a predominately Italian neighborhood in St. Louis known as “The Hill”. My office isn’t far from his shop, and I’ve driven by his friendly storefront many times.
It was kind of a nasty weather day…rainy and unseasonably warm, but the temp was starting to drop and freezing rain was due to hit in a couple of hours. He’s on a quiet side street and I parked directly across from his one chair shop. I could see he didn’t have other customers in the shop at the time. I walked in and declared “I’m here for a haircut please” and he smiled and said, “you’ve come to the right place” in an Italian accent so thick, I couldn’t have cut it with a pasta knife.
He showed me to the chair and asked my name—I told him Rich and he shot back “nice to meet you Ricardo”. He asked how I want my haircut and I gave him the numbers of the clipper guards I use (3 on top, 2 on the sides). Once he got me situated and covered, he put the first guard on the clipper and showed me it was indeed a number 3. He fired up the clipper, I heard the familiar and comforting hummmmm and he then proceeded to run it across the top of my head. After each pass he ran his other hand across what he just cut several times—I didn’t ask him why, but I could tell that was his way of staying in tune to how the cut was going, the texture of my hair, etc. –real old school stuff.
We talked about the usual things: the coming ice storm, the neighborhood, our families. The haircut ended too soon, but that wasn’t the end of the experience. Next thing I know he pulled out the straight razor to finish off the edges. I don’t mind saying I was nervous at first— (remember I put his age at eighty-something), but his hand was as steady as could be and my neck line ended up as straight as it has ever been. But that still wasn’t the end of the experience—after he blew off the excess hair, he used tonic on my neck to cool any razor burn, made sure I was 100% satisfied, pulled the cover off, and lastly, thanked me for my business. Truth be told I didn’t want to leave. Maybe it was his accent, maybe it was his age, but I knew I just experienced something that’s getting harder to find and may end up disappearing completely.
So, I’ll leave you with this… when the opportunity presents itself, find your own “Luigi’s” and revel in the experience—before it’s too late.