So, this morning while driving to my haircut appointment I was reflecting on what would happen when Jim, my barber, retires. After all, he is 78 and has moved to West Knoxville requiring him to commute to Oak Ridge. That led me to think about writing a blog about change and how we do or don’t adapt to it. This isn’t that blog, but it’ll do.
Jim has been cutting my hair off and on for 31 years come December. I went to his barber shop to get a trim the day before Anne and I were married. I liked the haircut so much and the local color of the Arcade Barbershop that every time I was in Oak Ridge after that I always went for a trim, no hot towels or shoulder massages just a good old American haircut. I would purposefully not get haircuts in Washington if I knew I had a trip to Oak Ridge coming up. The shop had four barbers and four chairs. Jim’s father had the chair furthest from the door and closest to the Men’s Room, then Tommy who had been the East Tennessee Golden Gloves Welterweight Champion sometime in the past, then Jim and closest to the door was Earl. whose East Tennessee accent was so thick even some locals had difficulty understanding him.
When I moved here permanently fourteen years ago the Arcade is where I made a lot of contacts and learned as much as I needed to know about local life. I fit right in because I could talk football and I was a product of the Majors family football programs. If you don’t know the Majors family, then you don’t know Tennessee football. Anyway having played for Shirley Majors at Sewanee gave me credibility in the discussions of those in the chairs, the barbers and those waiting their turns. It felt good to be known by name and asked questions about this or that just like it felt good to be known by name at the bank, and at Blankenship Field where the Oak Ridge Wildcats play. Then I became one of the coaches at Jefferson Middle School and it went from Tony as I entered the shop to “Coach.” Nice? You bet.
Alas, today there’s only one chair and everything is by appointment because of COVID. There is only Jim to talk to and since he moved to Farragut he isn’t as au currant on local personalities and activities as before. Things change because of time and death and events beyond our control and how we deal with that change says a lot about our resilience as individuals, groups and even as a people since a lot of change is large enough to affect the entire nation. But today I was going in to the shop still assured of a constancy in my life that made me feel a part of the whole.
That is until Jim, over the buzz of the clippers, announced he was shutting the Arcade Barber Shop as soon as the end of this month. I tried to look cool about it, but I was anything but. How could this happen? Yes, I know I was just thinking about it on the way over here but not now. Not now, that we are headed back to “Normalcy,” back to seeing and speaking with people, back to how things ought to be. Not Now! my brain screamed. At the same time the rain outside increased to a downpour, pounding against the hoods and roofs of the cars in the parking lot so loudly that with the buzz of the clippers you would have to yell to be heard. The wind came up and pushed the rain sideways creating rivulets and waves on the shop’s glass door so you could not longer see outside and a twilight sky lowered itself as the storm’s clouds arrived.
Then it passed, the storm that is. “But I’ll still cut my old customers hair if they want to travel to Farragut ,” Jim said. “By appointment only and just a couple of days a week.” At least I know I can continue to get a good haircut but only if I’m willing to do a forty-mile round trip. It would be a good haircut but it’ll never be the same experience. No more long discussions about how the Oak Ridge teams are doing and whether a coach should be fired or how a certain cheerleader’s mom had a fight with the cheerleading coach or what happened at the City Council meeting on developing the town center or, well you know, those kinds of things.
Things do change and we adapt or we don’t. Nothing is ever as good now as it was, but at least if I don’t go to Farragut every third week I’ll have something to gritch about while waiting my turn at Ken’s Barber Shop where they (ouch) style hair.