Saturday, November 17, 2007


©2007 Celeste Billhartz

Many years ago, I attended barber school. Yeah, "shave and a haircut" ... that kind of school. I still have my straight razor and I think I could still strop it, correctly. That's barberspeak for putting a sharp edge on the blade by moving it, deftly, quickly, over a leather strap. Real barbers call it a "strop" ..:)

When we knew what we were doing, we provided free shaves to street people. The men got to come in from the cold or heat and we got to practice our trade, under the watchful eyes of our instructors.

Lesson #1 was a reminder from our instructors: This is somone's son.

Boy, that got our attention. We never forgot it, always treated the men with respect and gentleness. Most were sad characters, alcoholic, addicted and otherwise-afflicted, or just down on their luck.

We would soften the scraggly beards by carefully draping a hot towel on their faces. Many of the fellows fell asleep in the chair, grateful to be off the streets and in a warm or air-conditioned building, safe in a soft barber chair, reclined, surrounded by the scent of Old Spice and soap and treated to facials as much as to shaves.

We, on the other hand, were treated to the most horrendous body odors, wafting up from soiled clothing, dirty bodies and open mouths of rotting teeth.

Lesson #2 was to sprinkle some Old Spice onto the hot towels ... then step away from the fellow, shake some Old Spice into our other hand ... and daub it into our noses. Works like a charm ...:)

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