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Friday, September 30, 2011

No Cell Phones Please!

By Steven P. Velasquez
Sept. 30, 2011

Raul Montes DeOca of "Wood & Strings"
I visited my barber shop in Perth Amboy, NJ yesterday for some molding and shaping of my traditional “high & tight” hair.  I walked in and was quickly greeted by screaming, explosions, heavy gun and artillery fire interwoven between the horn and conga sections of a salsa band overhead. 

Handshakes and hugs were exchanged as I was invited to sit in one of their chairs.  The rat ta tat tat of machine gun fire was deafening and surprisingly no one was ducking, diving or otherwise taking cover.  The staff was heavily engaged in a video game on an obnoxiously large screen and matching surround sound system.  As they wrapped my neck and cloaked my chest I tried to tune out the noise when the chair spun me toward a mirror with a sign that read “No cell Phones Please.”  They apparently didn’t want distracted customers talking or texting while they were approaching people’s jugular and carotid areas with razors.  Makes sense to me!

I laughed internally as this group of mostly Latino 20 something’s continued their combined forward assault on the enemy -- and my patience. 

This was a rather strange place to make observations about “generational differences” I thought.  On second thought though, where better?  My mind transported me back to my childhood barber on Orient Way in Rutherford, NJ.  His name was Joe, was of Italian descent and probably in his 60’s or 70’s when I was a child.  Joe did his best to overcome our generational barriers with a lollipop during my angst-filled visits.  Barber shops back then were akin to churches with red, white and blue rotating poles in front.  They were serene and involved sitting quietly for long periods of time while the cloaked old man in the front did all the talking, as he forgivingly excised wayward follicles as if they were sin.  The only noises heard were the snippity snip of skilled scissors, the twining trimmers, and the to and fro of a sharp razor against an abrasive hone.  The walls were lined with pictures of days long past and a radio would often sit upon a shelf with a makeshift antenna to boost the crackling score of the New York Yankees or deliver the oft somber news -- of the seventies. 

Joe and barbers of his era were customer focused.  They knew that you were their customer, their mortgage payment, their meal.  You and your need to keep a trim cut were their repeating business and thus their way to pay their bills.  I don’t think for a moment that even if they had access to wireless internet, flat-screen TV’s, complex gaming systems and cell-phones that they would ever let them interfere with “church.” 

My barber yesterday kept his phone to his ear the entire time he cut my hair.  At times pausing and walking away from me so he could continue rambling on in Spanish.  Not that the language matters, but I could imagine the frustration of a customer, unlike myself, who couldn’t even understand what was being said. 

Today’s generation seems to draw no line between their place of work from the comfort of their bedrooms.  The thundering gaming system, the booming music, the constant chatter and incessant texting made me long for yesterday, for striped poles, soft conversation with gentleman Joe and no cell phones.

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