The bell at the front of the store was your cue to duck. My dad and his three brothers learned that lesson the hard way, sitting in Mr. Nozzle’s barber chair. His place was next door to my grandfather’s grocery wholesale business in Bulawayo. The barber shop was in the back, and the latest in men’s fashions were in the front. Moving a pair of scissors across your head was no excuse for Mr. Nozzle not to offer helpful advice to someone who had come in to browse. He was a multi-tasker.
“Mr. Weiss! We just got a new suit in. You would look wonderful in it. It’s on the rack to your right. No, the other one. Yes, that’s it -- it’s right behind the blue one.” Your ear would be bleeding by this point.
But that’s not what this story is about.
This story is about Chester House, the local diner that housed a row of pinball machines, where all the bikers with their ducktail haircuts would hang out. My uncle Leon held the pinball record there. You don’t just hold this sort of record for nothing, obviously. It requires commitment and, more importantly, pocket change.
Surely, you can see how spending money on a haircut by Mr. Nozzle would seem frivolous when there were important goals to meet, like maintaining your lead at Chester House. Anyway, that was Leon’s reasoning the day he was given exact change for a haircut.
A plan formed. My uncle Alex, the eldest of the four brothers, volunteered his services to the cause. He would cut Leon’s hair, and no one would know the difference! Pinball dominance would be financed for another day. He set to work. With concentration and precision, he cut and shaved. And so it was that my uncle Leon ended up with two perfect rectangles shaved around his ears. On the upside, neither ear was bleeding.