Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Collapse LXXXIX: A Haircut

23 April 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

For the first time in a very long time, I got a haircut.

Statiera’s mother, hereby renamed Pompeia Paulina (I hear you chuckle from afar, Lucilius; the fact that she is named after Seneca’s wife is as unoriginal for me as it is doubtless amusing to you) mentioned in passing at our lunch this Sunday that it appeared that it had been “some time” since I had been the recipient of a hair trim.

She was right, of course: to be honest I cannot remember the last time I had one. I have always been a negligent at best about getting such things, oscillating between a buzz cut and letting it grow for months on end without doing a thing. I suppose I never had a “look”, but tended towards whatever was easiest (and cheapest). Under the current circumstances, it has mostly been just getting it out of the way in the morning.

But you know the saying: if a woman that has made you a meal comments on anything about your personal appearance, it might be time to give it some consideration (to be fair, I do not think that is a saying, but I suspect it has common knowledge for thousands of years).

But where, precisely, does one get a haircut in a world limited to foot traffic and without a cash economy?

The solution came, as most of these things seem to now, through young Xerxes, who knew of someone in town that was at one time a hair stylist. And so, I found myself out in a lawn chair in the cool Spring weather in a weave lawn chair with a towel over me, waiting for a haircut.

I cannot describe to you the complete sense of sheer surrealism I felt at that moment Lucilius: a year ago this would have been done in a shop with a chair, a mirror, and someone cutting my hair with a license on the wall and an electric razor in one hand. A year later I was in the blue afternoon sky with a light breeze with the proverbial older woman hairdresser armed with a pair of scissors and a comb, asking me what I wanted.

I opted for longer, not so much because I suddenly picture myself as suddenly having re-entered the Middle Ages (although it could be argued that we have) as much as it would be less difficult to manage longer term, if for no other reason I could go longer without an additional visit. And so we sat beneath the April sky, she trimming and I rotating my head forward and back as we made the sorts of conversation one makes with any sort of personal service where one is effectively trapped in place.

She and her husband were retired, having moved here just two years ago from farther south. They drove through here on their way to the larger National Park nearby and feel in love with the place; the next year the moved here. Her husband was a plumber in his former life and, as it turns out, still did a turn or two of work even now.

Handy to know, that.

She teared up a bit when she talked about her family: a son and a daughter, both married, both somewhere south of here and not heard from since everything fell apart. She felt as if they were still alive, but had absolutely nothing to base that on other than a dream she had.

I sympathized and told her of my own situation and my own daughters whom I had heard from in at least that long. Odd that the pain is still fresh even though nothing has changed.

Young Xerxes and Statiera strolled by at one point to observe – and kindly brought Pompeia Paulina with them to “observe the results”. Everyone, it seems, thought this was a delightful turn of events – except me of course, but my opinion seemed to be the least relevant.

At the end of the haircut, when the towel was removed and the hair flicked out into the wind to blow away, we got to the question of payment. How does one pay in a world where money has no meaning. I offered her a jar of honey, which she happily accepted. Whether or not I overpaid will remain to be seen the next time I come for a trim.

It feels good to have a haircut; I feel almost human again. Odd how such a small activity can recall to one the simple pleasures of civilization.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca


  1. Nylon124:25 AM

    Reminds me of the first haircut I got after Covid shut things down for barbers for months back in 2020. Wearing a mask while sitting in the barber's chair....good times...good times....(troweling sarcasm on). Liking this series TB.

    1. Nylon12 - I had quite forgotten about that entirely, but that would have been a good set of experience to draw on.

      Thanks for the kind words. This is an enjoyable series to write.

  2. I have to laugh because I just got the veiled threat to clip my hair while I'm asleep. What little I have left is tied back in a ponytail, and once or twice a year I reach behind my head and whack it off. I usually wait until it annoys me, like catching the bar on my squats. I've said for decades, that it's either tied out of my way, or it'll be Marine Corps regular, no fooling around with a middle ground.
    And a jar of honey is a perfect example of barter, goods for services. I think we're going to see more and more of that as our fiat currency collapses. The networking of community is the other half of that equation. Knowing a "retired" plumber is a priceless bit of information.

    1. Greg, I have an aversion to a haircut that I cannot quite explain. In theory, it looks better when it is cut. In practice, I hate doing it.

      I would agree with you that we are already starting to see the sort of barter economy, and I expect that we will see more of it. With inflation, it makes sense to trade physical things than paper money.

    2. I am quite the opposite. I've had my hair cut short for so long, that it annoys me when it grows long enough to have to start combing it. In fact, I now get an immense sense of cleanliness after I cut my hair despite washing it regularly.

  3. Great update, TB. Thank you.
    You all be safe and God bless.


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