Yesterday I paid my barber a visit. After years as a SuperCuts guy, a few months ago I started visiting a local salon that was recommended by some gay friends who have really nice hair. My new stylist is friendly, Southern, and consistent. Because when it comes to my hair, consistency is key. I don’t need anything fancy. I get in I get out I move on with my day. Boom.

Anyway, I’d always considered the barber-customer relationship particularly interesting. Almost as interesting as the relationships we have with wait staff at restaurants. Except, unlike the waiter who takes your order and checks in from time to time to make sure everything’s ok, barbers have mastered the art of politely probing into a customer’s life to pass the time.

As my stylist started to shear away six weeks of bushy growth today, she opened the dialogue with the innocuous, “So how are things, busy?” question.

“Yes.” I said. “And you?”

“Yeah, I’m as busy as a bee lately.” She said with a drawl and a sigh. “It’s all good.”

“Yeah? You like being busy?” I asked. She nodded and smiled as she ran the clippers up the back of my head. I then added, “I don’t know. I kind of prefer not being busy, myself. When I’m not busy, I can spend time writing.”

“Well, I like being busy. When I’m not busy, I’ve got no money.” She responded.

And then there we were–right at the crux of it.

Somehow, some way, being busy has officially been aligned to worth. Look around your social media channels if you don’t believe me. No one there is not busy. Everyone’s slammed (or so it seems) even though I’ve never understood how anyone could be busy with work or life when they’re on Twitter 90% of their waking time (even non-waking time for those special enough to have an audience that demands their input and guidance 24/7 and who therefore automate their tweets to accommodate loyal followers). Why? Because no one wants to say that they’re not busy. If they do, then their outward (perceived) sense of worth is less. And no one can afford that.

In case I have ever misrepresented myself here, let me just say this–I AM slammed between work and life, and I am NOT wealthy. Neither my wife nor I come from money, and so we’ve busted our asses for everything we have in life. And we’ve got a lot. Like most people, we sell our valuable time every day to commercial organizations that are willing to pay us something for it. And in our ‘down time’ we do everything necessary to do to keep a family going. We are neck-deep in the machine. And it’s ok, I guess, since that’s what we’re striving for in America (right?), though if I could be not busy more often–I’d be totally ok with it.

And just so it’s clear, I’m not talking about swapping busy for lazy, here. The idea of laziness is unnatural in my house. It’s just that how we spend our time is so far out of our control that most of us don’t even realize it. And for what? Money. It’s like we’re rats on a wheel, man. They’ve got us all fooled. I blame Ben Franklin.

Anyway, about fifteen minutes after I sat down, I was up. During that time my barber and I talked about everything from the recent rainy weather to Halloween breathing down our necks. And the pile of hair on the floor under my chair made it look like a schnauzer had just been groomed. I’m getting old.



Jim Mitchem – also, if you liked this post, you’ll probably love my novel Minor King.

The Fence
You're the King, Mitch

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.