I haven’t paid for a haircut in almost four years.
Yes, I have actually had my hair cut in the past four years. No, I am not sporting a “business in the front, party in the back” ‘80s-esque mullet, although someone used this disturbing collection of adjectives to describe me over the holiday, and I was not amused.
Irrelevant. I digress.
The reason I have received four years of free haircuts is because I come from a small town in the Appalachians of Pennsylvania. Let me paint you a word picture: My hometown is called Indian Head and consists of a snack bar restaurant (recently reopened), Resh’s General Store (recently closed but with apartments for rent upstairs), Hall’s Service Station, a post office and about two thousand people.
Oh, and Pat’s Hair Care & Salon, conveniently located across the street from where I grew up.
My neighbor Pat has been cutting my hair since I was 5 years old. She will gladly tell you about the decade and a half of buzz cuts, bowl cuts and braids that my hair has seen or attempted to see over the years. And when I left for college in the summer of 2013, Pat decided she was not going to charge me the usual $5 fee again until I after graduate, so that every penny I have can go toward my education.
So for the last four years, when I go home for spring break, summer vacation, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have always made sure to jog across the street and cash in my complimentary trim. Not only do I receive free service, but Pat Tinkey is the hotline for the Indian Head buzz — even as a student of mass media, I never feel caught up on local coverage until Pat gives me the scoop. She often has to raise her voice a notch so the ladies under the hair dryers in the back can be part of the conversation as well.
In many ways, my hometown is not unlike the fictional town of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” Everybody knows everybody, and when things change, people talk about it. While some might view this as an antiquated and hidebound way of life, I think there is something to be said for small-town culture.
One issue I heard about while I was home for the holidays was a dilemma in the local church. While I expected the issue to be about finding a new preacher or somebody stealing from the offering plate, I was surprised to hear that it was simply about the Doxology. Apparently, the classic version of the Doxology (which I learned from “The Secret Garden” as a kid) was discarded from the weekly service in favor of a new-fangled, more upbeat version.
“That’s it? That’s the issue causing strife in the church?” I asked incredulously. However, upon further contemplation, I realized the significance of what I was hearing.
You see, in Indian Head, people care. The citizens who enjoy a small-town lifestyle care about each other; they care about traditions; they care about sacredness and sacrilege; they care about lunch specials that cost the same every week.
I admire the people of my hometown because they enjoy a lifestyle of peaceful ritualism that others may never understand. In fact, I think the reason “The Andy Griffith Show” is still so popular is because it offers a glimpse into a culture similar to the one in which I grew up. While many see Mayberry as a comically backwards little town, it is impossible to deny the contented nature of Andy and Co. My parents enjoy that same lifestyle. The members of the local church enjoy that lifestyle. And when I am home for the holidays, I enjoy that lifestyle too.
I also enjoy the free haircuts from my beloved neighbor. Thanks, Pat. I’ll see you in May, and we might need to get out your big clippers. Just a head’s up.