I hate going to barber shops. If you think about it, you’re about as vulnerable as you’ll ever be in public. You’re sitting in a low chair, with an apron inhibiting your movement. There’s someone hovering over you, wielding sharp instruments. Sometimes you have to tilt your head back, exposing your throat. Your eyes are closed half the time to keep out the hair, the waterspray, the talc and the scissors.
And the whole time, the barber talks as though he’s trying to lull you into a false sense of security. That’s why I rarely talk back—I don’t want to be caught off guard. That, and I want the barber to focus: I got cut pretty badly when I was eight.
Anyhow, this afternoon I strolled into my regular barber shop, and got an older Italian lady who cut my hair a few times before. She usually tells some pretty lame jokes featuring blonde secretaries and correction fluid. So, when she launched into her story, I simply stared straight ahead and prepared to feign interest.
She began: “Did you hear about those people who died from the spider bites?”
I hadn’t heard this one before.
Me: “Um, no.”
Her: “Yeah, my friend was telling me it was in the news.”
That’s usually code for, “It’s an urban legend I haven’t checked out on my own.” But it didn’t sound like it was going to be a bad joke, so I tried to keep it rolling for variety’s sake.
Me: “What type was it? Brown recluse?”
Her: “No. My friend said it was whitish-yellow, almost translucent.”
Me: “Really? Where was this?”
Her: “This was in town, over at the Olive Garden.”
Her: “Yeah, some businessman accidentally brought them over on a plane from India. He went to the Olive Garden, they got into the restroom, and they hid under the toilet seat. They bit three people, and they died a few days later.”
Me: “Did they know they’d been bitten?”
Her: “No, you don’t feel it at first. You don’t even notice. It just kind of… swells, and turns red, and a few days later, that’s it.”
Me (now trying to get her to pick up on my incredulity): “And they don’t notice the spider biting them?”
Her: “I guess not.”
At this point, I changed the subject to Italian restaurants, a seemingly (to non-paisan) safe topic. But the more we talked, the more nervous I got—not because I eat at the Olive Garden, because I don’t, and not because I believed her story, because I didn’t. Besides, I already check under the toilet seat for insects, arachnids, monsters and demons.
I was worried because it seemed like she was trying to play a prank on me. Pranks are fine, but not when they might involve sudden, unpredictable movements near very sharp objects. Like scissors. Perhaps she had a fake white spider that she’d put on my shoulder, or my apron, or maybe it would be on the floor, or in a drawer. She’d either be looking for a sudden physical reaction from me, or try to elicit one by acting surprised by the fake spider.
I didn’t like it. The more I thought about the three imaginary people who were imaginarily killed by imaginary white-and-yellow spiders under real-life toilet seats at the Olive Garden, the more nervous I got. I just knew a fake spider was going to make an appearance sooner or later. I envisioned jumping out of my seat and getting impaled on a real-life pair of scissors. I tried to calm down—after all, if I were expecting the spider, I wouldn’t jump, right? Besides, she’d at least be careful enough to put the scissors down first. And even if she weren’t careful enough, what were the odds that I’d actually hit the scissors at just the right angle and with just enough force that it would pierce my skin?
Or sever an artery?
Or pierce an eardrum?
Of course, in her attempt to feign horror at the sudden appearance of that venomous little bastard, she might jump. And if she did that with scissors in her hands, I might lose an earlobe, or worse.
I tried to focus as much as possible throughout the rest of the haircut in the hopes that I could somehow keep her from playing the fake rubber spider trick. She never did, so I’m either paranoid or telepathic.
I got up, paid, left, went home, and checked the Internet for more information about this hoax. By the way, there’s just enough room under a mouse or a laptop for a spider to hide. Sometimes the spider in question is the telamonia dimidiata, sometimes it’s the non-existent arachnius gluteus, or “butt spider.”
Either way, it’s nonsense, and I need to find a mute barber.
- Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
For the past few years, my barber has been Mrs. Hmnahmna. So if she ever comes to her senses, I’m in big trouble.
April 21st, 2008 at 6:13 pm
- Vincent Viscariello Says:
She hasn’t had much work to do, has she?
If it makes you feel any better, my barber said I was getting a little “sparse” up top myself. I hope she wasn’t expecting a tip.
April 21st, 2008 at 7:45 pm
- Doctor Hmnahmna Says:
No she doesn’t. But the price is right, considering barbers don’t give discounts because you have less hair.
April 22nd, 2008 at 7:57 am