Saturday, March 02, 2013

He's Missing!

I don't have much hair, but what I do have can be incredibly unruly. It is our tradition that before heading out on a trip we both get hair cuts. After work yesterday we headed over to make an appointment for Saturday morning with 'our' barber to get shorn. I know he's other people's barber too but I acknowledge that only grudgingly. So when we arrived at the salon to find that the roof had collapsed and a sign announced, redundantly that there had been a 'problem' and the shop was closed indefinitely I was taken aback. The sign indicated that there was another salon on the second floor and perhaps they could take care of customers.

We headed upstairs to see if 'our' barber was working there now. I found it odd that I was feeling a bit upset. As we made our way to the other salon I looked at the reason why I was bothered. The first thing that came to mind was that mine is not a difficult head of hair to cut. It's more like mowing that styling. He takes the clippers, sets them at the shortest level and then runs it back and forth over my head until everything is done. Then he clips my eyebrows and ears and, voila, we're done.

I've get the kind of cut that isn't, um, complex.


It's not about that.

I think what was bothering me is that 'my' barber is tremendously gifted at how he does what he does. I've noticed that he has a really devoted clientele and, while there is no question he's gifted at what he does, he's particularly gifted at his skills of making everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The first time I showed up in my wheelchair he didn't blink an eye. He had the salon chair out of it's place, so I could pull in, with no muss and no fuss. You'd think he'd done it a thousand times before. Good heavens when I go to a restaurant they fumble all over themselves trying to figure out what to do with the chair! This guy made it not a big deal which IS a big deal.

From that moment forward he created a place that I didn't feel even slightly that I was in the way or that there I was any bother. Moreover, he always makes sure, when we're done and he's using the blow dryer to blow away any hair, to make sure that the base of the wheelchair and the tires, aren't covered in hair. I didn't ask him to do that, but he just does.

So, in my head I was worried about how long it would take to find someone who would give Joe a good haircut, a harder task than you might imagine, and who would treat me as a welcome customer. We were both pleased to find him working upstairs and we booked our appointment. Great!

What I then thought about was how this was kind of like what the people I work with must feel when there is a sudden and often unexplained loss of a favoured staff. A comfortable routine with someone who knows and respects your needs is completely disrupted. There is no predicting how the next person will be and there's no way around the fact that you need the support so you just have to deal with what you have to deal with. The sense of vulnerability and anxiety must be tremendous - hell that's what I felt at the loss of 'my' barber!!!


I've much to think about when I go back to work on Monday.


Glee said...

The loss of MY Barber was a severe blow indeed. Because he was my Father. In a small country town in South Australia he had been the barber for over 40 years and when he retired he set the chair up in the garage at home. His old and I do mean old, customers still came to sit in his chair looking out over the car and chat while they had their hair cut.

Dad always cut my hair and the payment I had to make was to sweep up the hair. One day in the shed barber shop he was brushing the loose hair off my face. This, for his family, was accompanied by a sharp hard blow in the face. Which is of course the most efficient way to make sure it is all off.

I was about 30 yrs old at the time. I had my eyes shut and suddenly there was a quick kiss planted on my lips by my dear Dad. He explained that I looked so much like my Mum and that was what he always did to her. I was of course delighted and my eyes fill with tears now as I write this.

Both Dad and Mum have died now but they lived to old age and Dad only stopped cutting hair when his last customer died.

I miss my Barber!

Susan said...

Nobody touches my hair but Jamie. That's how it's been for over ten years and that's how it will stay until one or the other of us dies - if I can help it.

Very interesting how you tied that to staff changes for people who are supported... There is a lot that can be done to be more sensitive to these kinds of changes... to better support people through them, and to minimize them if at all possible...

Louna said...

I have a mental illness, and regularly see a psychiatrist in the outpatient ward of the local psychiatric hospital. She's great, and I trust her. But when I started it was someone else, and because of staff changes and temporary replacement while a staff shortage problem was being solved, I had three different people within a bit over a year. And of course, when I had to come in an emergency or when I had to stay in the hospital, it was always someone else. Now, I've never had a bad experience with the therapists working at that hospital, and I've gotten somewhat used to having a stranger in front of me and having to explain them my situation so they could help me. And still, every time, when take that big breath before starting to talk, I have the feeling that I'm jumping over my shadow. So I believe I can imagine to some extent what getting new support staff must be like.

Mary said...

I have a combination of support staff via an agency (for getting up and washed and dressed each weekday morning) and direct employees (for getting out and about). The agency is good and as far as possible ensures that I have the same person assisting me every day, barring sickness and holidays.

My regular agency-assistant is leaving soon. As for most agency care staff, her T&Cs aren't great and part of this is a short notice period. I'm trying to get to grips with it, but I do feel very... unsettled.

Strangely I haven't felt this unsettled when direct employees move on. I think in part this could be because of issues around control.

If a direct employee gives notice or goes on maternity or long-term sickness leave, I'm still in control of the hiring procedures for their replacement. Yes, it's a pain in the bum to have to advertise and interview and whatnot, but I'm in control, and I pull in friend favours or use one-off support staff for going out and about in the meantime, or I can choose to cancel my plans.

Whereas if a person who works via an agency goes... it's a bit of a lottery. I Do Not Know who is going to turn up on my doorstep on Monday morning and be seeing me naked ten minutes later. All I can do is hope I'm lucky again. And I can't choose to simply not wash and dress, nor is it a friend-favour kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

As a person with very little energy, the thought of having to start over - with a new doctor, or physical therapist, or assistant - after I have invested so much irreplaceable energy into the previous person - is daunting.

I haven't changed the doctor I really need to get away from - for that reason. I skipped PT appointments until 'my' PT came back from vacation. And I have done without the assistant who has been out for months for back surgery.

Because of what it will cost ME.

One of the many NOT fun parts of being disabled.

The comment about having a person arrive and then see you naked ten minutes later really resonated. I'm not there yet - but I am NOT looking forward to it. And I perfectly understand people who get very agitated when this happens, even to the point of not letting the new person get near them.

Beth said...

Stability and routine are important to everyone. They're more important to people with certain brain problems. (I guess because when you have trouble figuring things out, the unpredictable can be overwhelming.) And they're more important the less control you have/the more vulnerable you are. Yeah, I daresay big changes (like in staff) can be very stressful for many of the people your organization serves.

About your thinking Monday, I have questions for you. You mention "sudden and often unexplained loss[es]". Why not explain? And if you know beforehand, is there a reason not to, idk, have a going away party or something? And introduction to new staff (before and after they arrive, maybe)?

On haircuts: I wasn't afraid of an unknown person cutting my hair until last time. The different stylist... well, she didn't understand basic geometry and saw fit disparage my "misunderstanding". (The length of the hair in front is the limiting factor when it comes to low pony tails.) She didn't listen to what I wanted, and so asked a nonsensical question in terms she wouldn't define. I did my best, trying to explain what I wanted in different terms. She kept repeating her nonsense-question and when I (as one with significant brain damage) had trouble being quick at answering, she'd demand answers even quicker, even after I'd explained the brain problems. At one point, a few seconds into me saying I needed a minute, she yelled at me that I was too angry and need to calm down. In the end, when Mom and I (her saying nothing I hadn't) got her to explain what she meant and understand what I wanted (that had little to do with that), she declared that no one cut hair like that and basically said I was lying that I'd had it cut that way there before.
At that point, the stylist in the next occupied chair quietly said she knew what I meant and she could do it. The second stylist was very understanding and even apologized to me on her co-worker's behalf. I got her card.
A couple weeks later, the lady who'd been getting her hair cut at the time saw me at the grocery store and had to say how awful it was and check up me.
I figure it's very unlikely to run into so bad a problem as that again, but I'm still afraid of it now.