Best Clip Joint in Town

You awake in a barbershop. It’s filled with old men. They are laughing. Talking. Carrying on. You are wearing plaid pajamas, and your hair is a mess. Where are you? How did you get here? Why are you in pajamas?

Oh well, it could have been worse. At least you didn’t awake standing before your fourth-grade class buck naked again. Thank God for small blessings.

Anyway, the last thing you remember was watching the news on your sofa. It was late. The newscasters were talking about the coronavirus because that’s all anyone thinks about now. Even ocean-dwelling creatures living 35,853 feet below the water are social distancing right now.

Then (boom) you were here. Just like that.

The man in the barber chair is telling a story. It’s wonderful. It isn’t so much what he is saying, but how he’s saying it that makes you smile.

It’s a happy, humorous conversation. He’s not using the buzz words you’ve been hearing lately. Like “self-quarantine,” “mortality rates,” or “interpersonal airborne viral transmission ratio.” He’s talking about fishing.

The old men puff leather-scented smoke from pipes. A few wear fedoras. You find yourself carried away in their conversation. The more they talk, the more you forget the things you’ve been worrying about all week.

It seems like the fear comes in waves lately. Sometimes, you’re fine. Other times, if you hear the word “coronavirus” once more you are going to lose it.

But right now, you’re not worried about viruses. Not in this shop.

You say something to the barber but he doesn’t respond. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge you. None of the men notice you. Maybe it’s because you’re wearing dorky pajamas.

“This is weird,” you’re thinking. “Why won’t they look at me?” So you wave your hand in front of a guy’s face, but he stares right through it. “Hello?” you say.

Nothing.

Now you’re really freaking out because you realize that you are either invisible or dead. Or both. You step outside for some fresh air.

You are on a quaint mainstreet. Barefoot. Plaid pajamas and all. You see 1960s model Dodge Darts, Pontiac Tempests, and Lincoln Continentals driving all over town.

You follow the sidewalk from the barbershop until you arrive at a brick courthouse. You knock on the door a few times, but nobody answers. So you let yourself in.

There is a skinny man, reclining behind a desk, feet propped up. He’s holding a candlestick phone, singing: “Neeeeeta… Juan-neeeeeeeeta…” He’s a terrible singer. He’s got a knack for hitting a note just enough “off” to make your skin crawl. He can’t see you.

There are two jail cells in this courthouse. Inside one cell, a man sleeps. He is unshaven, wearing crumpled seersucker, and giggling in his sleep like he’s half tight. The other cell is empty.

You leave the courthouse and keep exploring. You pass a drugstore, a church, a few kids on bikes, dozens of Queen Anne-style houses on streets lined with oaks.

You arrive at a house with a wide porch. There is a woman on a rocking chair. She is older, with salt and pepper hair pulled up in a bun. She wears a floral-print dress. The woman is shelling peas.

Beside her is a boy, also shelling. His hair is pure copper, and he’s wearing the uniform of boyhood. Striped shirt. Blue jeans. Chuck Taylor All Stars. Something about this scene is ringing all your bells, but you can’t quite recall which ones.

The woman talks to the boy in a sweet, almost sing-songy voice. And even though you’re invisible, you sit beside her because it’s been a long time since you’ve shelled peas with an older woman.

You stay on this porch for what seems like hours, and you feel at ease here. No anxiety. No worry. No interpersonal airborne viral transmission.

Then you hear the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. The car is a 1963 Ford Galaxie. Red siren. Yellow star painted on the driver’s door.

“Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “I KNOW this car.” But how? How do you know it? Think.

A man steps out of the vehicle. Dark hair, greased with Brylcreem. He’s tall, and he has a smile that takes up his whole face. His voice sounds the same way pepper gravy tastes.

He wears a khaki uniform. A gold star above his left breast pocket. He hollers, “Hey, Ope! What say you’n me go down to the filling station and get a bottle of pop?”

“Oh, Andy,” says the old woman. “You’ll spoil his supper.”

Andy. My God. That’s it.

It hits you all at once. You know where you are. You are in a place that you used to visit often, back when childhood became too daunting to handle. Back when you would get lost inside syndicated black-and-white television every weekday afternoon at 5 p.m.

You wandered these streets, visited this barbershop, sat on this porch. And for thirty minutes, each afternoon, you knew everything was going to be okay.

You are so overcome that you want to run up to the man and introduce yourself, maybe shake his hand, or hug his neck. Because you’re grateful. Grateful for the rest you have always found here.

But…

Before you can say anything, something happens. You feel it on your face. It’s slobbery. Wet. You’re sucked out of this perfect world. You open your eyes to find that you are a slumped on your living room sofa, and a dog is licking your cheek.

The television news is blaring. The only word you hear the news anchors use is: “Coronavirus.”

You are still wearing plaid pajamas. And you’d give anything to go back to Mayberry.

39 comments

  1. Susan - March 24, 2020 8:20 am

    Wow. Can we all go back to Mayberry with you, Sean? Well, we can dream, can’t we?

    Reply
  2. Bob Brenner - March 24, 2020 9:49 am

    I’m 73 years old and can remember my fraternity’s TV room at 5 o’clock was always standing room only because the wonderful characters of Mayberry were about to brighten our world with laughter and great times in this small southern town. From Otis (my favorite) to Barney and Thelma Lou the world was safe and normal. As Bob Hope often sang “Thanks for the memories”!
    Sincerely,

    Bob Brenner
    Wake Forest University
    Class of 1970

    P.S. I hope Andy will forgive me for being in love with Miss Ellie.

    Reply
  3. Carolyn - March 24, 2020 9:53 am

    What a lovely respite from this weary world…

    Reply
  4. Ann - March 24, 2020 10:20 am

    How do you do it??….thanks for this “ trip”!

    Reply
  5. James - March 24, 2020 10:28 am

    AAAHH!! The good olde days.

    Reply
  6. Beth Ann Chiles - March 24, 2020 10:54 am

    I hope I am able to take that same trip minus the dog licking to wake me up. 🙂

    Reply
  7. Sara Howland - March 24, 2020 11:02 am

    I would too, Sean.

    Reply
  8. Blake - March 24, 2020 11:24 am

    We still watch Mayberry every afternoon. Such a great TV show still to this day. Our grand children watch with us now.

    Reply
  9. Nell Thomas - March 24, 2020 11:33 am

    We all have that comforting place even if it’s in our dreams.

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth - March 24, 2020 11:35 am

    Oh Sean!

    Reply
  11. Kathie Kerr, publicist - March 24, 2020 11:41 am

    Sorry about your book tour hitting at the same time of the CV. Profit margins are low enough as it is

    Reply
  12. Cathi Russell - March 24, 2020 11:54 am

    I won’t race you but I’ll see you there. Watch it every night…it truly is a balm to my world-weary brain.

    Reply
  13. turtlekid - March 24, 2020 12:03 pm

    Pleasant memories!

    Reply
  14. Mims - March 24, 2020 12:12 pm

    So true. Earlier this week I posted on FB that this show was real “comfort food”.

    Reply
  15. don - March 24, 2020 1:27 pm

    AMEN!!!!!

    Reply
  16. Susan Kennedy - March 24, 2020 1:32 pm

    You beat everything, you know that? 😉💕

    Reply
  17. Marcina Schrader - March 24, 2020 1:38 pm

    Absolutely love this!!! Turn off the news and watch Hallmark! It’s feel good entertainment… not as good as Mayberry but good!!

    Reply
  18. Shirley Caswell - March 24, 2020 1:52 pm

    Sean! Sean! Sean!
    Your writing+devotion in Jesus Calling=helps keep me going every single day!! 💕🙏
    Shirley from Fairhope

    Reply
  19. Brett Campbell - March 24, 2020 1:55 pm

    Man, so many ways I love this one. My favorite line is, “His voice sounds the same way pepper gravy tastes.”
    Great job once again, my friend!

    Reply
  20. Gary - March 24, 2020 2:04 pm

    Me too !

    Reply
  21. Dianne - March 24, 2020 2:50 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for reviving some wonderful memories of some very good times in America. I have a grown son who watches these old re-runs, along with a couple of his friends, and they text each other during the shows with some of the phrases Barney, Opie, and Andy used all of the time. I will still sit down and watch the show if I happen upon it during a channel search. It is a great reminder of a much gentler, happier and family-oriented time in America.

    Reply
  22. Bobbie E - March 24, 2020 2:53 pm

    This thing…not going to mention it’s name ….is wearing on all of us. What a great idea! Every afternoon I’m planning a trip to Mayberry! Thank you Sean, again…for sharing your gift with us. Stay safe and stay well. God bless.
    Bobbie

    Reply
  23. AlaRedClayGirl - March 24, 2020 3:33 pm

    That series was/is one of the greatest ever made. Since I don’t have “regular” TV, I need to buy the complete DVD set of the Andy Griffith shows so I can watch them anytime I need a dose of tranquility.

    Reply
  24. Glenda Hinkle - March 24, 2020 3:43 pm

    Love this. I was raised in a little area outside of Birmingham that was quite like Mayberry. Now we moved to Lay Lake just outside of Sylacauga and Childersburg, Al. Quite like Mayberry but a bit more run down. Thank you for writing about the simpler lives we all lived in. I only wish my grands could enjoy what I had but, sadly, walking to the corner drug store, playing outdoors until dark and so many other things are out of the question now.

    Reply
  25. Peggy Owens - March 24, 2020 3:53 pm

    When you started with the barbershop I thought you we’re watching my house. Yesterday my husband Tommy and I thought we should go out in the deck and trim the hair on our necks since we can’t go for haircuts. So there we were, on the deck, French doors open.

    I thought well dang, might as well get him to trim my chin hairs- – just in case I had one, you understand. He said sure, but maybe we should shut the doors so they wouldn’t blow back in the house! He’s kept me laughing for over 30 years. Love that man!

    Reply
  26. Linda Moon - March 24, 2020 5:08 pm

    My two creative children once plotted a dream-scam on me in which a man in plaid pajamas appeared in EACH of their dreams AT THE SAME TIME the night before. They were adolescents filled with mostly-fun-mischief, so it didn’t take me long to doubt the veracity of their story. My God…..Mayberry, plaid pajamas, and small blessings. You’d be welcome to bless me in my rocker on my front porch and shell some peas anytime, Opie…..I mean…Sean!!

    Reply
  27. Jenny Young - March 24, 2020 5:35 pm

    Dreams are wonderful things. This morning I woke up from a dream where I was going to summer camp with my grandma. I don’t think she ever went camping her life….or at least not in my lifetime. She was always telling me to sit up straight, brush my hair out of my eyes, to pull down my skirt, to act like a lady, to stop talking so fast, to stand still while I was talking!!!…& on & on….maybe I was a little too wild for her.

    To me she was a very proper, mannerly church lady with the softest skin, the sweetest smile, a gentle laugh & a beautiful halo of white hair like an angel. In my dream we were having the best time. I was a little more proper & she was a little more laid back. We met somewhere in the middle & as we laughed together I felt so loved & adored.

    She’s been gone 35 years this year. One of my biggest regrets is not spending her last Thanksgiving with her. Instead I chose to go off with a college boy I’d just met to his grandma’s house & missed my last holiday with her.

    Reply
  28. Jessie Lawrence - March 24, 2020 7:57 pm

    My dear Sean, I don’t know how you can read my heart so well. Some of your memories are just like mine and I’m a 76 yr old granny. Oh, to be in Mayberry. I would gladly shell peas, break pole beans, shuck corn,whatever needs doing to get Andy and Opies supper on the table. Hopefully ,
    Otis will make it in time, if not we will keep a plate warm for him. And of course one for you too.

    Reply
  29. Rebecca Souders - March 24, 2020 8:32 pm

    Boy, ain’t that the truth! Another good one, Sean. You always seem to capture the mood perfectly. Thanks.

    Reply
  30. Linda Moon - March 24, 2020 8:46 pm

    Here’s my second comment for today: While walking outside just now, I found some answers blowin’ in this wind of changin’ times…10 of ’em! Ten kids were OUTSIDE in the hills and cul-de-sacs of my windy neighborhood. They were RIDING BIKES! It was like the Mayberry!

    Reply
  31. Patricia Gibson - March 24, 2020 10:29 pm

    Amen! To a simpler time of life when people still respected each other. ❤️

    Reply
  32. Melissa Williams - March 24, 2020 11:10 pm

    As long as the words the news guy is using aren’t “collateral damage”, we just might be alright. Eventually….

    Reply
  33. K Clem - March 24, 2020 11:49 pm

    That’s a good dream, right there. 😊

    Reply
  34. Betsy - March 25, 2020 11:21 am

    Mayberry is my escape place as well. Our library has every season on DVD and I check them out regularly.

    Reply
  35. maryann fannin - March 26, 2020 2:45 am

    You just made my heart smile ♥️

    Reply
  36. Estelle - March 31, 2020 8:12 am

    I grew up in a small town like Mayberry. It had 700 people. We roamed the neighborhood. People would be sitting outside shelling peas, snapping green beans and peeling pears ( to make preserves ) and gathering muscadine grapes (for jelly). And we would hoan right in and start shelling peas etc. it was fun for us. We played “kick the can” at night and anything else we could dream up. It was the 1950’s and it was a wonderful time for me to be a kid.

    Reply
  37. Mary Hicks - April 30, 2020 12:41 am

    Oh, Sean, what a wonderful dream! Thanks for sharing such an inspiring dream. I have to tell you a dream my son had when he was a in grade school. He always had something to ride, bicycle, motorcycle, homemade wagon, go cart. Well one night he dreamed he died and went to heaven and he was riding Jesus on his 4 wheeler and Jesus fell off in the mud!! He thought he was going to get kicked out of heaven is how he said it. Well I guess he and God had a conversation when our son was called home to heaven back in 2003!! Can’t wait to see him again one day!!Thanks, Sean. God bless you and Jamie. Love and prayers from the old white headed lady from Montevallo, Al.

    Reply
  38. Mignon croft t watson - April 30, 2020 11:34 pm

    Loved it. So true!!!!!!

    Reply
  39. Mary Hicks - May 12, 2020 9:25 pm

    Got it when you entered the jail. So thankful we can still dream! Thanks again, Sean. God bless you and Jamie.

    Reply

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