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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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The Depths of "Barberism"

Paul Zanger, '38

The Magpie, January 1937, v. 21, n. 1, p. 76.

You enter the barber shop and notice that all the barbers are busy. You sit down, pick up a last month's "Daily Mirror" and start to read an article. Just as you reach the interesting part, the barber calls, "Next." Energetically, you hop into the leather chair which has been kept warm by the corpulent man who has just vacated it. As the barber strangles you with a sheet, he talks on a political topic of which he knows nothing and which holds little interest for you. As an aside, he asks, "Do you want it cut short or long?" Your answer is, "Medium," knowing that whether you suggest either short or long, the result will be decidedly short!

Now the ordeal starts. First a cold clipper which sends a chill down your spine is placed on your bare neck. Then come tormenting minutes of cutting, clipping and combing. During this time your eyes are fixed on a mirror ahead of you, which, with the aid of the mirror behind, is reflecting your image a multitude of times. You try to count all your images, but it becomes too involved so you shift your eyes to the many hair tonics lined up on the shelf. You wonder whether you ought to try one to prevent your hair from falling out, but you notice that the barber is bald and decide that the tonics must be frauds.

You are suddenly awakened from your day dream by the feeling of the cold, stale shaving cream which is being slapped on behind your ears. You are now irritated by an itch on your nose, and because you can't get your hands free, you start to squirm. Your squirming stops at a command from the barber who turns your head to a very uncomfortable angle. By this time the barber is slicking your hair down with perfumed grease. Now you soliloquize over whether you should give him a fifteen cent tip or give him a dime and keep a nickel for candy.

The ordeal has ended. You are relieved of the barber sheet and dusted with plenty of ten cent talcum powder. The barber shows you the back of your head with a hand mirror, and you are embarrassed when you notice how much your ears protrude. You then pay the manager who gives you very small change—an unmistakable hint to tip the barber who cut your hair. You put your coat on, and, while turning to leave, you are vigorously attacked by a colored porter, who begins to brush from your coat dust that isn't here. To this man you surrender the remainder of your week's allowance. You leave the shop "broke," feeling cool about the neck and uncomfortably conscious of the fact that your new hat has become a size too large.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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