Doctors, dentists, barbers — none are going to get very close to C’s head. He ducks and lurches, bobs and weaves like Ali. His anxiety and sensitivity are so profound, in fact, that dental work requires general anesthesia.
That’s why we’re so grateful for Phil.
Phil works at our local barbershop. He’s a sturdy middle-aged man, taciturn except for a few words delivered with a Ukranian accent. He has deep-set blue eyes, close-cropped gray hair, and large hands that belie their fluid dexterity.
And he’s the one stranger C lets near his head.
The first time C had his hair cut by Phil, I preemptively let him know that C was a little different and might be a tricky customer. Phil said only, “Yes, yes, I know,” and got to work.
Well, C did his usual ducking and weaving, dodging and bobbing, but somehow through it all Phil was able to deliver a haircut. And not any haircut, but a damn fine haircut. Wherever C’s head went, Phil’s scissors followed, like a small bird relentlessly stalking elusive prey. He stayed cool through it all, even chuckling a bit at C’s giggling and wiggling. (Quite different from another barber’s running, muttering commentary about C’s behavior.)
We’ve seen Phil several times, and C has grown quite comfortable with him — so much so that his antics are much more subdued now. Not reacting seems to be a winning strategy after all.
The best part, however, is Phil’s obvious affection for C. As I said, he’s a man of few words, but I see his smile broaden ever so slightly when C hops into his chair.
Phil still hasn’t gotten near C’s neck with the trimmer, though. Maybe next time.
Postscript: I started writing this post after our last visit to the barber. During that time, a few people shared a wonderful story about a barber who went to incredible lengths to give his young autistic customer a haircut. Here’s to this barber, Phil, and all the other people who go the extra mile for our kids.