Interstesting discussions at the barbershop

Published 11:34 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

Because I had an upcoming performance on the calendar, I went as usual to see the guy who cuts my hair, Baron. 

It’s funny: when I lived in Los Angeles, he would be referred to as ‘my hairdresser,’ or, a bit more pretentiously, ‘my stylist.’ But you’re not going to find anybody in small-town South Carolina, especially a man, uttering those titles. You can’t even imagine it, can you? 

“Hey, Travis, where you off to?”

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“I’ve gotta drop off my truck to get the radiator looked at and then I’ve got an appointment with my stylist.”

You see? Ain’t gonna happen, ever. Even as a woman who wanted a razor cut and half a head of highlights, I can’t say it. Technically, it’s a barber shop, but calling Baron ‘my barber’ doesn’t feel right either. Plus, I don’t play checkers. 

But I digress…

The main thing I love about Baron is he is the one presence in my life with whom I can discuss the weirdest things on the planet. Even the universe. While my farrier (horse shoeing guy) and I love to exchange cringeworthy jokes and terrifying ghost and UFO stories, Baron is the guy I can tell about the most recent TED talk I listened to at 2 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep and how now I’m wondering if all of reality is nothing more than a mind construct. 

“Like, I was walking into the shop and gazing up at the deep blue sky and changing leaves and now I’m wondering if any of it is actually real or something I’m just projecting. I mean, everything is just energy, after all, right?”

And because Baron watches way too much YouTube as well, he’s always there to pick up my thought and enhance them as he tries to do something with my stick straight baby fine hair.

“Makes me think of that famous experiment with photons,” he muses in a low voice. “The one where the scientists shoot them one at a time through this screen with two slits in it. The photon either passes through with a wave-type trajectory or sort of goes through like a splat. But here’s the weird part: the photons change their trajectory if they’re being observed.”

I frowned as he continued to wrap small sections of my hair in tin foil. “What do you mean, if they’re being observed? Are you saying these atoms know they’re being watched?”

“I think an atom is a massive quantum particle, but the photons are just single particles,” Baron explained. “So that’s why they used the photons.”

In just 2 minutes I learned more about physics sitting in the barbershop than I did through 6 years of community college.

“There was an experiment in France with a beamsplitter,” he continued. “I think they were trying to determine if the photon had what they call backward causation, like, if the particle somehow has information from the future. But I think that would mean it would have to send messages faster than the speed of light, and the rules of relativity don’t allow for that.” 

“Unless,” I said thinking hard, “unless everything that we think we know about relativity is wrong. When I listen to the Navy pilots reporting their UFO encounters, they say what the UFOs do isn’t possible, that they go against gravity and the rules of physics. So maybe what we think of as true and real isn’t at all.”

“I can’t keep up with much more than that,” Baron admitted. “I mean, when I listen to those lectures I can follow to a certain point and then it gets so deep my brain shuts down and I just get sleepy.”

“You know what’s really weird?” I ask, just warming up. “You know how we’re told the universe is continually expanding, faster and faster?” Upon seeing Baron nod, I add, “What I want to know is what’s there that the universe is expanding into? I mean, what does it look like? Is it just clear, open air, or what?”

“And how just one person’s thought, either positive or negative, can impact somebody else, maybe even on the other side of the planet?”

“Like the Butterfly effect, but with just thoughts?”

Our brains spinning, I am ushered to go sit beneath the dryer where of course I pull out my phone and look up photons and beamsplitters in France. Another client comes in and sits in his chair while I wait for the dryer heat to bake in my highlights and mostly complains about her husband for 25 minutes.

When it’s my turn then for the tinfoil to be removed and hair shampooed, cut and blown out, our conversation ends as it usually does: “Man, there sure is a lot of crazy stuff out there.” I think how intellectually enriched I’ve become during this visit and vow to pick up the conversation where we left off when I return in three months. But I never do.

It all begins oozing out of my brain by the time I climb into my truck and head back to the farm. 

“Something about photons,” I try to explain to Paul later that evening. “No, wait a minute, I think it was neutrons.  Anyway, like, you can put them in a slit, and either the photon or the neutron will…wait, that’s not right…”

And Paul turns up the volume on the game.