This is a touchy subject, but as the quarantine extends, we need to start an open dialogue. This post is meant to be a think-tank, and not legal or professional advice.
As I am writing this, it is 5:00 pm on Thursday, April 19th in my home state of Pennsylvania. In mid-March Governor Tom Wolf instituted a state-wide closure of non-essential business, and in late March he followed in the footsteps of many US states and released PA's shelter-in-place order, which requires that all citizens stay in their own homes, not visiting others or physically socializing, and only leaving for essentials. This order is currently set to end on April 30th, but as I write this, Gov Wolf along with all the other governors and key state and federal leaders are meeting with President Donald Trump to decide if the orders should be extended.
As a result of these orders, there are A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO NEED A HAIRCUT!
When my shop initially closed on March 19th, I started making housecalls (that is me in the photograph above). I thought that if I wore a mask and gloves and kept my ears and eyes covered and stayed outside, then myself and my clients would be safe.
But then the cases in PA skyrocketed. Fast. We had our first case on March 6th, and I remember watching every few days as it climbed from 2 to 30 to 100 to 800 to 2,000. Celebrities, friends on social media, and healthcare workers begged the masses to stay home to slow the spread, so on March 29th, 10 days after closing my shop, I took an oath to stay home. I think we were around 5-6,000 cases at that point. Today, only 6 weeks after the first positive case in PA we are at 27,000 confirmed cases, and it is now mandated that everyone wear a face mask in public.
And people still need haircuts.
I get messages daily from people who want to know if I am offering any underground cuts. Most people are understanding when I say no, but some beg, offer bribes, or even get offended. As a natural people-pleaser and a hustler of money, this is causing me an intense amount of anxiety. I hate saying no in general, but I super hate saying no to money.
The worst part is I DON'T KNOW IF I'M DOING THE RIGHT THING.
I've committed to staying home and not performing haircuts through this shelter in place order, but if the business closures extend beyond April 30th, I am considering going back to making house calls. I have some questions to ask myself, and other people in my profession should ask themselves, regardless of their locations.
1. How serious is the threat of catching or spreading covid-19 during a haircut service if I am wearing my "riot gear" as I call it? I don't want to get sick, and I certainly don't want my kids getting sick. Two of us in the house (myself and my 11 yr old) have asthma. My demographic (women age 35-45) are the highest group tested positive in PA at 40%, and 20% of that demo have been hospitalized for it. I know the odds of recovery are high, but I could not imagine being isolated on a ventilator in the ER or ICU with not even the nurses able to hang out with me, let alone watching powerlessly as one of my CHILDREN to go through that.
2. How serious are the consequences if I am caught doing this? Can I lose my license? Is it worth a couple hundred bucks here and there to put my business at risk?
3. If I don't say yes to some of these insistent clients, do I risk losing them? I have other people's regulars reaching out to me, so I'm sure some of mine are reaching out to others. And there are some 'ho barbers out there showing up at warehouses, offices, and firehouses offering cuts for $10 a pop who may end up recruiting some of my regulars. (Yes I know who you are. I'm a barber. I hear everything.)
4. I filed for unemployment and foodstamps. If I start doing housecalls, I am obligated to claim any income. As a business owner, I have no interest in committing fraud against the government, especially when our economy is under so much strain. So, how do I report that income without incriminating myself, and can I make enough to offset those benefits which are helping me feed my family? (I haven't actually seen any of these benefits yet, but they are supposedly coming and backdated from when I applied, which was AFTER the housecalls.)
5. Is any of this really "that big of a deal?" Some people act like I am being ridiculous and succumbing to fear-mongering by staying home, and other people act like a barber making house call is responsible for endangering the whole world. Then I watch people like Bill Gates speak and it reinforces that I should be taking this seriously.
6. And finally, how important is a haircut, really? I understand that in this industry we offer far more than haircuts and grooming services. We give comfort, security, community, confidence, friendship, and more. BUT when it comes down to it, this situation is temporary and no one is DESPERATE for a haircut because a haircut, while important, is not a necessity. If it really is that bad you can CUT YOUR OWN GODDAMN HAIR. I know it sucks, but do a search online to see how many celebrities cut their own hair, some very poorly, and they are still running news and talk shows and going on interviews...publicly! If they can do it, you can do it!
I'm going to go watch the live press conference and find out WTF the United States is going to do about the half a million and growing cases of the coronavirus within our precious borders, and how their actions are going to affect me and my business.
Please comment below if you are a barber or hairstylist or a worker in any of the personal services. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Are you doing housecalls? If not, how are you handling the requests? Are you taking care of yourself? If you are a client of myself or anyone else in the industry, I'd love to hear from you as well. Are you cutting your own hair? Do you miss us?
It took a GLOBAL FREAKING PANDEMIC to get most of us to stop working for more than a day or two in a row, so believe me when I say we miss you and we can't wait to get back to normal. <3