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How To Invoke a Face Mask Exemption at the Barber & Get VIP Treatment

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Dear Stevo, Thanks for all of your writing on how to use a medical exemption to end these face mask orders. I walked by the barber the other day, and he’s got a sign up saying you need to wear a face mask. I can’t safely wear a face mask, but I don’t know how to say that. -Gaynelle F., Vallejo, California Short answer: Just tell him. Long answer:  Do you have any idea how many fine pieces of hair a barber inhales each day? This is not to mention the hair product, chemical treatments, skin cells and anything else that’s in your hair, made airborne by him preening you. It can be a dusty business. Plenty of barbers have these little nagging tickles in the throat and lightly cough in response to that irritation. The light cough would

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Dear Stevo,

Thanks for all of your writing on how to use a medical exemption to end these face mask orders.

I walked by the barber the other day, and he’s got a sign up saying you need to wear a face mask.

I can’t safely wear a face mask, but I don’t know how to say that.

-Gaynelle F., Vallejo, California

Short answer: Just tell him.

Long answer: 

Do you have any idea how many fine pieces of hair a barber inhales each day? This is not to mention the hair product, chemical treatments, skin cells and anything else that’s in your hair, made airborne by him preening you.

It can be a dusty business.

Plenty of barbers have these little nagging tickles in the throat and lightly cough in response to that irritation. The light cough would have gone unnoticed before the age of Covid. Who knows what kind of reaction it might garner today.

Your barber may have always wanted to wear a mask. He just never wanted to freak you out, so he didn’t.

More barbers are going to start wearing them, not entirely because of Covid either, they can now avoid breathing some of that stuff, without freaking out customers. In fact, in this era, he might even look virtuous doing so.

Barbers Are Economic Barometers & Calipers Of Public Sentiment 

Barbers tend to be quite entrepreneurial. That is the nature of their business.

Barbers know rent intimately. They know taxes intimately. They know regulation intimately. They know their daily, weekly, and monthly nut. And they know customers intimately. They are in touch with what is happening in an economy and community and tend to be realistic and personable people.

Barbers have not seen a normal customer-load for more than half a year and that has been a big setback for them.

Barbers, after all, are people with financial plans.

It’s no surprise that barbers were the ones leading the charge against the lockdowns in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and other places.

They are at once service providers and valuable glue to a community, deeply in touch with their customer’s needs and wants. At least that describes any barber I’ve ever known. Not only that, but in the barber chair you are vulnerable, you can share sensitive details about your appearance there, and you can get your barber’s advice about it. There can be an intimacy and trust to that relationship that doesn’t exist in most other business relationships.

If You Can’t Be Direct With Your Barber, Who Can You Be Direct With? 

If you can tell your barber honestly and openly about a strange hair that keeps popping up in the weirdest place, and that you’ve never told anyone else about, it shouldn’t be too hard to speak to your barber and tell him you will be unable to wear a mask.

He wants your business, and he will make an exception. If he is worried that your exemption will be bad for business and scare off other customers, he’ll probably happily open up for you an hour early by appointment or stay an hour after close for you.

It’s A Great Time To Be Generous With Yourself And Others 

If he does that, give the guy an extra few bucks or even better, bring him a gift he’s sure to love. It could be a bottle of the kind you might give him at Christmastime, or some cigars — something he can take home, and show to the wife, while bragging to the rest of the family about what great customers he has.

You do that, and you’ll buy ages of good will with the man. And heck, a gift like that is deserved if your barber is anything like the amazing barbers who I’ve trusted enough to sit in their barber chairs all these years. It’s not just about the good will. It’s about doing a solid for someone who has probably done you so many over the years, and in the present time, the more emotional generosity and financial generosity we can offer those around us, the more we are helping to ease some of the stresses that so many are presently going through.

The world could use more generosity right now and less divisiveness. You may not be able to change the world, but this very moment you can decide to bring a lot more emotional kindness to your corner of the world.

Exempting Yourself From Face Mask Rules At The Barber Shop 

Just like any other business with a face mask order, you just need to identify your boundaries, communicate your boundaries, and defend your boundaries by 1.) identifying the face mask rule in question, 2.) inquiring about exemptions, 3.) seeing if you fit into those exemptions, and 4.) communicating and confirming your legitimate exemption. That can be changed a little with the informal and friendly Joe, who runs his own shop and has no flowchart that he must follow.

Usually, the statement “I’m unable to wear a face mask safely,” is a useful tool to invoke a legitimate exemption to a face mask rule. With your barber, who is practically the opposite of a faceless corporate drone obediently following a flowchart, it makes sense to be more human in your approach.

As you may know, from previous writings on this topic here , here, here, here, here, and here, I like reaching out over the phone in order to avoid the escalation of tension that comes from showing up at the door.

1.) Bring up the topic.

“Joe, this is Stevo. I was walking by and noticed you got this face mask sign posted up.”

Let Joe talk.

2.) Inquire about exemptions. 

“Joe you got any exemptions to this face mask rule? Cuz I really went a haircut, and I can’t wear a face mask. The doctor says it’s bad for my health. The doctor says ‘Stevo, do not wear a face mask!’ I’m just listening to the doctor.”

Let Joe talk.

This second step might end here, or you might need to continue the discussion a little more. Alternately, you can offer to call back a little later after he’s had time to think about it. Calling back later would be my approach. It’s a more understanding way to deal with the various pressures of the situation Joe finds himself in.

Unlike the corporate drone, Joe has had better things to do than get training on face mask compliance. It makes sense he would need time to think, and he might be having a busy day with a long line of customers.

Whatever you do, don’t get testy with Joe. A lot of folks have had success steamrolling face mask compliance checkers at checkpoints. Though it’s not the method that I think works best, it might make sense for some people in some situations. I’d never do that with my relationship with Joe. He’s a good guy and a reasonable guy. There’s no need for anything remotely resembling steamrolling.

3.) Confirm with your barber the procedure you’ve just heard him say. 

“Okay, Joe, so if I show up 7 p.m. on Tuesday, you can make room for me, and I won’t have to wear a face mask. Do you want me to give you a call that morning and remind you?

Barbershops Are Tribal Gathering Places 

Do all this over the phone and it will be a lot less tense. Barber shops can be like man caves. Once the rhythm of the tribe sets in at a barbershop, the easy background music gets to playing, the people get to talking, a pecking order gets established, a mood, a rapport. Wherever you have a few customers or a few chairs, it seems to happen.

Whenever a new person walks in, the newcomer disrupts that vibe. That happens on a normal day in any tight-knit barbershop in a close community.

Imagine how much worse it is to walk into a barbershop where ten guys, dutifully wearing their masks, are shooting the bull about these guys who “won’t wear a face mask, because they are too darn selfish,” or some other media talking point.

If you enter into that and you put Joe on the spot in front of all those others, you’re stacking the deck against yourself.

Joe loves his customers, but Joe hasn’t kept his place open 27 years and put three daughters through college by getting into petty little disputes with everyone watching.

Do Joe a favor and let him talk this through with you over the phone, on his own terms, and with as much discretion as he chooses to use.

Draw A Line Today…

If you’ve got a legitimate exemption, do yourself a favor and vow to never wear a mask again. At some point you’ve got to draw a line: you can’t go through the misery of the mask or the isolation of avoiding going outside forever. Why not cross that line now?

Start with your next barber appointment. If Joe can’t extend you that customer service favor of not requiring that you be masked, there are other barbers who will.

Heck, half the barbers and stylists are running around making house calls these days, they’ve been given such a rough go by government. Joe is probably so interested in your business, he might even do house calls for you if asked.

These mask orders are bad news. More superstition than science, they are the wrong way for policy to be crafted. That’s not me claiming that, that’s 2016 research, now scrubbed from the internet, that describes how ineffective face masks are.

It’s been replaced by this Orwellian creepiness: “If you are looking for ‘Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review’ by John Hardie, BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC, it has been removed. The content was published in 2016 and is no longer relevant in our current climate.”

Thank goodness for the Wayback Machine.

…Or It Won’t Stop Here

Something tells me the weird, Covid directives from government won’t end there either. We’re already seeing the evidence that places that were locked down fared worse, the same, or better than places that weren’t. It seems more and more evident that lockdowns weren’t the variable.

What have been your experiences at the face mask compliance checkpoints? Send me your stories, and help me put an end to this tyranny.

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