I was sitting in the barber’s chair, getting my hair cut. The woman doing the cutting had been chatting with me for quite a while as she snipped. We had talked about, among other things, cats, grocery shopping in a pandemic, Southwick Zoo, and the racism and incompetence of of Donald Trump.
Nearing the end of the haircut, she asked, “What do you do for a living?
Always a fraught question for me. Do I simply say, “Teacher” and move on?
Or do I say, “Teacher, author, columnist, storyteller, keynote speaker, minister, and wedding DJ. Plus I teach, coach, and consult on storytelling and communication strategies with individuals, corporations, universities, advertising agencies, nonprofits, the clergy. Plus my wife and I run an organization that produces shows, teachers workshops, and produces a podcast on storytelling.”
“Oh, and I’m also a notary.”
I decided to keep it simple. “I’m a teacher and a writer,” I said.
When she asked what I write, and I told her novels, nonfiction, magazine columns, and other things.
“Oh,” she said. “Did you know that we have a local author living right here in Newington? His name is Matthew Dicks. His books are great.”
I smiled, which she could not see under my mask. “That’s me.”
“What?” she asked.
“That’s me,” I said. “I’m Matthew Dicks.”
“What?” she repeated.
“I’m the local author,” I said, “I’m Matthew Dicks.”
She didn’t say anything for a few seconds. Just blinked at me. Finally, she said, “You’re Matthew Dicks? The author?”
“Yes,” I said. “Why are you so surprised. You said that I was local, so here I am.”
“I didn’t realize that you were that local,” she said.
She went onto explain that as ridiculous as it sounded to her now, she just couldn’t imagine an author of books that she reads coming into her shop for a haircut. Yes, authors need haircuts from time to time, but it just never occurred to her that she might someday cut an actual author’s hair.
“Yup,” I said. “I’m just a regular guy. Before I came here, I was playing in the park with my wife and kids. And when I get home, I’ll probably fold some laundry before writing a bit.”
“It’s so strange,” she said. “I never imagined an author like you being so ordinary.”
I like to think that I’m a little more than ordinary, but I didn’t press the issue. I don’t think she meant to sound insulting. She’a also right. I’ve met lots of people over the years who have read my books and have listened to my stories on the radio, and they are always shocked to discover how much of a regular person I am. Just an ordinary guy. As most authors and performers.
Some may be pretentious monsters. Other might possess enormously inflated egos. Quite a few are at least a little socially awkward. A handful might be brilliant beyond compare. But I’ve found that most are a lot like me. Ordinary men and women who are thrilled to be able to write and perform and entertain.
Also men and women who need the occasional haircut. Play with their kids in the playground. Fold laundry.
Delightfully ordinary people doing a job that they mostly love.