Seventeen years before the world adjusted to ‘the new normal’ of pandemic health, Mike Gravelle was already taking precautions in his everyday life to not get sick.
Before every shift at the West Shore Barber Shop, he’d make sure to wash his hands so thoroughly they became dry and raw. Between customers, he’d do his best to avoid touching his face. Since 2003, he’s made every effort to stay healthy because he is immunocompromised.
“I don’t live in fear because I know I take care of myself,” said Gravelle, co-owner of the Langford barbershop. “If you ask my family, maybe that’s a different story.”
The 47-year-old was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was just 18 months old. In the ’70s, the average life expectancy for someone with CF was 30 years. By the time he received a double lung transplant at 30, he was rapidly closing in on his last breath.
“When I got on the operating table I was down to 118 pounds and my lung function was at 18 per cent,” he said.
Although he must stick to a daily regimen of three prescriptions twice a day for the rest of his life, Gravelle said it’s a “small price to pay.”
Now, they’re back to their shaving and snipping duties, but with a revised set of pandemic guidelines.
|Sean Le Gras (right) only cuts hair for customers that comply with WorkSafe BC guidelines and wear a face mask in the West Shore Barber Shop along Goldstream Avenue. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)|
Only four customers are allowed in the shop at any given time. Anyone who walks through their doors will have to wash their hands before they sit down on the barber chair and wear a mask too. Nine chairs that once lined the walls for waiting customers have been reduced to two at six feet apart – the remainder are stacked up in the corner of the shop.
Notably, no beard trims or neck shaves are being given until further notice and their operating hours are also being reduced by a half-hour at the end of the day to give them time to blitz the shop with sanitizer.
On their first day of re-opening, Gravelle was met by eight customers waiting outside for a trim.
“I’m glad they opened ‘cause I couldn’t rock a mullet,” quipped Kenny Baker, a regular customer for the past 15 years. “It doesn’t matter whether I would have to lineup outside because these guys are the ones that cut my hair. I won’t let [just] anyone touch it.”
Going forward, Gravelle said he and Le Gras are considering an online booking service for appointments instead of strictly walk-ins. Although he misses watching Netflix with his wife and counting how many times a character touches their face, he’s glad to be back in the community again, seeing regulars and meeting new faces.
“Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of people out there that need a haircut,” he added.
– with files from Rick Stiebel