“I gotta tell you, this Obama character scares the bejesus outta me,” the man in the barber chair said. “All this talk about death panels deciding when to pull the plug on us older folks. Next thing you know, we’ll have socialized medicine, and then no one will get proper care.”
Peyton pulled the barber drape off the man’s chest and brushed a few freshly clipped grey hairs off the man’s shoulders. Slowly the old man climbed down from the chair and made his way across the linoleum tiled floor to the ancient cash register. He handed Peyton a twenty dollar bill and waited for Peyton to count out his change.
“Yessir, if Obama gets his way, this country’s headed to hell in a hand basket for sure. Government run health care is un-American,” the man huffed. “See you next month, Peyton,” he said as he shuffled out the door.
I stood up and placed the magazine I had been reading in the rack next to the morning newspaper. Peyton swept the floor with his push broom and stowed it in the corner behind the curtain. “You’re up,” he said, dusting off the seat.
I removed my eyeglasses and slipped them into my breast pocket before climbing onto the chair. Peyton wrapped a white tissue paper collar around my neck and clipped the drape at the back. “How you been?” he asked, looking at me in the mirror on the wall above the sink.
“Oh, can’t complain. How’re things with you?”
I saw Peyton shrug his shoulders in the mirror. “Times are tough,” he said. “Did you see the morning paper?”
I shook my head.
“Front page: health insurance premiums are skyrocketing in the state, up 20 percent.”
“Twenty percent—that’s quite a jump.”
“Some of the insurance companies wanted to go 30 percent. It’s highway robbery.”
Peyton picked up a pair of scissors and a comb. “I got a letter in the mail yesterday,” he said as he began snipping away at the hair on the back of my head. “My health insurance premiums are going up $300 a month. Can you believe it—$300 a month! That’s on top of the $1500 I pay every month just to insure my wife and me, and we’re both in good health.”
“Three hundred dollars a month—there’s your 20 percent increase, just like the paper said.”
“Twenty percent. It’s outrageous; it’s crazy. Pretty soon I’m going to be working just to pay my health insurance premiums.”
Peyton combed the hair down over my forehead and trimmed the ends. “Are we doing your ’stache today?” he asked.
“Go ahead,” I said, lifting my chin. Peyton snipped the ends of my moustache neatly with his clippers. “So what are you going to do?” I asked.
“What am I going to do? See if I can move into a plan with a higher deductible to keep the premiums down. Hang in there as best I can until I reach 65.”
“So you can retire?”
“So I can get on Medicare—if the country doesn’t go to government run medicine first,” he grunted.