Thursday, June 02, 2005

Say it ain't so, Joe

A trip to the barber can be an odd experience. At the barbershops I tend to visit (which, unfortunately, rarely feature Cedric the Entertainer cracking wise or Ice Cube running the joint), protocol seems to be that you wait in the order you came through the door, and then you're stuck with the barber who opens up when it's your turn. Rampant Minnesota Niceness makes people, or at least me, reluctant to decline an open barber; could there be a more direct insult to a barber's professional competence?

This system works great when all barbers are equally talented, which is rarely the case. I quit going to one barbershop because one of the three regular cutters was simply incompetent. Today, there were two of the four regulars on staff; the one I wanted (we'll call him the Nazi, because he told me that's what his friends call him - only because he's of German descent, he assures me), and the Boxer (because he boxes, and looks it). Of the two, the Nazi seems to cut hair better, and also seems better able to avoid annoying me, in part because he speaks more clearly (remember, he's not a boxer), and doesn't insist on calling me "Bud." The Nazi also fascinates me because he works on the side as a bouncer despite not being very big, which I always assumed was a job requirement.

So, as I waited, things were coming together perfectly - with one guy ahead of me, the Boxer opens up, so I should be good to go with the Nazi. Only the old guy ahead of me declines the chair! So now not only do I have the Boxer, but his confidence is clearly going to be shot after such an open rejection. This is not good. However, I'm far too much of a coward to issue a second rejection in a row, which I would think likely to cause retirement rather than face the continued shame, so I sit down to take my lumps.

The haircut proceeds as normal, with the Boxer's usual level of grunts and inane conversation. He appears to be doing a good job, though, and I'm pleased. Then, right near the end, the shock: "Look, there's Joe Mauer," he says to me. Now, I don't have my glasses on, and for all I know he's making some kind of punch-drunk joke that will amuse him. Post-concussion syndrome can be funny that way. But it turns out it actually is Joe - he stopped at his old barbershop on the way home after the Twins' matinee game, which the Twins won in 13 innings and in which he homered.

This is either really cool, or really pathetic, and I can't decide which. Had I chosen a more lucrative career path out of law school I really would not be going to this barbershop; regrettably, its low cost is an important factor in my tonsorial choices. And Joe makes more than me by a multiple of . . . well, let's just say I think Joe could afford a stylist. Yet he's still going to his old neighborhood barber. Such loyalty is admirable, although it would be more so if Joe wasn't getting the Pete Rose 1974 bowl cut he favors these days.

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