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The Clipping of a Perk!

Bill Summers Haircut
The New York Times - Sunday, September 21, 1997
By: Bill Summers

The company barber shop closed the other day, leaving 200 men and women in sheer frustration. A cherished benefit has been clipped, and now we must bear the hairy consequences.

Our barber, who joined the company after it moved to New Jersey in the 1970's, has chosen to unplug his razor. In his wake, I wonder, are we being scalped?

No more $3 cuts. (Never again will I feel so good about leaving a 66 percent tip.) No more one-minute commutes to the chair, two if you took the elevator. The round trip was 20 minutes, or about the same as a long coffee break.

Now it's out into the haircut jungle with everyone else. My friends, of course, show me not a whisker of pity. They never understood why I was afforded this rare privilege to begin with.

"Do they do your nails, too?" one sniped.

Try to get a trim on a Saturday morning, they dare me with a smile. In my town, the line forms before 8 A.M. Show up any later and six guys are ahead of you, including at least one who wants to "try something new." By the time I reach the chair, I'm told, I will have broadened my mind with six back issues of People magazine.

"Goodbye, dear, I'm off for a haircut. Hope to see you tonight."

I can always make an appointment at the hair salon, I'm told. Yes, and pay what it costs to have my lawn mowed. Besides, I just can't imagine developing the same kind of rapport I had with my barber with, well, you know, a woman.

All the barbers I've known have been sports fans. They eat box scores for breakfast and can spout statistics through the day's final cut. How would they react at the salon if I said, "Lefty really had the scroogie working last night, eh?" They'd toss me out.

Then there are the sensitive issues. My corporate barber knew, for example, that when he finished my scalp, he would tend to my eyebrows, and then my nose. How can I muster the courage to ask a stranger, " Hey, good job on top, now can you clip the ones poking out of my nostrils?"

A few of my colleagues are already reeling.

"I can't get a decent haircut anywhere," one muttered the other day. Two others have resorted to crew cuts to escape the ordeal, at least for the next three months.

You can stop the talk about casual dress, remove the soda machine, even take down the basketball court in the company parking lot. But the barber shop? I can't bear to part with that.


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