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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

Change Isn't Always Good

February 19, 2013

Change isn't always good

Sometimes change comes so slowly that we don't notice it, until we reach the point where we look up and say, "What the heck happened?"

Case in point: the long-venerated institution of the American barbershop is dying and nobody seems to notice it or mourn the passing.

I just had a haircut. For many years I've gone to a barber in a nearby town. He's an old friend dating back to school days, and I'm comfortable with him. The only thing is that like me, he's not a spring chicken any more, and his hours have gotten spotty as he tries to dial down his work hours. What with one thing and another he can be hard to catch up with, and I was long past the point where I needed to have a haircut.

Finally it got to the point of being ridiculous.

You can hardly find a real barber any more. A glance at the phone book revealed that there are only a handful left in the county, and some of those are too far away or unusable for other reasons.

Now, this is not a new issue; it's been going on for a while. Some time ago I asked my barber friend why there are only old coots still cutting hair in the traditional way, and he said that all the business is going to hairdressers.

Finally I reached the point where my hair was driving me nuts. It was getting to the point of either deciding to let it grow out so I could put it in a pony tail, which I think looks silly on a guy as old and bald as I am, or biting the bullet and going to a hairdresser. So, after some putting it off, I went up the street to a hairdresser who I've been friendly with for years.

OK, I'll be fair: she did a good job and was quick about it. She was cheerful and talkative, and it was good to catch up on a few things in her life.

But darn it, the place was full of Redbook and People magazines. There was a definite insufficiency of Field and Streams and Popular Mechanics. There was no one there who knew how much ice was on the lake, whether it would be safe to go ice fishing or not, or such important topics. No one had an opinion on how the winter was treating the local deer herd, or gave a damn. There were no opinions about how well Matt Kenseth is going to do driving for Joe Gibbs. There was little there that made me comfortable like I would have been in a traditional barbershop.

Like I said, the haircut was all right, but under the circumstances the only thing I got out of it was shorter hair. There was none of the male certifying experience that comes out of going to a real live barbershop.

It could be this is happening because of the increasing homogenization of society, of the loss of the traditional male and female roles.

I suppose there are reasons for the vanishing of the American barber. I know nothing about the business aspects, and I would be reluctant to advise some young man to go into the trade, just knowing that the field is drying up and dying. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to see it, though.

Even Google doesn't seem to notice the dying of the institution. All I came up with was the following statement from a career description site: "Demand for more specialized forms of hair treatment is expected to drive more customers toward multi-service hair salons and fewer toward traditional barber shops." My guess is that they're probably right, and that the market for the old traditional male-bonding barber shop is decreasing.

Sorry, I'm a crusty old coot in ways. I understand times are changing but this is one change I don't want to see.

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