Saturday, June 8, 2013

What have you got against slavery? Just another Saturday at the barbershop


Every third or fourth Saturday morning, say around 11am or so, you won’t find me here.  Well, for a couple hours at least.  I’d suggest you look up the street at the Lincoln Barbershop, you’ll probably see me sitting on a long bench with a group of other tired looking men, arms crossed and blinking the sleep from our eyes.  (Sometimes there’s the random young dude tapping one foot up and down while staring down at his iphone.)  The Lincoln Barbershop is run by three excellent barbers—Rose, Aaron & Angie—but they don’t take appointments, and when you work or go to school during the week like a lot of us do, Saturday is your only option. 

So today was one of those Saturdays—I was looking like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo so after a couple cups of coffee I headed up the street.  Ah, just as I predicted—looks like a 2 hour wait.  I see my neighbor Jim is there too, but that’s no surprise.  Jim is sort of the shop’s mascot—he’s 62 but retired 25 years ago and has a lot of time on his hands.  He waves me over.

JIM:  Dougggggg!!!  Sit down over here, it’s going to be awhile.  So how’s things?  How’s your gay neighbors, they still making a lot of noise?  You guys come to any compromises?

ME:  Hi Jim… uh, yeah we did.  I agreed to call the cops the next time their music knocks a picture off my wall, and they agreed I’m King of the Bitches. 

(A couple patrons chuckled and laid down their newspapers to listen)

JIM:  Hahaha!  Aaron, you hearing this??  Well Doug, they’re young—they won’t be around forever!  Hey, did you hear about that bug-eyed woman you hate down on 2?  She’s moving into some place for seniors—WITH ISSUES.

ME:  Jim, who are you talking about?  My gosh, I don’t hate anybody.

JIM:  Sure you do!  The one with the bug eyes!  The one who yells at people to get out when she’s in the laundry room!  The one who screamed she was going to call the cops that time she saw you in the lobby on a pair of crutches!   

ME:  Oh, her!  Okay I do sorta hate her.  Sorry guys…

AARON (cutting hair):  No worries, Doug!  Keep going Jim…

JIM:  So Doug where do you work downtown?  Mellon?

(Modern day slavery in downtown Pittsburgh is usually done at Mellon or PNC Bank, Highmark or UPMC Healthcare.)

ME:  No, UPMC.  Hey I’ve been meaning to ask you, is it true you’ve been retired for 25 years?  I need to know how you did that…

JIM:  Well, I was an accountant for Gulf Oil—we merged with Chevron in ‘84, they offered everybody a 20 thousand dollar buyout.  Everyone took the money, but I took it in stocks.  Those stocks split, and then split again, and again… let’s say they left me comfortable enough to live on… well, so far!

AARON (cutting hair):  Yeah just look at his lavish lifestyle!  Fast food everyday and spends most of his time here!

JIM:  Hahaha!  Hey it’s for me!  Doug, you’ve got things pretty good, why do you want to give that up?  You probably work in a nice looking office, I bet you eat out a lot too.  Are you hourly or salary?

ME:  Slavery.  Er… I mean salary.  Same thing.

JIM:  Aw Doug, things aren’t that bad!  You’re not out there digging ditches!

AARON (cutting hair):  Jim, Doug’s still a slave for the man.  Can’t you remember back that far?

ME:  I know others are out there slaving for the man worse than me… I wouldn’t want to work on a chain gang.  Waitaminute, don’t those striped pants they wear come with a drawstring? 

(This gets a couple laughs, one guys says “that’d be nice!”) 

JIM:  Haha!  Okay Doug, your time will come!  Have you thought about what you’re going to do when you retire?  You can’t sit around and watch tv all day, you know!

ME:  Well, I can always hang out every day in the barbershop—unless that job is taken…  (Jim laughs and says there’s room for one more.  No thanks!)

Aaron waves me to the chair.  Oh good, I’m up.  


  1. retirement...retirement...retirement...retirement...retirement...

  2. I keep saying it too, hoping it'll come true :)

  3. We went another way, I suppose, Doug - a long semi-retirement

  4. Andrew in all seriousness I think that's the ideal situation--but you and your missus are both in professions you have a passion for, I am just a drone for megacorp! So I am just giving it my all for a few more years & then I'm DONE. :)

  5. Are you sufficiently focused on what you'll actually do in your retirement, Doug? It's just that I've known a lot of people who have found retirement a very difficult phase of their life (and some have gone back to work because of this).

    Maybe you could begin a career in one of the pursuits you have a passion for, without the financial pressure of making a living through it...

  6. Andrew, not really (other than debating on where I want to move, either back home or futher south); I figure I've got several years yet (ugh) to come up with a plan, right now the focus is financial independence :)


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