Friday, May 30, 2008

Bald? Not really.

You know, it's strange. I seem to have started shaving my head.

Now, let me be clear about one thing. I'm not going bald. (Wow. That really sounds like somebody going bald trying to justify their decision, doesn't it?)

But I'm not. I still have a full head of hair. If anything, it grows too well. You see, I normally don't pay attention to my hair. It's that stuff on top of my head that I ignore, for the most part. I wash it in the morning, I brush it, and then I leave it alone.

But now I'm shaving it. Plus, I got an earring. So either I'm not comfortable with my masculinity, or I'm going through a midlife crisis. Which means that next, I've got to buy a sports car and start picking up women in bars.

Christ, I don't want a sports car! Lousy mileage, and I can only imagine how much my insurance would go up.

See, I left the military right after John Kerry admitted defeat. Since then, I think I've gotten two haircuts. My wife, as it turns out, grew up on a college campus in the Sixties and Seventies, and prefers longer hair. So I, being the dutiful husband that I am, let my hair grow out. You might or might not know, but the Air Force insisted that I get it cut roughly every month or so, to keep it from looking shaggy. So I did. I never really thought about it. It was just something I did. Since I left the military and now work in a hospital, I didn't have to get my hair cut every eight weeks, like clockwork. In fact, maybe I let it grow a little too long.

And from what I can tell, I'm the only person who doesn't pay attention to my hair.

So, almost two months ago, one of my co-workers asked a question that would prove to be important. Ericka Acosta, one of our Human Resources ladies, asked "So what's the deal with the hair? Are you protesting something?"

I'd never thought about it like that. I mean, I saw Hair. I've heard the title song from that play (umm... for those of you who didn't work that one out on your own, that would be "Hair," which was a hit for the Cowsills in 1969). I remember at least two versions of the song "Signs," (the original, by the Five Man Electrical Band, and later by Tesla, for their Five Man Acoustical Jam) where the first verse goes:
And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Me! Workin' for you!"
But I never thought of growing my hair as a protest to anything. (Except maybe the price of haircuts. That seems pretty obvious.)

But I filed my retirement papers in early 2004. And I've had a couple of haircuts since then, but in the last two years, I think I've only had one. Not because I didn't need one, but because I just don't think about it. At least, not my own: I'll admire a nice head of hair on somebody else, I'll make fun of a stupid hairstyle, but for the most part, I don't think about the unshorn shrubbery on top of my own skull. It just doesn't interest me that much.

But "are you protesting something?" was exactly the question asked by Ms. Acosta. I hadn't thought about it like that. And it seemed like a good opportunity. So I decided to make a fund-raiser out of it. I set up a quick flyer: the first attempt had a tie-dyed background and read:
Shave the hippie!
Let your inner 1960’s Young Republican run free!
You’ve seen him wandering the halls with his unshorn locks, and you know you want to teach him a lesson!

For every $1 donated, you get one chance to be the one to run the clippers over his patchouli-scented head!
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can either volunteer another barber, or you can have our handy staff of Chief Administrators do it (and trust me, they’ve been waiting for this moment for far too long).
See ___people__ to buy a chance to run the clippers
The ceremonial shaving will be held at ___time__ on ___date__ in the cafeteria
That didn't go over too well. Basically, we have this doctor who's got fairly long hair, and some concern was expressed that people might think that we were talking about him. So that one went down in flames.

My next choice was more obviously not about Dr Dorf (yes, that's his name). I took pictures of myself, and went with a more self-deprecating attitude. (I won't even try to format the thing - it was a letter-sized poster with the pictures down one side, if you're seriously into layouts.)
No sense of style

No fashion sense

No peripheral vision

You’ve seen him wandering the halls.
You’ve asked "What’s the deal with the hair?"


For every $1 donated, you get one chance to be the one to run the clippers over his head!

If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can either volunteer another barber, or you can have the handy staff from administration do it (and trust me, they’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time).

See ___people__ to buy a chance to run the clippers (or to admire his fine head of hair for the last time)

The ceremonial shaving will be held in the cafeteria
at 2:30 p.m.
Friday, 16 May

All proceeds will be donated to the Barrett House, providing emergency and short-term shelter to homeless women and children.
At first, that had read "if we can raise $100 in a week" - then it read "less than a week." Finally, when I was starting to think that our CEO preferred the long-haired look, the approval came down. So I changed it to "in three days," and we went with it.

For the first two days, money rolled in relatively well. Along with a lot of people asking, "are you really going to do that?" I pulled in almost $90. And I had a lot of people who made snide little comments like "Hey, I'm going to make sure you're bald by tomorrow." The word "scalp" kept getting used - I'm not sure that everybody had my best interests at heart. But I even went out and bought a pair of clippers (here's one place where I cheated a little - I took $20 from the donations and paid for the clippers that way; hey, I may not be in a minimum-wage job, but I ain't rich, either).

On Friday morning, I sent out an email to all the department managers.
As I’ve been asked this question several times, I suppose an update is in order.

The challenge has been out for two days. At this point, we have not averaged fifty dollars per day. By all appearances, I will be going home tonight with the same amount of hair I came to work with.

Barrett House will still be getting the money. (Here’s a link to the Barrett House website.) And they may get the unopened clippers I bought last night, since I apparently won’t need them.

And perhaps in a month or two, somebody could teach me to braid my hair. That’s not a skill I ever needed before.
That worked moderately well in getting me some donations, but I thought I'd spend a little while drumming up business. I went to every person who'd made some kind of joke at my expense (OK, at the expense of my hair), and said "You know, you talked a lot of trash, but it's strange - there hasn't been a lot of money coming out of your department. I guess you like the long-haired look, don't you?"

This worked even better - I had a lot of people writing me checks on the spot. (OK, technically I had them write the checks to "Barrett House" - that seemed like the right way to deal with it.) And by a little after noon, I had over $300, all given by people hoping to see me go bald by the end of the day. And for every dollar donated, I had a roll of two-part tickets - one half went to the person as kind of a receipt that they couldn't use for their taxes (but we could do a manual recount later of anybody suspected wrongdoing - hey, we aren't Florida), and the other half went into a bowl, so we could draw the name of our lucky barber.

The stunning part happened around one o'clock. One of the anesthetists who works for the hospital (he actually commutes from his home in another state, so he's doing pretty well, I'm thinking) was waiting for me when I came back from lunch. He handed me a check, and said, "I just want to make sure that you get a haircut. I don't really want to cut it myself, though." And he walked away. Leaving me looking at a check for a thousand dollars.

I didn't know what to say. I was stunned. (I was also a little bit thankful that he didn't want tickets, because there weren't a thousand left on the roll.) I spent the next hour almost in shock, getting everything ready for end of the day.

At 2:15, I dialed the number to make an overhead announcement to the entire hospital. "Ladies and gentlemen, the barber will be in, in the smoking area, in fifteen minutes." (Technically, I was supposed to get permission from the boss before I used the overhead - I didn't. Feel free to arrest me. I have to admit, I still wasn't thinking clearly.)

All told, we raised $1,333 for the Barrett House.

Since then, I've had a surprisingly large number of women tell me I look good like this. Unfortunately for them, my wife doesn't like the shaved head look. And I have to admit, I don't think much of it either. I've had 2 weeks now, and still don't like the way it looks. Part of that might be psychological, of course: particularly in the military, most of the people who shaved their heads came in two categories:
1. Men who were going bald and weren't honest enough to admit it, and

2. Closet homosexuals who worked out way too much, flexed whenever they passed a mirror, and were generally setting themselves up to be dragged out of an airport restroom, loudly proclaiming how they just had a "wide stance."
So I'm most likely not going to be continuing to shave my head.

But my CEO, after she announced the final total, said to me, "So, you're going to let it grow back so we can do this again next year?"

Well, two things. First, I'm thinking that it might take two years to get to a length that people will pay to see cut off.

And second, I don't see how I'm ever going to be able to match one-and-a-third thousand dollars.

Update: (June 14, 2008) As it turns out, I left out an important detail - the "after" picture. And my daughter (who, it turns out, also has a blog - although one with significantly less politics, but a lot more pictures) has rectified this issue.

Oh, yeah. By the way: Nix? I notice.


isabinda said...

So where's the final picture, the one where we get to see how you really look with no hair? Just to see if we agree with your wife or not?

isabinda said...

I think it looks nice, frankly. Although I know your wife has always liked long hair.

Though you do look a wee bit more threatening. Which could be useful in certain circumstances. Or not.