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Mr. Johnson Gets Demoted by Manny (recovered)
Mr. Johnson Gets Demoted
Mr. Johnson was such an annoying person to work for – egotistical, hot tempered and demanding. I was one of the few people who had lasted for more than three months in the position of special assistant to this self-important, youthful CEO. Most of my time was spent on helping Mr. Johnson maintain a “power image” that he fastidiously cultivated. All his clothes were tailor made, his accessories were top of the line, and his movements about the office were executed in a way that exuded authority and power. Being just 35 and at the top of the pile meant Mr. Johnson spent a lot of time putting on airs and acting in an intimidating manner. He wanted to come across as both a seasoned executive and a carefree jet setter all at once. When Mr. Johnson walked into a room, people snapped to attention and addressed him in deferential tones. When he pulled out of the company garage in his convertible Porsche, with his flowing locks wafting in the breeze, people turned to look in reverential awe.
My time was filled with calling in all sorts of people to pamper Mr. Johnson in the depths of his spacious executive suite – a tailor for fittings, a manicurist, aroma therapist, masseuse, personal financial advisor and hair stylist. These were the ultimate trappings of power. Part of Mr. Johnson’s mystique was that he was not bound by conventions. He had a high-maintenance, over grown hairstyle that showcased the dense, glossy tresses of a deep mahogany color. His lush hair spilled generously past the bottom of the collar and a heavy forelock was frequently intruding across his face. Mr. Johnson loved to snap his head around and send the bouncing hair into a show of acrobatics.
Ironically, showy tresses like Mr. Johnson’s were not sported by any of the male employees. There was an unwritten rule that Mr. Johnson wanted the distinction of rank preserved with him the only luscious longhair in the office. Part of my job was to enforce this code of grooming conduct. Mr. Johnson might comment something like, “Peter’s barber must be on vacation….” And that was a signal for me to tell Peter to get a haircut. And for daring to let it get a bit long, I enjoyed adding on a suggestion that Peter get it tapered extra short to let the boss he wasn’t lax about his grooming. Peter would comply and walk in absolutely scalped the next day. Everyone feared Mr. Johnson’s authority.
Mr. Johnson may have worn his hair long, but it was always meticulously groomed. And so, it was a bit of a crisis, when his usual stylist did not show up on schedule for his first appointment of the morning on such a critical day in his schedule. Mr. Johnson was livid. How could I have let this happen he fumed? Didn’t I know my duties -- to make sure his grooming needs were given top priority so that he would look his best for the monthly board meeting? “Cancel the appointment with the manicurist for 11:30 and substitute it with a hairstylist! No excuses,” he fumed. Then he hissed, “Such incompetence!” under his breath.
So, I was in a panic when I called the salon where the stylist was based and found that a family funeral had preempted many of the staff from their duties that day. “Could we send a substitute? I think we could fill the 11:30 slot Mr. Johnson has available. So terribly sorry.” What re-assuring words! And the follow-up call to inform me that Steve was on his way set my heart at rest.
Steve looked fairly young, but Mr. Johnson seemed satisfied that I’d found someone to attend to his locks. “Glad you could come on short notice. I’m giving a very important presentation at 3:00 today and need to look my….”
“Sit then! You’re not the only one anxious to get this haircut underway,” the fellow instructed in a clipped, authoritative tone. Steve’s steely blue eyes glared at the flustered boss. Mr. Johnson looked taken aback by the assertive approach. He was not used to being given orders, especially by lower sorts of people who performed services! But he complied and quickly took a seat as the stylist began to unpack his gear. The fellow slipped into a short-sleeved white smock. Once zipped up, he looked very much like he’d stepped out of a traditional barbershop! Then he shook open a big white cape with a fierce snap that startled both Mr. Johnson and me. In an instant the cape was on, deftly secured into place by a stern metal pin. All Mr. Johnson’s trappings of power and prestige – the Armani suit, the gold Rolex, the monogrammed cufflinks – were concealed by the over-sized cape that hung nearly to the floor. Mr. Johnson’s heavy forelock slid down, thoroughly obliterating a large part of his face. Instead of a well-groomed power hairstyle, it looked like a hayseed’s overgrown thatch, in need of a good shearing.
“Just a bit of a trim,” Mr. Johnson instructed, as he tried to reach out from under the cape to mop back the uncooperative fringe.
“I don’t think so,” replied the barber curtly. “You’re seriously in need of an honest haircut.” The tall frame towered over what almost seemed like a cowering figure beneath the barber’s cape. I fully expected the boss to react, but strangely, he didn’t say a thing.
The barber pulled out a large set of electric hair clippers and plugged them in while Mr. Johnson’s eyes grew wide as saucers. “You’re not going to cut my hair too short, are you?” The whine virtually begged for mercy.
“Of course not!” the barber said. Mr. Johnson breathed a sigh of relief. “What do you think of my haircut?” the barber asked. Mr. Johnson’s mouth momentarily dropped open. He stared in awe and fear of the clipped, buzzed cut that bordered on the military look.
“It is quite short…” he stammered.
“But this style will suit you perfectly. It’ll be the perfect length for you – not too short or too long,” the barber said firmly. Then he snapped on the machine and pushed Mr. Johnson’s head forward. The forelock dangled precariously above the starched, white cape. The barber grinned as he brought the chattering machine to Mr. Johnson’s nape. It was as if were saying, “Bid ‘good-bye’ to your flouncy, pretty-boy look.” He enjoyed his position of power and authority. Then he pushed the clippers straight up the back of Mr. Johnson’s trembling head. Mounds of his treasured hair fell to the floor. Repeatedly, the barber pumped the machine up the back of Mr. Johnson’s head. I was in complete shock, seeing our all-powerful, corporate boss being shorn so determinedly and forcefully by strapping, freelance barber. His muscles bulged with strength as the clippers mowed away the whole pampered collection of long hair that for so long had been vain Mr. Johnson’s pride. As the machine moved quickly over the top of his head, sending long locks to the floor, Mr. Johnson looked more and more like an army recruit. Once the lengthy forelock was clipped off near the scalp, I could see Mr. Johnson blinking in a stunned manner. The barber moved quickly to take the whole mane down to a tidy, clipped pate. Finally it was over. The barber announced, “There, you look much better with a classic, butch haircut.” He tidied up the edges with a smaller set of clippers and then set down his tools. Throughout the whole transforming process, Mr. Johnson had remained silent.
The barber withdrew the cape and shook the shorn hair to the floor. Even though the power suit, watch, etc. were back on the scene, strangely Mr. Johnson looked far more humble and meek without the power hairstyle. He rubbed his hand over the top of the buzzed pate, incredulously. “Just like it’s the first day of summer, circa 1963, and Johnny’s had his thatch mowed down by his daddy in the driveway while the neighborhood children look on!” chortled the barber.
Then he fastened his gaze at me. “You’re next!” he declared pointing in my direction.
“Yes, that’s a great idea,” said Mr. Johnson. “Cut his hair just like mine.”
“Except shorter,” said the barber. “Quickly! I don’t have all day,” he snapped at me.
I meekly got up and hustled over to the chair and took a seat. The cape flew into place. I bowed my head submissively and heard the click that announced the end of my carefully arranged hairstyle. I felt a wonderful sense of delight as the barber’s strong hand brought the machine to my nape. “You’ll look great with a classic butch cut!” Quickly, Steve stripped away my locks, just like he’d done to Mr. Johnson. Of course, the collection of blond hair that fell from my head was nothing compared to the mahogany mound that had been shorn off Mr. Johnson. The reformed boss watched on with a bit of amusement, while trying to sneak glimpses of himself in the reflection of the picture window of the executive suite. When it was all done, Mr. Johnson smiled broadly and even gave me a Dutch rub!
“Well done,” he said congratulating Steve. “My assistant will take care of your payments and scheduling you for….”
“But, I’m not finished with you yet. I’m taking you out for a little bit of shopping before your three o’clock meeting,” he said firmly.
Mr. Johnson’s mouth sort of dropped open. “What for?”
“A little wardrobe update. There’s a job clearance sale going on at Penney’s. And those frameless lenses, well, they don’t look very substantial.” He pulled out some heavy rimmed black-framed glasses, circa 1957, for his coat pocket. “This is an extra pair that should do you fine. We’ll stop by Lenscrafters to get your prescription right, all while we wait. Yes, by the time I’m finished with your makeover, you’ll be a regular guy and that will certainly improve your interactions with your staff. Come on, now!” Steve said taking Mr. Johnson by the hand. “Let me show you where we’re going to have your cubicle so that you can be more accessible to the staff….”
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