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Roger Pompadour & Circumstances by Deke Cutter
Part III of My Roger Stories
Nobody was more shocked than Vivian when Roger walked in from work with a crew cut, some four months after his baldy cut. "Well, this is a surprise! Don’t tell me I’ve turned you into clipper cut fan."
"Well babe, from my perspective, this is a bad news good news story. On the one hand, I owe the good news to you, my dearest wife. The bad news is my own fault. Roger went on to explain about his impending promotion and then about Todd’s decision to become his barber. "It turns out Todd took seriously my joke that I would not return to the barber that gave me ‘a bad haircut’ that resulted in my baldy. He thought my growing hair was because I couldn’t find a good barber. Plus, I think he likes having somebody else around with a tight clipper cut."
"I’m sorry honey, I know you were looking forward to growing your hair out. What do you want to do? I do think he did a good job on your haircut and I don’t have a problem with you wearing a crewcut for as long as you choose to."
"I’m thinking of seeing how things go, maybe for a year. I am a bit bummed out, but thanks to you, I realize its only hair. And, with this promotion, we can afford a great family vacation!"
Todd was true to his word and after the next executive board meeting Roger was promoted to Vice President for Operations. A few weeks later Roger arrived early one morning to catch up on some e-mail backlog and was surprised to see Todd’s light on. He stopped in to say hello and found Todd sitting with a young man who appeared to be in his late teens. The boy head was topped with a fluffy head of loose curls. "Oh, good morning Roger. Roger, I want you to meet Calvin. Cal’s dad and I were deployed together. Unfortunately, he was called back and I’m making sure Cal keeps all the promises he made to his mom and dad before his dad left." And if he didn’t, I become his barber until his dad comes home. Cal started to look decidedly uncomfortable at the prospect of an "airing of grievances" when it was nowhere near Festivus."
"Maybe, I’d better leave you to it," Roger said and started to turn and leave the room.
"Please wait. Cal was just saying he thought that this was ‘pretty unfair’. Maybe you can be our arbitrator."
"Oh, come on ‘Uncle Todd’ he’s got a haircut just like yours, how can he be impartial."
"Hold on there, Cal," Roger responded, "look at my ID. This is me with the haircut that I loved. I too broke a promise to somebody very important to me and as part of my demonstration of my contrition, I had to lose my beautiful long locks. It hurt, but it also helped me. If you are willing to trust me. I’ll listen to your side too." Something in Roger’s voice overcame the young man’s normal mistrust of his elders and he reluctantly agreed. Todd listened to Roger with many questions in his own mind but kept his counsel and would wait until later when they were alone to ask his questions of Roger.
Todd began, "Cal made some promises to his parents. He would keep his grades up, keep his curfew, stay away from booze (and certainly illegal drugs). He would participate in extracurriculars of his choosing, and stick with them, all of this with an eye on college admissions next fall." In return, his mom would give him freedom about how he wears his hair, his wardrobe, and let him use the second car, if he kept it clean and did some of the chauffeuring for the younger two kids." Well, Eileen, his mom, and Bert, his dad, have both spoken to me about their concerns. Cal’s broken curfew, come home smelling of beer, dropped some grades and recently announced he would not play lacrosse any longer." His mom took away the car keys, sent him here for a haircut and to try to make some sense of all this because, his dad can’t be on line or on comms long enough to get things squared away."
"OK, your turn Cal," said Roger.
"I admit that I slacked off on my studies last quarter, I was dating this girl, and, well jeez, you guys must remember how it was to be young!" I only had a couple sips of beer at a party, I was trying to "nurse it" to make the other kids think I was drinking, then somebody knocked it and it spilled on me. Mom’s been so edgy during this deployment that I couldn’t even talk to her about lacrosse and we got into an argument and I got disrespectful and I feel bad. But the thing is, there are a lot of guys on the team who are way too wild, and the coach likes their toughness on the field, but ignores their shenanigans. I don’t want to be seen as part of that crowd. I really don’t want to cut my hair, please."
Roger asked Todd if he would mind going to get himself a cup of coffee. When they were alone, Roger said to Cal, "you been through a rough spot, but I genuinely think you are a good young man. Its obvious you have your folks and Todd in your corner. I know you don’t want this haircut. I cried like a baby in the barber chair when I got my long hair cut. And let me tell you a secret, it sucked. I still want to grow it back, but right now, out of respect for Todd, I’m not. Take this haircut like a man, better than I did. After school today apologize profusely to your mom and explain things to her. I’m sure Todd and (Todd’s wife) Judy will come over and help if you need support. Hair grows back, you need strength of character more than curls."
At that moment, Todd opened the door and Cal said, "OK ‘Uncle Todd, I’m ready to look like you and Roger, let’s get this over with." As Roger had learned from his recent haircuts, Todd approached his task with military precision. Cal’s locks were soon history. Luckily for him, he had a good shaped head and was a handsome young fellow. He looked over at Roger when Todd pushed the clippers back taking away the first chunk of the bangs that dangled toward his eyes. Roger could see the mighty effort that it took to hold his emotions in check. But he did it! As the haircut neared completion, Roger whipped out his phone to show Cal particularly gruesome pictures of himself with his buzz with a bumper and his baldy. His self-deprecating comments had the boy laughing as Todd removed the cape. He stood and went to the full-length mirror behind Todd’s door and looked at his reflection in shock, slowly rubbing his hand across his head. "Holy cow! I look like dad in his ROTC picture." Roger and Todd joined him rubbing their heads too. Roger then snapped a quick selfie of the three of them and excused himself so that Todd and Cal could share a few moments before Cal got off to school.
About a week later, Fran Davis, head of Human Resources entered Roger’s office. "We’ve got a problem." Roger, always happy to see the vivacious and energetic woman looked up from his desk and gestured for her to sit. "You known young Daryl, Todd’s hire from the West Coast who was going to be such a superstar? Well, he may be a brilliant economist, but he has no people skills and I’ve got two women just about ready to make formal complaints. He is an arrogant sod," she said, slipping in one of the terms from her native England, a habit that endeared her to anglophile Roger.
"Is he harassing women on the staff?"
"He is right on the line of inappropriate behavior," Fran said, and Roger imagined the "u" the British added to the last word as Fran said it. He’s like an adolescent testing his limits. And he’s no better in his interactions with male colleagues. He struts around with that ridiculous high pompadour and the sides slicked back like some sort of reject from an early 60s Bobby Rydell lookalike contest! He talks down to people, talks over people, and most annoyingly, in technical terms, he is never wrong." This all came out in one breath and Fran finally stopped, almost seeming spent. As she spoke, an idea started to form in Roger’s mind. It revolved around his own period of punishment after his affair and his recent experiences with Todd and Cal. As he was about to speak, Fran was roused again and said, "you know he has no respect for authority. He refers to you and Todd as the Buzz Brothers and makes insulting comments about you both looking like GI Joe dolls."
"Fran, wow, thanks for bringing this to me. I have a couple of ideas, that you may find pretty far ‘out of the box,’ so I want to discuss a plan with Todd. I promise we’ll run it past you and legal before we do anything if you have concerns."
With a quick return of her normal pleasant personality, Fran said "cheers" and was on her way. Roger and Todd were scheduled to have lunch that day, so Roger waited until then to discuss his plan. As they waited for their salads to arrive, Todd told Roger that the reason he was able to lure Daryl to move cross country was the fact that he had been in such conflict with his former colleagues. "Daryl had insisted that they were all equally at fault and that they were jealous of his East Coast education, etc. I knew he was a risky hire and it all happened just before the Board okayed your promotion, so I’m sorry my problem is now ‘our problem.’ I take it you have some ideas."
"Two things Fran said got me to thinking, she talked about his arrogance, his strutting around and his elaborate hairdo. Then she mentioned his seeming immaturity. Remember after Cal’s haircut, I told you my whole story of how I came to have short hair while you were on deployment and how Vivian’s plan had forced me to really take stock and grow."
"Yeah buddy, and I meant it, you don’t have to keep the crewcut. Judy was so mad at me when I told her the story."
"Like I told you that day, I’m keeping it for now, Vivian actually kind of likes it. Its one way of showing my appreciation to you for the chance at this job, and you’re the cheapest barber in town. We’ll discuss it next June when your Reserve commitment is up. I may get Judy to make your try growing your mop out for a year. Then you can raise funds for Saint Baldrick’s or something. But first, my fellow Buzz Boy, as wayward Daryl calls us, to the problem at hand." A mixture of sticks and carrots would be used to try to save Daryl from himself, Roger explained. Fran was told of the plan and while she found it unconventional, she couldn’t find any fatal flaw in it and gave it her approval to proceed.
The next morning, Daryl was invited to a series of meetings. The first was in Roger’s office. When he arrived Roger and Fran were present. Daryl was dressed in a very expensive suit. His hair was brushed to a sheen. The sides must have been 8 to 10 inches long and the hair on top appeared to grow from his forehead all the way back to his collar. Roger invited Daryl to sit down. Fran remained standing. In her best British "Head Teacher" voice she explained to Daryl that there were personal conduct issues that had been brought to management’s attention. In the current media environment her description of the concerns of his female colleagues, alone, caused Daryl to grow pale. When she turned to his equally abusive and dismissive behavior of male colleagues, ending with comments on the personal appearance of upper management, at which point, Roger seemed to unconsciously rub his hand across his freshly trimmed crewcut, Daryl knew he was in deep trouble. Fran concluded saying "you are lucky that we have two enlightened leaders here. I suggest you listen carefully to what is said."
"Daryl," Roger began, we don’t want to terminate you, with your previous history, this could kill your career."
Fran had played her role well, there was no fronting this out. Daryl almost fell to his knees, "please I know I’m a mess with people what do you want me to do? I can’t lose this job."
"Well, you are going to have to accept some changes and take on some challenges."
"I’ll do anything."
"OK, let’s you and me stop by my buzz buddy’s office and let him know that you are going to accept our rehabilitation program and he’ll be ready to discuss it when we get back. Roger knocked on Todd’s door. Todd looked up and Roger said "we’re off to get this fellow ‘squared away.’ He’s decided he wants a second chance."
As they got into Roger’s car, Daryl asked "squared away?"
Roger chuckled and said, "Daryl, if you can’t deal with this, you can’t deal with life. I know, I’ve been there, literally…and I use the term correctly. Daryl, sat quietly, trying to comprehend what the heck he had got himself into. Soon they were pulling up to the barber shop where Roger’s transformation had begun. "You need to go in there, sit down in the chair, and accept the haircut. You’ll have plenty of time to get used to it." Daryl honestly thought that his legs would not work to get him out of the car, but somehow, he found himself in the shop. Roger’s barber had now been replaced by his nephew who sported a very sharp, very tight flat top with a wide landing strip. Roger had stopped by the previous afternoon to "grease the skids."
"Hop up into the chair sport, Roger told me he was bringing me a new customer today. My name’s Ted. I learned my barbering in the Marines, but don’t worry, I went to barber college too. Let’s get to work. I’ll take those specs, shall I." Daryl was clearly not prepared for this. the barber took the hair on top of his head in a wide flat comb and cut off all but about 4 inches. He then went to work with the clippers, clearing the sides right down to the skin. In minutes, Daryl was 2/3 buzzed and looking mortified.
"Please, I’m so sorry, but I must use the bathroom." The barber pointed to a door in the back and Daryl nearly flew there. When he returned, very red faced, it seemed clear that Daryl hadn’t quite made it in time.
"Don’t worry about it sport. It happens, usually with teens when their dad’s force a short haircut on ‘em. But what happens here, stays here." With that, the barber went back to work. He began sculpting the top of Daryl’s military grade flat top. "Now hold very still sport." Daryl felt him running the clippers right on his scalp in two paths. Then the barber used the clipper and comb to leave a perfect fence around the landing strip. He just outlined the cut with shaving cream and razor. Roger had feared Daryl might faint if he did more. When the barber had finished putting just a touch of wax on the small ¾ inch fence of hair that sat atop Daryl’s head, he returned his glasses and Daryl looked once in the mirror and began to weep.
Roger motioned for the barber to move away and said: "two more of these, then will let him just trim the sides, then he starts on a regular flat, not to full."
By then Daryl had composed himself. Roger drove him to his condo where he changed his clothes. While they were there Roger made him look at himself in the mirror for several minutes. "Understand Daryl" this is what the world will see now." It will be sometime before you can choose again how you will look. All you can control is who you are on the inside."
"People will laugh and stare."
"Some may." A few did when I had to cut my long hair. But what I found was that I controlled how I was going to feel about me. You have a lot of people who didn’t like the old Daryl. If the new one can show some humility, laugh at himself and do some good, that may all change. Now let’s get back to the office."
When they returned, it was lunch hour so many folks were out. Todd, Fran and their guests were waiting. Todd came out of the conference room. "Daryl", Todd said, shaking his hand warmly, "damn I am proud of you. You’ve taken one giant step forward. Now come in to the conference room. Inside they met the coordinators of volunteer programs at the local Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Hospital. We are going to be loaning you 25 percent of your time to help teach wounded American heroes recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries basic life skills. With your knowledge of economics and the market place, you can really help them and their families."
Daryl ran his finger around his ear, a gesture that would become familiar, but right now seemed very strange (every time he touched his shorn scalp, the sensations were foreign, not unpleasant, but immediate reminders of who he now was). Like Roger had done, he was starting his journey. He said, "I promise, I will do my very best." Two months later, a newly barbered "GI D," as he was known around the office now, was giving a seminar on "Economic Challenges Facing Veterans." Daryl was dating a VA nurse who loved flat tops and every day, he was learning a little bit more about himself.