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Rob Finds a Role Model by Manny


FINALLY! A squeaky clean story....

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Initial reactions to the new boss, Bill Steinbrenner, were overwhelmingly positive. Such a leader! Warm and charismatic personality. He'd obviously mastered his briefs and seemed to know everything about the operation, even obscure details.

I shared those feelings completely. Finally, a real leader to model myself after! Normally, I would feel quite nervous over a one-on-one with a new boss. But, I felt totally at ease and looking forward to my upcoming chat with Mr. Steinbrenner as I watched the minutes tick by.

I knocked gently on his office door at precisely 10:00 a.m.

"Ah, right on time! A man after my own heart," Bill said as he sprung from his desk to greet me at the door with a firm handshake. He ushered me to the sofa area for our chat instead of lurking behind his huge desk, with his nameplate and title intimidatingly reminding you where you were in the pecking order. "So, tell me about yourself. What your goals and aspirations are, where you think the company should be heading...."

What astonished me about the whole chat was that the focus was all on me! Bill was so unlike the previous pompous asshole who required a fawning coterie around himself constantly.

When he stood to usher me out, I couldn't help but admire Bill's trim figure, impeccable suit and perfectly groomed coif. His salt and pepper hair was cropped very close -- what would be described as a classic crewcut. Clipped to a more or less uniform length all over except for a bit of a tuft in front. Bill was a West Point grad, after all!

I stopped by the bathroom on the way back to my office. Ed Henderson was washing his hands as I entered. "Had your one-on-one with the new boss yet?" he asked.

"Just came from his office. He's totally awesome," I remarked. "He's been here less than a week and the place is already transformed."

"That's just how I felt when I met with him yesterday," Ed remarked. "Best thing that's happened to this place in ages."

After Ed left, I glanced at myself in the mirror. I wondered what the new boss had thought of me. Had I made a good impression on him? Did he like my suggestions for the company? I adjusted my tie. Yes, the suit was well tailored, just like Bill's. But....

I fiddled a bit with my hair. So much of it compared to Bill's. I had always worn my hair on the longish side. Still in a business cut but quite long, especially on the top, and full at the sides and back. My hair was one of my better features -- thick and glossy, a nice chestnut color with natural auburn highlights. I tried to smooth it down somewhat as it was a bit bulky and liberally lapping over my ears. Mental note: schedule appointment at the salon for a trim.

As I was drying my hands, Bill came into the bathroom. "We meet again!" he exclaimed. "Oh, I forgot to ask you about tennis. I heard from Ed that you're quite the pro -- you went through college on a tennis scholarship, true?"

"Well, I'm no pro, for sure. Too bad about that. I could make a lot more by winning Wimbledon than as a middle manager at TechAssure!" I replied.

"How about I assess your skill level? Played a bit of tennis myself in high school, although at West Point I got consumed by football," Bill said. "But, nowadays, tennis on Saturday helps keep my mind from getting addled and my tummy from getting too flabby."

"You don't have an ounce of flab anywhere on your body, sir!" I laughed.

"Saturday morning? I'm a member at Hillside Country Club. Meet me in front at 10:00 a.m.?" he suggested.

"Sure, I'd love that," I said, feeling quite confident I could give him a run for his money on the court. Hillside was the prime place to hang out in town. Very posh! But, I needed to be careful....perhaps let him win so as not to make it awkward.

As soon as I left the bathroom I started worrying about my situation. Let him win and he'd think I was not competitive or very driven. Smear him and he'd think I lacked social grace. What to do?

I decided to ask Ed his opinion. After scheduling myself for a trim at the salon on Saturday afternoon, I gave him a call.

"Definitely win if you can. But don't smear him. Make it a close game, but pull it off at the end. Hey, it's a great opportunity to bond," Ed said.

"Bond, or blow it! Now I wish I had never agreed to this," I remarked ruefully.

I continued to admire Bill all week -- he sent all the right signals to the staff. But, my apprehension about the tennis match on Saturday increased.

I was at Hillside early on Saturday morning -- a few butterflies, but feeling good about my ability and my strategy. I saw Bill pull up in his convertible Boxster. What a guy! My dream sports car. When I was raking in his salary....

The country club facilities were amazing, a bit intimidating. Bill was on his home court! And, I was right about not a single ounce of flab or fat on his hyper-athletic body when he emerged from the changing room. And, as soon, as we started warming up, I realized I might not have the upper hand during the match. A few hard drives deep in my court had me lunging and running around.

It also had my hair, now quite overgrown, flopping about in the most irritating way, even in down in my eyes. Bill, meanwhile looked totally together with every short strand of hair in perfect place! He was groomed and graceful throughout the whole match.

The game was amazingly close. I judged our skill level to be about equal. In the last match, I decided to pull out all the stops and clinch the win.

But, to my surprise, Bill upped his game as well and pulled off a win in the very last set....just at the time I thought I'd seal the victory.

"Excellent game!" he called out. As we shook hands, he quipped, "I got lucky right at the end."

I thought I saw a bit of a wink! Then I realized he'd planned it that way all along -- just as I had planned to do to him....let the game be close and clinch it right at the end.

As I said goodbye to him in the parking lot, my respect for him was even stronger.

And, I admired the way his hair was totally in place despite the open top as he sped away. At that moment I decided to cut my hair short. Very short! Eventually, just like Bill's. A crewcut....!

But, I just couldn't show up on Monday, transformed, sporting a matchy-matchy haircut with the new boss. I would transition shorter over a few haircuts.

I quickly dialed the salon and canceled my appointment. Bye-bye stylist, hello barber!

I looked at my hair in the mirror of the car. It was still damp from washing as I hadn't dared to take the time to blow dry it after the tennis match in front of Bill. I tugged at the forelock. I was at least five inches long -- way in front of my eyes.

I typed 'barber shop' into my GPS and a few options popped up. I wanted something with a traditional look and feel -- the type of place Bill would use. One of my options was in a nearby plaza, right before getting on the freeway. Chuck's Barber Shop.

I drove over there, feeling quite excited about getting a short haircut. It would it be my first experience with electric hair clippers. The old geezer, forcing my head down and then driving a clippers up the back. Scalped! No....that would be too extreme. But it would be cut very short! And looking barbered, yes, that's what I wanted.

I felt a bit of apprehension as I closed the car door and sauntered over to the spinning red and white pole. There were a few men inside. Two barbers at work. An older man seated in the waiting area. I saw a reflection of myself in the glass door as I pushed it open. One word summoned up how I looked: shaggy!

The bell tinkled as I stepped into the cool shop. I hesitated a bit, and began moving to the waiting area when a third barber stepped out from the back. "Hello, that chair by the window, sir."

The first thing that stood out was that his hair was cut exactly like Bill's! A tidy crewcut with a small tuft in front. But no salt and pepper -- just pepper!

I took a seat and squirmed a bit. My first barbershop experience as an adult. Not since I was in elementary school had I been in a big barber chair.

The barber appeared to be about my age. He reached for the cape and snapped it open. I liked the feeling of it floating down, covering me completely and then tissue strip being applied around my neck. After the cape had been fastened into place, the barber asked, "So, how do you want it cut today?"

It shouldn't have taken me by surprise, but the question did. I should have rehearsed an instruction. Struggling to respond, I simply said, "Quite short."

The barber combed my hair a bit. "Perhaps a half inch or a full inch off? It's quite long on top," he noted.

"Actually, quite a bit shorter than that. It's gotten so long and over grown," I said, reaching out from under the cape, displaying the length. The firery highlights were ablaze in the neon light. "Up on top, at least two inches...maybe even three. I mean, I like your length, but perhaps not quite that short."

The barber smiled a bit and nodded, "Oh, so a big change. First time here?"

"Yep, I felt I wanted a big change and the best way to accomplish that would be to find a new person to cut my hair," I said.

"Clippers okay?" he asked.

"Sure. To be honest, I'd like to get down to your length, but perhaps over a few visits. Could you make that happen?" I asked.

"Name the date....and at that time you'll walk out of here with a classic crewcut just like mine." He ran his hand over his bristles and remarked, "This is the perfect length for all ages -- men and boys! -- if you ask me. And, I'm a professional when it comes to haircuts."

"Then, I trust you completely," I responded.

"I'm Chuck, by the way," the barber said as he picked up the clippers.

"I'm Rob. So you're the owner," I noted, looking carefully at the large machine that was already purring and primed to tackle my thatch.

"Chuck, Jr." he laughed. "My father there owns the shop." And then, without another word he cocked my head to the side and took the clippers right up thru my hair, fairly close. A massive padding of hair peeled off and dropped to the cape.

I was astonished by the short length that remained, totally exposing my ear! It was far shorter than I imagined he'd go on the first round.

"But one day it'll be his," the old geezer barber in the next chair chortled. "That's why I named him after me, to made sure he took over the shop and wouldn't have a hassle changing the name and all."

Chuck noticed my startled look. "A #2 on the sides all right for you? I can go shorter, but....."

"Sure, you're the boss. A month from now I want to sport your length," I stammered.

"Right. So, most of the bulk comes off today into a medium-short taper with some length left on top. Two weeks from now I take it down into a very tight short taper -- a longish ivy. Very little length on top. And, a month from today....crewcut time. Clipped near the scalp all over," Chuck beamed.

With that explanation he forced my head to bow low and I felt the clippers at my nape. The buzzing sent a thrilling jolt down my spine. I imagined my thick chestnut colored locks, along with the fiery auburn highlights, falling in clumps to the floor. Instantly the cool of the a/c made my naked nape shiver. Chuck was authoritative and forceful with the clippers.

"So, what's caused you to shed the girly-boy look?" he laughed. "Ooops, I didn't mean to offend you!"

"New boss. He didn't say anything about my hair being too long, but I just wanted to be on his good side. He's former military and looks great with a crewcut like yours."

"Oh, cozying up to the boss....but not wanting to be too obvious," Chuck noted, as he finished clipping the back.

Then he left me sit up straight. One side was amazingly short, which made the top and other side look awfully shaggy.

Chucked cocked my head to get at the uncut side. "Ready? Are you sure you don't want the crewcut today? You walk out of here totally transformed."

I squirmed in the chair. How tempting! But....probably not the best idea. "As you said, Chuck, not wanting it too obvious that I'm trying to get in the boss' favor. Let's stick with your original plan."

He responded by scooping off an amazing shank of hair which fell in almost slow-motion to the cape. All that remained of my former look was the massive top-heavy flop of hair to deal with.

The barber combed the forelock down and then quickly snipped it off a third of the way down the forehead. Three-inch clumps fell to the cape. I looked dorky! Then it was a quick succession of lift and chop with the comb and shears. Lift, chop. Lift, chop. Lift, chop. And again, taking it down shorter. Now the outlines of my medium-short taper were clearly in place. I looked almost boyish! In fact, I felt like a boy in the barber's chair, being subjected to the barber's will.

Suddenly, I was seized with a daring plan. When he held up the mirror....instead of approving, I would tell him to cut it shorter. I was toying with myself! Even if I was already scalped, I would still say 'shorter, please'.

Already the cape was totally covered with hair. Over half of may hair had already been sheared off. Perhaps even more. But the idea of an extremely short haircut appealed to me immensely. Even the jitters over how people would react, especially Bill Henderson, excited me.

But, Chuck was not finished yet. On his own, using clipper over comb, he continued taking down the top. Shorter and shorter he took it. All significant length was gradually disappearing.

Finally, Chuck paused and set down his cutting instruments. He reached for the mirror and held it up. "What do you think? Short enough?"

I was aghast as I stared at the taper up the back of my head and the tan lines at the nape. It was very short!

I felt my groin surge. "Yes, a bit shorter, I think."

"I tapered it to a #2, but could taper it to zero, take it higher and tighter all the way around. That definitely will make a statement to your boss," the barber said.

"You know, instead of a three-cut transition, let's make it a two-step process," I boldly suggested.

"Client is king. A very tight short taper with very little length left on top, that's how you want to leave here today? After the classic crew, the ivy is my favorite," Chuck said as he swapped the #2 blade for a #0.

Chuck cocked my head and poised the clippers. "Ready? There's no going back, you know...."

"I know," I replied nervously.

"Hey, after that first swipe I thought you were going to pee in your pants," he laughed.

"I almost did! But, I'm pumped up and ready for a big change!" I said firmly.

And then I watched my medium-short taper begin to transition to a very military-like look. There could be hell to pay in the office from all the jokes, I imagined. It was shockingly short. But, I loved the feel of the clippers and the ambiance of the barbershop. I was feeling like a convert! Nervous, at first about the decision, but now loving the change.

Once the cape came off and I was out of the chair, there were two things that bowled me over. All the hair on the floor. My hair! Tons of it. And then the feel of the clipped nape and all the way up the back. Soooo short! The top was just long enough to grasp between my fingers, and I had enough hair in the fringe for a little bumper.

"See you in two weeks," Chuck said as I paid. "If you like the ivy, you'll love the crewcut."

The whole way home, and throughout the weekend, I couldn't resist touching my short hair or looking at it in the mirror. I especially like the very clipped back! I looked quite tidy, almost boyish, with such a short haircut. In general, I was thrilled I took the plunge and decided to go extra short my first time in the barber's chair. The radical change felt exhilarating.

I didn't feel quite so good heading to work on Monday. Nervous about the cracks and remarks. The first person I ran into was Ed.

"Whoa! What happened to your hair? You got scalped," he grinned. "Was that for losing the tennis match?"

"I did lose, actually," I laughed. "And then I lost a ton of hair at this new barber shop I tried out. The guy wouldn't stop cutting...." my voice trailed. "But it feels great, and it's practical."

"And you're beginning to look like Bill Henderson....." Ed said, suspicious about my explanation.

"That obvious?" I asked nervously. "I think his crewcut looks fantastic. On the tennis court he looked immaculate, and I felt like a shaggy mess. I mean he stepped out of the shower and was good to go. Meanwhile I was trying to untangle and brush that overgrown thatch....desperate to fire up the hair dryer, but feeling sort of sissy."

"Next thing I know, you'll be joining Hillside Country Club and driving a Boxster!" Ed joked.

One of the secretaries walked by just then. "OMG, your hair! It's almost all gone," she stammered. "You had such amazing hair, and now...."

"The lady folk will all be weeping at Mr. GQ's demise, but I bet you'll get a compliment or two from the new big boss," Ed said.

"My girlfriend already gave me grief for not discussing it with her at least. I told her my hair was my business," I remarked, feeling a bit good about that incident.

I was just getting my coffee prepared on the credenza behind my desk when I heard a faint knock. I turned around and there was Bill Henderson grinning at me. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you on a Monday morning. Just popped by to tell you I enjoyed the match on Saturday. I can see how you went through college on a tennis scholarship. You haven't lost your skills on the court."

"Thanks for inviting me to play," I replied, feeling a bit sheepish about my new haircut and whether he'd think anything about the sudden transformation. "Care for a cup of coffee?"

"No thanks, can't stand the stuff. But, we do have to do it again sometime. A tennis match. Enjoyed it! Nice haircut, by the way. Sharp looking. Good barber," he remarked before leaving.

That was it! No prolonged conversation about where or why I got scalped. After he left, I stood there for a while feeling my shorn nape as I'd done all weekend. I started dreaming of my return to Chuck's Barber Shop and leaving with a crewcut, just like Bill's.

For the next two weeks I could think of little else besides round two in Chuck Jr.'s barber chair.

To my surprise, my hair still looked incredibly short and barbered after two weeks. I almost felt insane as I drove over to Chuck's on Saturday morning. This time I had warned Rebecca, my girlfriend, that I was going to have it cut even shorter. She said she'd gotten used to it and thought I was actually more handsome with the cropped look. More masculine!

It felt like a homecoming, pushing open the door to the barbershop and stepping into the cool room.

"You came back, right on schedule. I was wondering whether you'd come back while my father tidied me up before the shop opened. I think when you last saw me my crewcut was grown out a bit. But this is my preferred length -- a #1 all over and a #3 right here," he said, tugging at the stubby fringe.

I jumped into his chair. "That's just what I want! Exactly that length."

I felt ecstatic as Chuck caped me up and fired up the clippers. He plowed the #3 blade right down the center of my head and quickly obliterated the remnants of my businesscut. I gripped the arms of the chair a bit. There was no turning back. I was like putty in the hands of the barber. He pushed my head this way and then that, quickly took my hair down to stubble, a rough grade and a medium grade of stubble.

As he held up the hand mirror to show off the new me, I was taken aback to see the barbershop door opening and none other than Bill Henderson entering the shop.

"Morning Charles, Chuck...." Then he spotted me in the chair. "And, good morning, Rob! So, Chuck is your barber. No wonder I admired your last haircut. And, this one is even more amazing." He came closer to inspect my shorn head. "Amazing length! I hope you don't mind, but I think I'll go shorter myself."

Chuck unfastened my cape quickly. "Then take a seat here, Mr. Henderson. All three of us will sport the same cut today!" Chuck said.

Bill Henderson looked so manly as he waited in the chair for the cape to be cast.

"Anything going on this morning?" he asked me. "Time for a tennis match after Chuck clips me down?"

"I'd really like that, sir," I stammered. "And my racket and tennis clothes are still in my trunk, sir."

"If you're going to be my new Saturday morning tennis partner, you need to start calling me Bill," he remarked as the barber cast the cape.

"Of course, Bill," I said, not feeling quite right about address him like that.

"And, afterwards, let's have lunch at the club, if you have time," he suggested as Chuck pushed his head down and took the clippers to his nape.

I texted Rebecca, "Sorry, need to cancel out on spending the afternoon with you. Work-related commitment just came up..... Sunday afternoon, perhaps?"

I looked up and inspected my clipped head in the big mirrored counter, then ran my hand over the stubbled top and tugged at the micro-fringe. I felt great!



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