If I Have to Wait, Just Give Me Bob's

THE radio has been telling me that if I bring my automobile to Honest Henry's Repair & Service Emporium I will be on the lift within 15 minutes of my appointment time or the service will be free. This is a step in the right direction, but deserves contemplation. If I have an appointment for 10 o'clock and I am there at 10 o'clock, why must I feel pleased if I get on the lift at 10:15? There is something that doesn't like the way good people get abused nowadays. That advertising on the radio made me thin k how fortunate I am to know Barber Bob. The latest visit with my pickup truck for its routine maintenance check found me on the dot for my appointment, and a lad in a white frock, holding a clipboard, greeted me ecstatically at the entrance portal, indicating everybody was concerned over what detained me. He looked like a state health inspector at a fish plant during the sardine season. Only the Swiss Guard is comparable. He jotted my telephone number, my mileage, my preference in pie, and many another mooty matters, and said if I would go in to the waiting room I would be notified when my vehicle was ready.

I can think of nothing more barren than the waiting room in a motor vehicle service station. The only reading matter are pamphlets and brochures bragging about Toyotas, Buicks, Chevies, or Fords. Now and then a loud speaker says, ``Charles, line two, Charles, line two!'' This place had a TV on a shelf, but the war had been put on hold while we had the state high school basketball tournament. There was a clock, and near it a sign that said the charge for mechanics was $45 an hour. I had brought a book, a nd after I had read three chapters I looked out the window to see a man driving my pickup inside where the mechanic would look under the hood. The clock said my appointment was 35 minutes ago. That would be about $26 and a quarter.

In contrast to this high-tech sophistication, I see nothing objectionable to waiting in the barber shop until my turn comes. I never knew barbers had started making appointments until Paul retired.

Paul had trimmed me for years, and then he retired. When I found his shop closed I went across the street to a place that offered ``hair styling'' and I went in to find another gentleman in a white frock who was indolent in a reclining chair and reading a magazine with a picture of Princess Diana on the cover. Somehow he did not look like a fish inspector. He looked up, puzzled, to ask me, ``Do you have an appointment?'' It seemed to me, with very little meditation, that he ought to know if I did or not, and I did not. But I said, ``Yes, I do - but not here.'' Straight away I betook myself to the next town and found Bob, where I have since had gracious attention without the blandishment of an appointment.

Bob keeps the kind of congenial barber shop I grew up with, except that he charges me $5. On the average visit, without appointment, I find Bob stepping around a customer in the chair while 10 others are biding. On rainy days, this witenagemot sometimes runs to another 10 who are there for cultural and thermal reasons. By applying logarithmic interpolations, I can estimate the likely exposure to wit and philosophy before Bob whips the cloth off his latest and turns to nod at me. While 15 minutes in a mo tor vehicle waiting room drag, time passes pleasantly at Bob's, and there have been times when I'd have enjoyed waiting longer to find out how the argument came out.

Bob's is a place of all knowledge and is the world's ultimate answer to public ignorance. I never knew, for instance, who built the stone mansion at Goose Cove. It was Lemuel Brisbane III, who was a nephew to old Lem Senior. Lem Junior and Lem Three were cousins. Makes a difference. Bob, who moderates all this in practiced neutrality, may well be the best informed man on earth. I dare say a haircut at Bob's is more than equal to a semester at Harvard.

And, even without the formality of appointments, Bob takes 'em in and puts 'em out with a dispatch unequalled by any motor vehicle expert in the land. And you get your neck wiped with talcum to boot. If I must wait, give me Bob's.

He's closed on Mondays.

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