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Tonsorial Wisdom

Wireless social networking gone retro ... I’ve given up on the coffee shop. I don’t know how much more thumb-waggling I can take. Semaphore was easier to understand because the flag positions actually meant something. My younger friends only deign to talk to me audibly because I don’t have an iSomething to receive text messages. The other day a client nearly wet her knickers laughing because I told her I didn’t know how to text but that we could talk anyway.

Feeling like a social curiosity—as in the grossly deformed Elephant Man—I noticed a few years ago that I had begun a withdrawal from the technical world. No, that’s wrong. I began a withdrawal from all the inelegant technologies that don’t serve my needs and give me no real pleasure to operate.

No Luddite, I do use a computer to compose stories and email to stay in touch. But instead of consulting Facebook to find out what a friend had for dinner (wieners and beans), I go to see my buddies Jack and Andy who operate a tonsorial parlour in West Kelowna.

Why, you wonder, would a guy who’s balder than the Saskatchewan prairie frequent a barbershop? It’s got a lot to do with being male. Not male pattern baldness, but the great feeling that comes with being a man in an environment specifically set up for men. (No, I’m not going to break into a chorus of Men, Men, Men). I find it to be one of the most pleasurable things in the monthly cycle of my life, which is actually very liberal and urbane.

W.C. Fields’ movies bequeathed me the term “tonsorial parlour.” I wish we still used it instead of “men’s hair salon.” It denotes something wonderfully unchanging and tonsorial parlour has such a grand sound, leaving no mistake about its purpose. It makes you feel far better than the flip “snipped and clipped shop.”

You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but finding a good barber is like finding your soul mate. He knows exactly what you want without first checking to make sure your self-esteem levels are topped up, then delivers it with knowledgeable talk of sports, politics and life in general.

When I moved west, I took my seat in a cheap cuts chain emporium. The young lady was nice enough and after some coaching I walked out $30 lighter, but skeptical. She didn’t know the Abbott and Costello schtick “Who’s On First?”—the graduation exam for any tonsorialist worth her salt. So after three tries we settled on an amicable divorce without lawyers and the alimony isn’t too bad.

Finally, I found Jack and Andy who run Razorback Barbers. They’re old-time barber brothers—the kind who make you feel like they’ve known you all your life, even though your left foot still hasn’t entered the shop for the first time. No offense to Andy, but Jack is my cutter. Conversations from his chair range from federal elections to the Canucks' chances for immortality. When he discovered I knew something about yacht racing, the America’s Cup joined the fray.

Jack also keeps an annual calendar posted on the wall with important dates like NASCAR races, the Masters Tournament and the televised Victoria’s Secret Fashion show. He even posts gold stars to mark the birthdays of regular clients. Unlike Facebook, I told him when my real birthday is and am gratified to see a gold star with my name next to it whenever I drop into the chair.

Not long ago I realized I’d found the perfect wireless networking solution. Jack and Andy don’t offer Internet in their shop and there isn’t a Starbuck’s nearby with enough spill for an ambitious kid to steal a signal. No thumb-waggling illiterate semaphore. So we talk to each other.

Think about it: a warm fuzzy male bonding feel and free wireless networking. Well, not free, there is the cost of the haircut, but Jack only charges me by the pound, which is a real boon for a bald guy on a budget.

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