Looking for Small Comforts in the Suburbs
The older I get the more I love the suburbs, or in our case the exurbs. I like the immediacy of all the amenities we need in one direction and the closeness of our rural neighbors in the other direction. We truly have everything at our fingertips and this includes various doctors and services. We have a brand-new hospital two minutes from our driveway. It has a state-of-the art ER, an immediate care center and a surgical suite. Last year I had minor sinus surgery and the commute home, still groggy from the anesthesia, was blessedly short. We also have a world-class children’s hospital in the same complex. As the parents of minors this is a huge comfort.
In the past year I have switched almost all of my doctors to be close by. I found a dentist that is open until 7pm. My general practitioner is in the hospital complex and my ENT is on the floor above him. Our vet is also two minutes away and this is almost as comforting as the children’s hospital. For groceries and other shopping we have every store one could imagine. They announced we are getting a Cabela’s next year and my heart did cartwheels. Plenty of restaurants provide us with good meals when we don’t feel like cooking. It’s pretty great for a busy family.
The one thing I miss from my previous providers, carefully selected when I saw them less often and driving was less of a burden, is good bedside manners. My new doctors and dentist are all competent but you feel like a number, not a patient. Their practices are built around efficiency and volume. My old doctor knew where I went to college and my major. My new doctor checks my file before he asks any personal questions and they are always the same. “How is your job at…(checks file)…Acme Inc going?” The dentist tries a little harder but there’s still something missing.
These things are the price we paid for choosing a cookie-cutter life in the suburbs. We chose stability and efficiency in our daily routine so we could be free to pursue happiness in other ways. I tell myself I don’t need a personal touch when I drop off my dry cleaning or the dog gets his check-ups because I have more time to think about my next blog post or plan our summer vacation or get ready for hanging with the boys on my next hunting trip. But one service has become intolerable and that is my trips to get my hair cut.
I grew up going to the same barber as my grandfather and my dad. His name was Roy. He had an anchor tattoo on his forearm from his days in the navy. He liked to fish and he had a huge stack of outdoor magazines in the shop. He talked politics and sports and of course, fishing. He offered three basic cuts: flat tops, buzz cuts and what I would call the ‘Roger Sterling‘. I remember the look of disappointment on his face when I asked him for a bowl haircut in the early 90s because they were popular then. I had to go back two days later to get it taken off because my Catholic high school wouldn’t allow it. He was kind enough to not charge me AND let me leave his shop without any gloating.
Roy’s shop is now closed and even if it was open it would be far out of my way. Louisville still has plenty of real barber shops but my area seems to be a dead zone for them. Instead we have Great Clips and Super Cuts and the dreaded Fantastic Sam’s. We also have something call Sport Clips where the girls wear tight-fitting referee outfits and for a few extra dollars you can get a warm towel on your neck and an amateur massage. My only trip there was with my wife and I was so embarrassed by the atmosphere that I felt the need to apologize to her.
Last week I was visiting my mother and stopped in to the barber shop near her house. Right away I felt at ease. The barber was a young guy but he knew what he was doing. He gave me a simple cut for less than I ever pay at the generic shops by my house. He used a vacuum to clean up my collar, a service I had forgotten even existed. Then he used warm shaving cream to shave the back of my neck. I nearly cried.
This experience was awesome but it’s still not my neighborhood shop. That’s what I want. I want to get up early on Saturday mornings like my dad did, drive five minutes, wait my turn while reading the paper, talk politics and get a real man’s haircut. The suburbs offer a lot and I will put up with a generic experience in most places, but I have found my line in the sand. I’m not asking for much. It’s just not civilization until I get a real barber shop.