Business 1.0 January/February 2021

August 13th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

So How Long Do I Have?

By Lyle R. Hill

As I recall, I was 26 years old when the subject first came up. It was a Saturday morning and I was in the second chair of a three chair barbershop in Des Plaines, Ill. I don’t remember the name of the shop or the barber who was clipping away at the hair on my head, but I do remember his exact statement.

“Mr. Hill, you have a very nice head of hair. It’s thick and has a nice auburn color. It’s really a shame that you’re going to lose it.”

I don’t remember what thoughts went through my mind at that exact moment, but I do remember questioning him about that statement. He simply went on to explain that he had been cutting my hair for about three years and that he had noticed a steady loss of hair, at what he referred to as an approaching bald spot. He further commented that the hairline above my forehead was steadily receding as well.

“So how long do I have?” I asked.

“Not very long,” he replied. “Of course there are treatments and procedures you can pursue but they can be expensive.”

At this point, having neither money nor a belief that I was all that good looking to begin with, I accepted my fate. But I never went back to this barber again. I’m not totally sure why.

New Beginnings

After trying out a couple of new guys, I found a shop near work and settled into a long and interesting hair cutting arrangement with an Italian barber by the name of Luigi Vesuvio. Luigi had only been in the states a few years and his perspective on Americans was always fascinating. His little shop was just a few blocks west of Wrigley Field. It was a very plain, drab place that didn’t do manicures, styling or have much of a physical appeal to it. As the years passed, Luigi and I became good friends and I found him to be a treasure trove of information. He seemed to know everybody and everything that was going on. When I told him I was writing articles for trade magazines he asked me to bring copies in so he could see them. I didn’t think he would have much interest in trade magazines that had nothing to do with hair, but he would take them and put them in his magazine rack because, as he said, “Hey, dey are free.”

Sometimes, when it was just the two of us, he would say to me … “I gonna tella you some tings causa I know you not gonna tell nobody.”

During his years at that little shop on the Northside of Chicago, he cut the hair of sports stars, politicians, bankers and a few mobsters. One day, I asked Luigi what the difference was between cutting the hair of politicians and the hair of mobsters. He told me there wasn’t any difference in their hair but that he preferred the mobsters because the politicians never shut up when they were in the chair and they were lousy tippers. The mob guys, he said, always gave nice tips.

Moving On

Luigi and I often shared stories … secrets as he often called them … and he would occasionally suggest a topic for an article based on our talks.

Luigi, was older than I and ultimately retired and moved back to his village in Italy. I missed him and his little shop with the 19” Magnavox black and white TV. He was quick, efficient and pleasant. He never asked me for any personal favors. He never tried to sell me anything, or tell me how to wear the small amount of hair I still had, or how to vote. Finding a new barber was going to be a real inconvenience and the thought of it troubled me.

One day, in desperate need of a haircut, I called a barbershop … Jonathon’s House of Hair … which was close to my home. After speaking with Jonathon himself, I made an appointment. The place was convenient enough and had good parking. It was a large and spacious place with four barbers, a manicurist and two 48” color televisions.

After just a few visits, I both missed and appreciated Luigi even more than I had thought I would. Jonathon talked a lot more than Luigi but it was meaningless chatter. No substance at all. He was always trying to sell me the shop shampoos and grooming aids and every now and then I even got pressure to sign off on some petition for a cause of some sort with which either he or the shop had become involved. After about a year or so, Jonathon came to find that I ran a glass and tinting business and that I had access to Cubs tickets. Soon after, I was conned into doing a couple of small jobs where it was implied that I should not ask for payment. It also seemed that almost every visit for a haircut included pressure to provide tickets for the members of “Team Jonathon” as they referred to themselves. After a couple of years, I decided to move on, as painful as I thought it might be.

After some days of searching I found a one-man shop a little farther from home but I’ve now settled in there and feeling good again about the haircut thing. No one will ever replace Luigi but Nick, the new guy, is okay and I feel comfortable with him. So what, you might ask, is the point of this little yarn? First and foremost, if you have a good arrangement with someone, be they a barber, supplier, employee, or customer, you need to appreciate it, and do your best to maintain it for as long as you can. Secondly, if and when you get yourself into a bad situation with someone, be they a barber, supplier, employee, or customer, don’t be slow to get out. A bad deal or arrangement is most likely not going to last forever, so if it’s going to change anyway, get it over with. Make the change sooner, not later. Okay, that’s it. I could probably come up with another point or two on this whole haircut analogy thing, but maybe then I would just be splitting hairs, and I don’t have many left at this point.

Lyle R. Hill is the former owner of a window film company in the Midwest. He also serves as president of Glass.com®, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years of experience in film and glass-related industries and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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