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What are my responsibilities?

Sometimes, you simply can’t do the right thing.

I got my haircut today at one of those places I go because I refuse to spend more than $20 on a haircut. I walked in, waited for one of the stylists to finish her complex operation on the sign-in computer/cash register, then typed my name on the computer in full view of everyone else.

As I did that, the stylist took one woman back and said to another woman, “I just have one more person, then you.” The woman, who had a high school son with her, said: “One more after her?” Stylist: “No, just her.”

A few moments later, before I had time to get into that issue of Parenting telling me what all moms are supposed to feel (all dads, of course, are supposed to be uninvolved — have you seen our golf magazine?), another stylist walked up to do another complex operation on the computer, perhaps a simulation of a new style of foam insulation during a shuttle launch. Then she attempted to read my name, eventually deciding to spell it out.

The woman down the row enthusiastically said her son’s name as if to ask if he was next. His name did indeed have one similar vowel, along the lines of “Bill” and “Justin.” But several more spellings out loud established that the stylist did indeed say my name.

So I followed the stylist to the back. Her neighboring stylist said something about the woman being next. My stylist said she just read the name that was in the computer. I volunteered that they had a conversation with the first stylist in question that made me believe they were waiting for her.

At the time, that made sense. Now, well …

Sure enough, the next stylist to get free walked up and read the next name in the computer, which was not “Justin” (not the kid’s real name) or whatever Mom’s name was. Someone else stood up and headed back.

And then the woman protested. “We were here before him, too!”

Oh, crap. Crapity crapity crap.

So I sat there thinking if the hair falling from my head represented some sort of metaphor for my guilt. It didn’t, but I still felt guilty.

I wondered if I should ask the woman on my way out if she had meant to wait for the first stylist. Perhaps I could offer some sympathetic hogwash about it’s not quite clear that you’re supposed to sign in on the computer. (That would beg the question of what she thought I was doing on the computer and why the stylists kept reading other names, but I didn’t have to discuss that part of it, did I?)

Soon, one of the couple in question was indeed paired up with a stylist. I thought it was the woman. But when my glasses returned to my face, I saw it was the kid, who was kicking around waiting for his stylist to finish up something unseen. The mom was still there.

But my chance to take the high road and not skulk out of there disappeared. As I stood up to leave, the woman walked up to the stylist to start complaining about the whole line fiasco.

And with that, I figured my swift departure was probably for the best. I paid, gave my usual generous tip and walked to the bagel shop for a sandwich.

In a perfect world, I would someday be in a situation in which the kid and I were in some sort of registration line without his mom, and I would help him register for something he wanted, secure in the knowledge that his mom would have somehow botched the opportunity. That would make everything even. But since this world isn’t perfect, I guess I can live with what little guilt I feel.

Actually, I think I feel more guilt over the Coke I drank with the sandwich.

One thought on “What are my responsibilities?

  1. If there wasn’t such a thing before this as the shaggy-dog ethics story, I believe you just invented it. Nice.

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