LYNDEN, Washington -- You wouldn't think getting a haircut could affect your opinion of a presidential candidate. Yet that's what occurred to your humble but no longer quite so shaggy scribe last week. I went in for a trim and shampoo and came out with that silky fresh smell, and sympathy for Mitt Romney.
No, this has nothing to do with his very Mormon hair. Romney is in pitched battle with Newt Gingrich and the terrain is populism. Gingrich's people have dusted off Ted Kennedy's old anti-Bain Capital campaign to paint Romney as a ruthless capitalist, itching to fire people to improve his bottom line. One alleged Romney misstatement came from his speech to the Nashua, New Hampshire Chamber of commerce. Romney said, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me."
He was speaking of health insurance companies, not the butler, the maid, or the secretary. Critics pounced anyway, and the press didn't do him any favors. The ABCNews.com non-parody headline reads, "Romney Likes 'Being Able to Fire People.'" Romney was contrasting a free market in health insurance with one that is substantially controlled by the government. Being a businessman, he elaborated, "You know, if someone doesn't give me a good service that I need, I want to say I'm going to go get someone else to provide that service for me."
This earnest, commonsensical point came to mind Sunday as I was driving a wee bit over the speed limit toward nearby Bellingham. It snowed in all of western Washington and the place I normally go to get my hair cut was closed due to weather the two times I had showed up during the week.
The first time it was closed, I shrugged, hiked across the parking lot toward the McDonald's to get some work done with the free wifi and fell pretty hard on the slick pavement. The second time, the snow was mostly melted, but Great Clips was still closed. So I came back Sunday, before 4, and found that it closes at 3. Three trips to get a haircut was too much trouble, so I took off.
I found a salon in Bellingham that was still open, put my name in the queue, and read a book while I waited. The wait proved well worth it, for entertainment value alone. The twentysomething girl who cut my hair, who we'll call Sherry, chatted as she buzzed and snipped away and fretted over my cowlicks.
One of the many things Sherry told me was a story about an argument with her boyfriend. He doesn't want to cut his own toenails and they end up fighting over who has to do it. "He says 'Either you do it or they aren't going to get clipped,'" she told me. "It's ridiculous!" She thought about it for a few seconds and revised her remarks, "Then again, he gives me his paycheck, I clip his nails. Maybe it's a fair trade."
When it was time to pay at the counter, Sherry tried to give me on a punch card, one that gives you a free cut after so many trips. Normally, I say no to such things because, odds are, it'll get lost somewhere. But this time I said, what the heck. I had to go somewhere to get my hair cut, perhaps I'd come back here. She smiled and threw in the shampoo for free.
Now, maybe I'll go back and maybe I won't. It was more of a drive than Great Clips, but it was also more amusing, the cut was good, the price was $1 north or south of the usual fee-for-haircut, and the salon was actually open in my hour of filamental need. That's all the "good service" I was looking for. Great Clips, you're fired.