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Sunday, August 15, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sunday Punch

Playing The Part -- Freebies Are Hardly A Cut Above The Rest

LIFE IS ALWAYS TEACHING us lessons, but there are no final exams, only cruel pop quizzes. Life taught me another lesson recently: Pieces of paper placed under the windshield wiper of your car are always bad news. That paper is either a parking citation or a flier from some business so desperate for customers that it has resorted to advertising by litter. Advertising by vandalism seems the next logical step, perhaps "Al's Auto Painting, 156 Elm St." scratched in your hood with an awl.

But the last time I plucked a piece of paper from the windshield of my car I had not yet learned the lesson, so I thought "Hey, a coupon for a $5 haircut! Score!" However, one lesson I have learned is that writing a one-act play can help you deal with anger in a socially acceptable way, while keeping you indoors until your hair grows back. It is in this spirit that I present:

THE EVIL STUPID BARBER AND THE PLEASANT REASONABLE MAN

The scene: A seemingly normal hairstyling establishment. In the middle of three barber chairs upstage, a woman perms the bottom half of a man's head; the top half is a crew cut.

A perfectly reasonable customer, decent and good-natured, with a smile for all, clutching a coupon for a $5 haircut, five minutes early for his appointment, enters stage right.

Customer: "Hi."

Woman (making man's head look like spilled bowl of rigatoni): "We'll be right with you."

Customer: "OK."

Twenty minutes pass. The customer reads most of the establishment's single magazine, a recent copy of Seventeen ("Acne-Covering Cosmetics That Raise Your Grades," "Teen Suicide Dos & Don'ts"). The man with half a perm, obviously proud of his new hairdo, puts on a hat and speaks: "Sorry to keep you waiting."

Customer: "Oh, you're the barber." Customer rises, walks to center stage, cracks skull on low, deceptively sharp track light.

Customer: "@$%#&!"

Barber: "Oh, don't worry about that. It happens all the time."

Customer (holding a hand to his head, but maintaining an expression that says, "Like I'm going to worry about your $10 track light instead of my head?" and "It happens all the time? How many people have to get bludgeoned before you move it, Einstein?"): "Oh."

Barber: "Come back to the sink and I'll wash your hair."

The customer lays his bleeding head in the sink at stage left while the barber applies a shampoo called Every Fake Fruit Scent Ever Made Mixed Together. The phone rings and the barber answers it, talking for minutes, leaving the customer's head in the sink, like a trout he was in the middle of cleaning.

Customer (raising sudsy head from sink to glare at barber): "Hey."

Barber (to phone). "Sorry, gotta go."

The pair move to center stage. The customer, carefully avoiding all ceiling fixtures of any kind, sits.

Customer: "That's quite a 'do you have."

Barber (lifting hat): "Like it? We could do that for you too for only $45."

Customer (thinking I could save $45 and give myself a better-looking hairdo by a) using a randomly-selected power tool from my garage, or b) getting Don King's barber drunk and asking him to give me something extra wild, or c) moussing with raw hamburger and teasing a pack of wild dogs with my head. "Perhaps another time."

Barber (labors harshly on the customer's head): "You know what I hate? When you have to drive 50 miles and listen to some geek flap his blow-hole about time-share condos for four hours just to get the free chainsaw, but it turns out to be this wussy electric toy that couldn't carve a well-done turkey." (Then wheeling customer to face mirrored wall): "How's that?"

Customer (noticing that the sides of his head have been cut almost close enough to meet Marine regulations, while the top has been left long and pulled to one side, making him look not unlike Gumby): "Hey ... I look like Gumby!"

Barber: "Yeah? You like it?"

Customer (wondering if there's a real barber bound and gagged in the back room): "No, but Pokey might."

The alleged barber resumes work, somewhat more brutally.

Customer (wresting coupon from pocket): "By the way, I have this coupon."

Barber (eyes widening as if to say "Whoa! Someone's actually using one o' them windshield coupons!"): "So you do. Hey, whadaya know; we're done."

The reasonable, decent, now-more-humorously-coifed customer hands the purported barber $5.

Customer exits. Stage lights fade to black as offstage voices are heard:

"Mommy, look at that man's head."

"Say Mister, is that one o' them windshield coupon haircuts?"

"Nice 'do, Gumby."

Curtain.

Bill Muse is a Seattle Freelance writer.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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