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Shopping For A New Gall Bladder
by Harvey L. Gardner

Besides farming and driving a school bus, my Daddy was a barber. He even worked full time for a while at the O.K. Barber Shop in Martin, Tennessee.

During this phase of his career, I observed that a barbershop is a good place to learn stuff. Before you snicker derisively and dismiss me, I want to remind you that when men hang out together they actually talk about things besides the weather, sports, cars, and the female anatomy.

In the old days (I canít believe I said that!) men didnít make appointments to get their hair cut. They just sauntered by the barbershop, peeped in the window to see how big the crowd was, and judged if they wanted to wait or come back later.

Typically you took the first-available barber, but you could wait for your favorite if you wanted to. That took longer. However, the learning-stuff was in the waiting.

Since I was a kid, nobody paid any attention to me anyway, so I just watched and listened. It was that erstwhile philosopher Yogi Berra, I think, who said something along these lines: "Itís amazing what you can hear by just listening."

Women, being more perceptive than men, can probably explain what makes a person talk so much when theyíre getting their head attended to. All I know is this: when people enter a hair cutting establishment, their tongues wag.

Most of what they talk about is pure drivel, but sometimes the conversation can be profound. That was especially true before men made appointments for haircuts. More people were in the place at the same time, so there was more variety of conversations.

The quality of conversations in barbershops has declined, in my opinion, since barbers began taking customers by appointment only. The addition of TV sets in barbershops dumbed-down conversations even more.

Often Iím the only person in the place besides the barber and the TV set. See how dumb Iíve become. I just called a TV set a person! Geez!

The last time I got my hair cut, it was just my barber, the TV, and me. Rudy Fisher who owns Stylemasters has been cutting my hair for going on 25 years I guess. We normally donít talk about much besides sports, the latest business coming into the shopping center, whoís sick, the weather, that sort of thing.

But this time was different. Rudy hit on a fantastic idea. And believe it or not, the TV was the source of his inspiration.

There was a short news item about the latest development in cloning animals. After the news turned to another subject, Rudy said he didnít think it would long until weíd be cloning people. Perhaps weíd be living a long time. Weíd just clone the healthy ones, he observed.

"Yeah," I said. "But people in the 70ís and 80ís now who are healthy are likely to live to 120, Iíve heard."

"Iím not sure I want to live that long," Rudy said. "Have you ever seen what a 100-year-man looks like?"

That was a sobering thought. We didnít say anything for a few minutes while we pondered the possibilities.

"You know what?" Rudy said with more than his usual enthusiasm. "It seems to me that if they could clone people, they could clone people parts?"

He had this excited gleam in his eye and he continued. "You know, grow organs. Like hearts, livers, gall bladders, prostate glands, things like that!"

Rudy was beginning to make sense. "Yeah. We could go down to the organ nursery and select from the trays sitting under grow lights, pay at the check out, then go next door and have it installed," I added. I was getting excited about the idea!

"Like putting a transmission in a car. Itíd be like new." Rudy was serious now. Then his faced looked troubled.

"Whatís wrong?" I asked.

"What about our skin?" Now itís "our skin." Rudy is projecting himself into this new transmission . . . er, organ now.

"I donít think that would be a problem, Rudy. Plastic surgeons can make you look like Sean Connery if you have enough money."

"Yeah. Thatís kind of exciting. I mean, if we could get extra parts whenever we wore one out, and could solve the sagging skin problem. Who knows?

"I like the idea."

"Me too. How does your hair look?"

"Looks good."

"Put you down for two weeks?

"Yeah. Two weeks is fine. See ya."

"Thanks for coming in. See you in two weeks."


Reach this former Tennessee newspaper editor at harveygardner.com.

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