Have you heard the one about the doctor, the car mechanic and the barber?
Well, you haven’t heard this one because I’m making it up as I go.
But it’s no joke. It’s about what happens when you last long enough in this world that the people you rely on to take care of you call it quits, through retirement or more unpleasant outcomes.
You might very well have depended upon them for decades. But, when they go, they go and never look back.
And you are left with the task of finding somebody new to provide a service on which you might very much depend.
Our discussion here today isn’t about missing them. That would be crying over spilled milk. The issue is: Which of them is the most difficult to replace, the greater loss, so to speak?
The doctor, of course, you might be thinking. After all, who could be more important than the person who looks after your health?
True, very important. But is it really that difficult to replace your doctor? There are a lot of competent doctors out there.
It’s been a few years now since my own doctor retired. He didn’t send out any notices. I knew nothing about it until I needed a prescription refill and tried to make an appointment and learned he was gone.
They automatically reassigned me to his former partner.
Maybe I should have used the occasion to shop for a new doctor, but I’m one of those path-of-least-resistance people. I’ve never changed banks, but my bank has changed me, over and over and over through mergers.
I didn’t really have much of a relationship with the old doctor, can’t even remember how he got to be my doctor in the first place except he had an office on Wabash near the old Chicago Sun-Times building.
I liked him well enough, but he needed the chart to remember even vaguely who I was. After his practice was bought up by one of the big hospitals, he was too hurried for even that to be of much help.
My new doctor, his partner, is more thorough. But I’m not sure how much longer he’s staying in the business either, so I’m not getting attached.
I’ve had better luck with car mechanics. Found a great guy many years ago in the suburbs and stuck with him even after I moved back to the city.
He fixes what needs to be fixed, charges a reasonable price and never tries to up-sell me.
He lets me know if I can get another 5,000 miles out of my tires and when it’s time to consider unloading the car. When he tells me I need to get some work done, then I know I’d better do it.
That’s a valuable commodity you don’t want to lose. Fortunately for me, he handed off the garage to his son, who doesn’t have his old man’s gift for gab but conducts his business with the same honesty and reliability. I’m in good hands there.
Which brings us to the barber.
This is where you’re thinking: Why does a bald guy need a barber?
Little known fact: Even people you might describe as bald need a haircut every now and then.
My old barber — maybe I should call him a barber/stylist — retired to Florida a few years ago. Actually, most of his clients were women, so he really probably was more of a hairdresser, but it sounds weird to say I went to a hairdresser when I have so little hair.
The guy who cut my hair always kept the conversation interesting, made me look better and charged me a bald-guy discount price because it didn’t take him much time to do that.
Since he left town, I’ve been going to one of the barbershop chains, the one that’s rock ‘n’ roll-themed instead of the one of that’s sports-themed.
Since going there, I don’t think I’ve had the same person cut my hair twice in a row. They’re all pretty competent. So it’s not like I ever get a bad haircut. But it’s rare that I come away thinking I got a good one.
An old guy like me probably belongs in an old guy barbershop, but I wouldn’t know where to start.
So, for my money, the barber is the hardest to replace — as long as my car doesn’t break down on the way to the emergency room.