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WOSTER: The art and effort of procrastinating

I saw a Sunday morning television piece about a 98-year-old man who still cut hair at his barbershop every day, and what I wanted to do was find that barbershop and get in line for a trim.

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Don't get me wrong. I have a great barber. Some of his customers probably think he's a stylist. For me, with my thinning, unkempt hair, he's pretty much an old-time barber. "Just a little off the top and keep the sides above the ears, if you don't mind.'' That's the kind of stuff I say, and then he cuts it the way he thinks will look best. He does pretty well, too, with the material at hand.

He takes appointments, and it takes me four or five weeks past time for a trim to work up the energy to call and schedule a haircut. He always works me right in. I just hate making the call. I'm not sure why. Nancy thinks I'm nuts.

"Pick up the phone and call,'' she says. "It takes 30 seconds.''

That's how she handles such things. Needs doing? Do it. Me? I put things like a haircut on a list and stare at it every morning for two or three weeks, trying to decide if today is the day I call.

I understand my way is less efficient and more energy draining. It takes a lot of effort to procrastinate. A couple of months ago, I had a list that suggested I should call for appointments for a haircut, a dental visit, an oil change for the pickup, my annual medical exam and a trip to the optometrist.

Eventually, I got the hair appointment, but not until I looked in the mirror one morning and saw the senior-citizen version of a member of the cast from "Hair'' staring back. "Oh, say, can you see my eyes if you can, then my hair's too short.''

I could use a trim again. Maybe by Memorial Day weekend.

I got the oil changed, too. This might be the last pickup I'll ever buy. I want it to last. I overcame a challenge to make that appointment. The first time I called, when the front desk sent me back to service, we lost the connection. It took me two days to get around to calling back.

I have my medical checkup scheduled in the coming week. It's kind of like getting the oil changed, I suppose. And, like my pickup, this is probably the last body I'll ever own.

I'm still working on the other two appointments. And by working on them, I mean they're on a list on my desk. I'm optimistic that one of these days I'll make the calls. I doubt it will be before May.

I can't tell you just why I find it so difficult to take care of a simple task like a phone call for a haircut. Most people do that sort of thing every day, probably without breaking a sweat. I feel like I need to rest a week every time I make one of those calls. Maybe it's because I hate telephones. I can't stand the things. Maybe it's because for most of my reporting life, people thought they could call me anytime, anyplace. I grew to hate Alexander Graham Bell.

The best thing about telephones these days is caller ID. Yes, I screen calls at home. At work, it's kind of expected that the employees in my department act like adults, so I answer the phone. At home? That's my time, and my time isn't getting spent talking to fundraisers and pollsters and wrong numbers and any other person with an unfamiliar number. If it's important, I figure the caller will leave a message. If the caller leaves no message, it couldn't have been important.

What does all this have to do with the 98-year-old barber? Just this:

The shop where he cut hair looked like Elmer Westendorf's shop in Chamberlain when I was a kid. No one called for appointments. On Saturday nights, you walked in, grabbed a chair, buried your face in a magazine and waited for your turn. That's my idea of perfect service.