It was the 1970’s, and I was a teenager with long, shaggy hair. My mom was driving me someplace when I spotted the sign in the barber shop window — “Ask for Wildroot!” I thought, “How cool is that? A barber named Wildroot!”
For weeks I couldn’t get this Wildroot character out of my mind. What was he like? Why did he have such a crazy name? I figured he must be the mad scientist of all barbers. I imagined he looked like Albert Einstein, but with a crazed look in his eye, holding a comb in one hand with a straight razor in the other. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I made a decision. I was going to get my hair cut by this madman of a barber named Wildroot.
The barber shop was a couple towns over, so I jumped on my trusty bike and headed out for my haircut adventure. I parked my bike outside the barber shop and walked right in the front door. The shop was empty so I called out in a loud voice, “Hey, is Wildroot in?” An older man walked out from the back. He wore glasses and had a moustache. I asked him, “Are you Wildroot?” He said, “I don’t know. What do you mean?” I told him, “I saw your sign a couple weeks ago, and it said to ask for Wildroot. I want to get my hair cut by a barber named Wildroot, so I’m asking for Wildroot.” He didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, I’m Wildroot. Go ahead, hop up in the chair.” “All right!” I said.
“Yeah, I’m Wildroot,” he said, as he tied the apron around my neck. “How do you want your hair cut?” Wildroot was a spry old man. He jumped back and forth and danced around as he gave me the haircut of my life. Every few minutes he would stop and say, “Yeah, I’m Wildroot!” as he clipped some more hair off the top of my head. When he was done, I counted off the money for him, and said, “Thanks, Wildroot! Great haircut!” He said, “No problem, son. Come back anytime, and remember … always ask for Wildroot!” I biked home feeling strangely pleased and got home just in time for supper.
We sat down at the table, and my mom commented, “You got a haircut!” “I sure did,” I said. “Remember that barber shop we passed a couple weeks ago, the one that had the sign in it that said, ‘Ask for Wildroot?’ Well, I really wanted to get my hair cut by a barber named Wildroot, so I biked over there today and asked for Wildroot. He was there all right, and he gave me the best haircut I’ve ever had!” I practically beamed with pride.
My parents exchanged glances, and then my mom said, “Raymond, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but Wildroot isn’t the name of a barber. It’s a hair tonic. That’s what the sign means. It means to ask for a certain brand of hair tonic when you get your hair cut.” I was floored! I couldn’t believe it! The old man wasn’t Wildroot after all. He had just picked up on my mistake and played along for the fun of it.
Needless to say, I was very embarrassed and never did go back to that particular barbershop. But I will always remember that haircut; and the lively old man with the glasses and moustache will always be Wildroot to me.