Offcuts: Beards By: Don Heisz

So, a few weeks ago, I went to visit John. We’d not seen each other for about two months and surprised each other since we both had beards.

John in my van

The truly odd thing about it is that, in spite of never really looking that much alike, our beards were pretty close to being twins.

Anyway, that reminds me of years ago and my old workmate, Pete. You may recall Pete, I’ve mentioned him numerous times. So, Pete had been off work for three weeks due to some medical procedure – had his testicles refreshed or something like that. When he came back, he took one look at me and said, “What’s wrong with your face?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Are you trying to grow a beard or something?”

“Ah, maybe.” I stroked my 10-days of facial hair.

“No,” he said. He cinched up his tool belt. “You don’t have a beard.”

It looked like he was done talking, because he picked up the tools and headed out of the storage container to get to work. But he wasn’t done.

“You see, there are guys with beards. They’re mostly on television shows from the 70s. There are other guys in the actual world with beards, but no one wants to talk to them. And no one who works in construction grows a beard, they either have them or they don’t.”

“What?”

“You remember Paul? That loud-mouth French guy?”

I remembered Paul. He was always in a good mood and never said much at all, since he didn’t speak English well.

“That guy has a beard.”

We started to set up for the day’s work inside the building. Pete brushed sawdust off the plywood that was already set up on sawhorses and dumped the tools and his lunchbox there. “He always had a beard.”

“Even when he was a kid?”

“He never was a kid.”

He lit a cigarette and sat on a bucket.

“That guy has a beard and you don’t. IĀ don’t, either. And almost no one here has a beard.”

“So, Pete. What happens if you don’t shave for a couple of weeks?”

“I don’t know. That never happens.” He blew smoke at me. “You kids are just lazy. You all dress like slobs. Used to be, everyone on a job like this would be wearing a button-up shirt that was tucked into his pants. Used to be, everyone would look clean in the morning.”

“Did anyone ever do anything?”

“Used to be every man would shave that stuff” (he didn’t say stuff) “off his face before he would even think about getting out of bed.”

“People shave in bed?”

“If some guy showed up with a few extra hours of stubble, everyone’d assume his wife was cheating on him. Nothing else would cause it. As for the rest of it,” he swept his hand up and down implicating my attire, “I don’t know what the hell has gone on. What are you even wearing?”

Before I had a chance to answer, he once again started in. “T-shirts used to be for under button-up shirts and guys who couldn’t keep their pants up wore suspenders.”

“When exactly are you talking about?”

“You know why guys’ pants fall down? You can tell a hard working man because his pants won’t stay up.”

“Huh?”

“He’s worked his ass off, that’s why.”

I don’t know what that has to do with beards.