Look sharp: An urban adventure
On Sunday night, I am informed that the Mayor of Savannah and several councilmen would be attending tomorrow's luncheon at which I will speak. In the morning, I feel some pressure to look more presentable. After a google search and a few phone calls, I conclude that the only barbershop that opens early is 42 blocks from my hotel. I made an appointment and called an Uber.
The Beavers Barber Shop located on the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and 42nd Street could have been the set for any number of African American movies that featured a barbershop in the 'hood'. Eight chrome barber chairs with bright red seats, checkerboard flooring, walls that are either mirrors or windows, and twenty-plus wooden chairs to assemble congregants waiting for a cut.
I get a meticulous cut and trim that painstakingly takes 45 minutes. All the while having a pleasant conversation with the barber who asks question after question about how I arrived at her shop.
Leaving the barbershop, I find it impossible to get an Uber to return to the hotel. There is no driver response no matter how many times I try. The song playing in my head is Joe Jackson's 70s hit "Look Sharp:"
Tell me that this world is no place for the weak / Then you can look me in the eye and tell me if you see a trace of fear / You gotta look sharp / And you gotta have no illusions / Just keep going your way looking over your shoulder
After ten minutes trying, I decide to find a bus stop and hope that Savannah’s public transportation can get me back in time. At the bus stop, there are five African American women, dressed in gray or black uniforms with name tags with hotel monikers — I deduce that they are part of the workforce — the cleaning staff going to work. I try to start up a conversation to determine when the next bus may possibly arrive. No one seems to know.
I try Uber again and after three attempts I get a response from an Uber X driver with a surcharge request. I accept. The Uber X arrives and I offer the five ladies a ride to their workplaces. Hesitently, they accept. Once in the SUV they converse more openly, telling me about the non-existent transit system and the hardships that they face not being able to afford an automobile. I listen, empathize, and assure them that it is a common problem in most US cities. They thank me profusely, bless God, call me an angel, and tell me that I look sharp. The adventure was worth it. We stop at three hotels, before I reach my destination with just enough time to shower and dress for the luncheon.
After my urban adventure I am more than confident when I arrive at the luncheon to address thirty of Savannah’s business elite, councilmen, and the Mayor.
Note: This adventure occurred on the Monday before Memorial Day, May 22.