The Trouble with Tolerance – Part 2

When I wrote my rant called The Trouble with Tolerance, I thought I’d gotten it all out of my system.

I was wrong. Here’s the story:

A couple of weeks back, I went to get my hairs cut. Yes, hairs. I can count them now so I prefer to think of them as individuals.


I’m in the chair. The clippers are buzzing. So is everything else.

I’ve been here dozens of times in the past, same chair, same stylist, yet never noticed it before. But today, it’s all I can see. Chaos and distraction are everywhere.

The receptionist interrupts my stylist three times in less than two minutes to ask questions. A moment later, a client stops by and whispers something to my stylist and they laugh. Thankfully, the client soon leaves. But then she remembers something else and returns to interrupt once more.

The stylist next to me is combing some stinky stuff through a client’s hair while cradling his phone to his ear and chatting away. The client doesn’t seem to mind since she’s wrestling with her toddler who is squirming in her lap and trying to kick everything within reach.

Behind me a group of people explode in laughter and two stylists nearby leave their stations and their clients to find out what’s so funny.

In the midst of this chaos, I say to my stylist, “I can’t believe how many distractions are going on around here. Everyone is trying to do two things at once and are being interrupted every minute or two by something. This can’t be good for any of you or your customers.”

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“It’s just the way things are,” my stylist says while racing her clippers around my head. “Besides, I can handle it so it’s no problem.”

Then she stops, turns to the stylist on our left and reminds her of an upcoming appointment.

“Good thing you remembered,” the other stylist says.

My stylist laughs and then returns her attention to me.

“Anyway, I think distractions are just inevitable today. All we can do is learn to deal with them until they’re no longer a problem. It took me a while to do it, but now they hardly effect me.”

Less than 60 seconds later she accidentally turned the side of my head into a cue ball. I guess to match the top.

Even though she’s been cutting my hairs the exact same way for over a year, this day, the one day she taught me about the importance of dealing with distractions, they got the best of her. At my expense.

Though she apologized all over herself and tried to refuse payment, I assured her it was no big deal and paid and tipped her as usual.

But the amazing this is she never saw the irony in what happened until I pointed it out to her. She seemed to just chalk it up to “one of those things” and not a result of being distracted. Even when I pointed this out, she seemed to shrug it off as if to say, “What can I do?”

I’ll tell you want she can do. It’s the same thing we can all do.

We can stop “rolling over” and accepting distractions as an inevitable part of life.

Yes, I know some distractions are inevitable. But many of them, maybe even most of them, can be eliminated by raising our awareness of them, lowering our level of tolerance of them, and occasionally, snarling at them.

If we don’t recognize them for what they are, there is nothing we can do. If we don’t lower our tolerance of them, there is nothing to do. And if we don’t occasionally bare our fangs, they’ll know there’s nothing we actually will do.

As a result, they’ll just keep on coming. And worse, they’ll bring their friends.

That’s one party I don’t plan to attend.

Originally published Monday, April 10, 2006