Bob McPhail 6:31 a.m., May 19
One afternoon, while I was working at a hair salon in Ocean Beach, a young man came into our shop looking for his dog; he held up a large photograph of his pet. The photo portrayed a brown pit bull with uncropped tail and ears. “My wife left the gate open this morning, and he’s been missing ever since,” the man said despondently. “His name is Shawn. He’s super cool and loves everybody.”
The young man showed the customers waiting in the lobby the photo of his dog. The waiting customers shook their heads. He then showed the photo to our stylists and their customers. They all shook their heads too. He showed the photo to my customer and me last. “No, sorry,” we said.
“Okay, thanks, anyway,” he said before leaving and continuing his quest.
“That guy really loves his dog, huh?” I said to my customer.
“Yeah,” she said. “I hope he finds him.”
“Me too. So what you think of your cut anyway? Want some more lopped off?” I asked, running my free hand through her damp blonde hair.
Five minutes later the man with the missing dog reentered our shop. “I got a lead,” he happily divulged. We all looked at him expectantly. He seemed to appreciate our collective concern. “I went into the pet store on the corner,” he said, hooking a thumb toward the pet store three stores down toward the beach, “and I showed the guy working there my picture of Shawn.” He held up the picture to remind us of what Shawn looked like. Some of us nodded. “So the guy tells me, ‘Yeah, I saw him. Some hippie with dreadlocks gave him a ride to Dog Beach about an hour ago.’”
We all looked at each other as a temporary silence blanketed the shop. “Gave him a ride?” asked Emily, the stylist closest to the door. “How did he know Shawn wanted a ride?”
“Well,” Shawn’s owner began, “the pet store guy said that when the hippie came into the store to buy some rawhide chews, Shawn happened to follow him in. So the pet store guy and the hippie are both patting him, wondering whose friendly dog he is. Then the hippie says, ‘I’m driving down near Dog Beach in a minute, maybe he wants a ride.’”
When Shawn’s owner quoted the hippie, he chose to recite the words using the universal dumb guy voice that we all employ when telling a story that involves a person that we believe has wronged us and through his incompetence clearly illustrates to one and all that he is lacking intellectually. It goes without saying that we are mentally superior to the person being spoken of, because our actions would never, on even the remotest level, be as unskilled or reckless as the person’s described. The dumb guy voice is a few decibels lower than our regular voice and when utilized to deliver quotes, or simply to paraphrase, it is customary for one arbitrary word or another to be heavily expanded upon and often times repeated while entire sentences are gracelessly stumbled over as if the mere act of speaking is a complex and insurmountable chore. It’s also important to remember, while using the dumb guy voice, to affix a heavy-lidded, blank, and slack-jawed expression to your face.
Shawn’s owner shrugged his shoulders, implying that this was the pet store guy’s reaction. “So, the pet store guy follows them outside, the hippie drops the tailgate to his pickup and says to Shawn, ‘Want a ride to Dog Beach, boy?’” Shawn’s owner stooped down as if he were addressing a dog and adopted the dumb guy voice again as he patted the inside of an invisible truck bed.
I pictured Shawn cocking his head and looking into the back of the truck as he pondered his options.
“So Shawn jumped right into the bed of the truck, the hippie closed the tailgate, and off they went. Once they got to Dog Beach, I guess he just let Shawn out of the back of the pickup and then took off.”
I first imagined Shawn enjoying the brief ride in the truck, the wind in his face and the sun on his fur as his tongue lolled lazily, then, after the truck stopped, Shawn jumping down from the truck’s bed, sticking out his paw to the hippie for a quick shake of appreciation, and then his trotting down to the beach to meet up with his pals on the sand across from the jetty.
We all stared at Shawn’s owner, wondering why he hadn’t yet begun the 11-block trek to Dog Beach, and then he said, “I’ll give anybody here ten bucks if they’ll give me a ride to Dog Beach right now.”
A guy in the lobby wearing boardshorts and a Quiksilver T-shirt put down his Rolling Stone, rose from his seat, and said, “Let’s go, man.”
“Good luck,” Emily said as the two men left.
Fifteen minutes later the customer who had given Shawn’s owner a ride came back into the shop, picked up the same Rolling Stone, and then sat down.
“So did he find Shawn?” my customer asked.
“I don’t know,” the man in boardshorts and Quiksilver T-shirt said. “I just dropped him off, that’s all.”
“Maybe they’ll both come in later,” Emily speculated.
“Yeah,” a few people murmured while the rest of us nodded. Then we all went back to doing what we had been doing a moment before, fulfilling our immediate responsibilities as hair stylists or customers, remembering the details of our own lives, and eventually forgetting about Shawn.