Friends in Pro Places

A few weeks ago I went to the dentist.  While he put in a new crown we went through a few family updates.  Off the top of his head he mentioned something specific about each of my kids, which made me realize just how well he knows me.  Then again, he should.  I’ve been showing up at his door every six months for the past twenty years.

Each of us has a different definition of “friend”. People enter/exit our lives or they stay for the long haul, but at some point they enter a more intimate circle defined as friendship.  Friendship circles are tight or loose, filled or sparse, alike or diverse, but no matter which they contain individuals we hold with our unique sense of esteem.  We revere these people.

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One friendship circle less obvious than others is the professionals we choose.  For instance, I have an appointment today with my hair stylist.  I will get in my car, drive forty minutes to his salon, and spend another forty minutes in his company.  My stylist is about my age and South Korean.  He’s been cutting my hair for over twenty years.  In that time he’s worked at a mall-based salon, switched to a local one, and then two years ago he started his own salon with his sister.  He knows how to cut hair so I follow him wherever he goes.

Here’s the point.  Early on in our relationship I merely trusted my stylist with the cutting of my hair.  He quickly figured me out (the male straight-hair cut is no rocket science).  Our conversations matured from sports and headlines to the raising of our children and being fathers.  Suddenly I was seeking his input on life as we moved from our thirties to our forties to our fifties.

Today I can (and do) talk to my stylist about anything and everything.  There’s not much I wouldn’t share with him.  He is similarly comfortable with me.  One day while driving I absentmindedly did the math.  Once-a-month visits.  Forty minutes per visit.  Twenty years.  Astonishingly I realized I’ve visited his salon almost 250 times!  We’ve spent almost 160 hours together.  That’s a lot of time chatting with one person.  That’s enough to give him a page in my book of friends.

Not every professional creates the template for friendship, but there are plenty of good examples.  My eye doctor (again, twenty years) gets an annual update on my family, as I do on his.  My chiropractor and I have a ten-minute conversation every eight weeks while he makes my back sing.  Even my banker, who spends a couple of hours with my wife and I every six months, begins his meetings on a personal note.

The next time you’re in the presence of one of your “regulars”, take a moment to do the math.  You may discover you’ve confided in this person more than you realize.  Instead of opening the door to your friendship circle and letting them in, you may notice they’re already there.