Asfar as I was concerned, the beard could not come off too soon. The scene was Kharkov, Ukraine, in the summer of 2005. I was volunteering for two weeks at a children’s camp with a group of Harding students. Having never before spent more than three days overseas, I had a lot to learn about international living. Experienced travelers will slap their foreheads when I admit that my first blunder was not bringing an adapter plug for those high voltage European power outlets. Yeah, I was that guy.
As if I were playing the part of a bumbling American tourist in some public service video, within minutes of unpacking my stuff, I plugged in my electric razor and started trimming the transcontinental stubble that had formed during the flight. It took a total of two seconds for a power surge to fry the mechanism. You might think that a Luddite who still prints out photographs and still reads the TV guide would naturally know how to use an old-fashioned safety razor. But you would be wrong.
I had never used a Gillette product in my entire life. So when 220 Slavic volts turned my Remington into Chicken Kiev, I was left 6,000 miles from home and without the means to shave. So helpless was my primitive state, I might as well have been on “Gilligan’s Island” trying to get a clean shave with a coconut. To make matters worse, I had never tried to grow a beard before, and the result was the facial equivalent of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The itching nearly drove me insane. I couldn’t stop scratching my face. This lasted almost a week.
Eventually, I begged one of our Ukrainian translators for mercy. He agreed to bring his straight razor to the bathroom and put me out of my misery. No — not Sweeney Todd style. But instead my new friend Vitaly lathered my face with shaving cream and went to work. I had never been so grateful to be rid of facial hair, such as it was. While it was difficult to explain what was going on to the kids who kept coming into the bathroom during the procedure, I cared nothing for my dignity. At that moment, I just wanted relief. I have not had a beard since.
By contrast, the curators of the Cairo Museum found themselves in exactly the opposite situation last summer, trying desperately to put a beard back on. It seems there was an accident in the main exhibit, when a janitor knocked the beard off King Tutankhamen’s famous burial mask. Scrambling to hide his blunder, the poor guy found a tube of Krazy Glue and quickly reunited the pharaoh with his goatee. But when he realized the repair didn’t look so hot, he tried to remove the beard again with a spatula, scratching the 3,000-year-old artifact in the process.
What was this guy thinking? Did he not know how strong this stuff was? Did he not read the warning on the label: “Keep away from skin, clothing, glassware, and Egyptian mummies”? Obviously, he missed those Krazy Glue commercials from the ’80s, the ones with the construction worker dangling in mid-air because his hard hat is glued to a steel beam. This janitor certainly missed the news story about the man in Maryland who accidentally used super glue instead of eye drops. And clearly our hero never saw “The Lego Movie.”
Now the museum has called in a conservation specialist from out of town to see if the damage can be undone. In the worst-case scenario, the museum may have to paint a soul patch on King Tut’s chin. In the meantime, the responsible party has been transferred to the Louvre in Paris, where he will look after the Venus de Milo. He can hardly do much harm there. Just in case, though, his cleaning cart has been stocked only with Elmer’s School Paste. And a Rubbermaid spatula.