Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I Shave My Head...

I originally shared the following post 3 years ago when I was pretty new to the whole Facebook thing, so yes, it is copied and pasted here.  But it loses none of it's meaning from me.  I truly wish I had a picture of him to share to you all, but this all happened right before the digital age really boomed.  I giggle when I think about what his status updates would be.  This guy helped shape who I am, I hope to thank him someday for it...

Back in 2000, I, for the first time ever, felt like a failure in life. I had recently dropped out of the police academy due to a knee injury and an unwilling heart. My marriage was on the brink of separation, and as a man, I felt like I wasn’t a very good representation of one. Scrambling to find work, I returned to the jail where I had done part of my college internship and worked once before during a previous hiatus from the academy due to the same injury. (Told you I felt like a failure) There I became friends with some truly remarkable and memorable people. People who I became friends with, and thanks to Facebook, am still in touch with to this day. I also became friends with a guy named Eric.

Eric was a shaved-headed, Thai-American, former Air Force medic who worked second shift at the jail. He was a sarcastic and charismatic fellow who could find humor in the worst of people who came through the doors of the jail. Nothing seemed to scare him and nothing seemed to shock him, but most things entertained him. In fact, the only time I ever saw him in awe was when an extremely large woman, obviously under the influence of something, decided to strip down completely naked and hunch the bars of her cell while screaming at the top of her lungs. When he saw this, his eyes became huge, then he smiled and said what he always said when something tickled him, “Wow!”

One thing that I didn’t understand about him was just why exactly he shaved his head, so I asked him. He said that it was the most comfortable haircut he ever had and that I should try it. He said it also made him feel more intimidating to the inmates…more “badass” if you will. I thought about this for a couple days. I wasn’t comfortable with the way I looked or felt, and I surely wanted to feel more “badass” about myself. So one night I went home, jumped in the shower, and took a disposable, single blade Bic razor and shaved my head. I might as well have used my wife’s razor. I came out of the shower, clean shaven, with cuts all over my head looking like our cat had attacked me. But even though I looked like a car crash victim, it was quite comfortable…until my wife saw it. The next day I came into the jail with cuts and pimples all over my head. Eric was the first to see me. He was almost in tears, and not of pride or joy. He was laughing too hard at the sight of my head to understand the influence he had on me. Then he explained the importance of a good, multi-blade razor and a good aftershave. I just wished he had told me that sooner…

Over time I became more confidant in myself and Eric would become one of my good friends. I confided in him about the deterioration of my marriage and he told me that his was that way once. He told me how he made his work and how I needed to work harder on mine. Through his actions he showed me how to walk around “like I had a pair.” I admired him for that. We worked together and we worked out together. We shared an interest in early 80’s cartoons like Transformers and Voltron, as well as music and law enforcement. He could also drink anybody under the table, then giggle about the hangover. We also shared a common interest in the humor brought before us every day at the jail. I felt like I hadn’t really grown up until my time in the Ident basement. I learned a lot about people as well as myself.

As time went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be a cop as bad as I thought I once did. I later found a job with the railroad and said my goodbyes to my friends in the basement. Eric found a new job as well. Although he wanted nothing more than to be a cop, he found a job with Brinks Security until a door opened with a police department. We still stayed in touch through email, though we didn’t really get to see that much of each other after working in the jail.

Then, one day in the summer of 2001, Eric called me out of the blue and asked for my help. He needed to pick up a mattress and asked to use my new pickup truck. I was glad to help and excited to see my friend again. We got the chance to hang out for a while and catch up. He asked how my marriage was going. I told him it was still a bunch of ups and downs, but was getting a little better. I got to see his new uniform and gun, as well as his collection of action figures, which I thought were super cool. He then gave me flak about my newly full grown head of hair. Then he asked me something. He knew that I was a Christian (albeit an extremely imperfect one) and said he was reading up on it. He wanted to know my take on it. I told him what my faith meant to me and what I believed happened after we died. He was receptive and respectful. He said he understood what I believed and was curious about it, but didn’t know what to think of it all. I told him that I would answer any question he had at any time. I also told him I loved him. Of course he gave me that masculine, homophobic look and laughed at me. Of course the love I meant was that of a friend. I told him he meant a lot to me and I thanked him for the impact he had on me. We went our separate ways and stayed in contact again through e-mail. In the next few months I would send him music I was working on and he would send me e-mails of the new house he and his wife had just purchased and the Christmas lights he was proudly hanging on it. Then the end of November came.

I was at work on a break watching the TV in our canteen area when a breaking news story came on the air. The report was of a Brinks Security guard who was shot on the east side of town. The wouldn’t release the name of the guard, only that they were in critical condition at Wishard hospital. I immediately called his house and left a message. I stayed close to the TV, hoping that it wasn’t him. Then about an hour later, they said the guard had died and finally released the name, It was Eric Rigney. I could feel my heart in my throat. I had never lost a friend my age before, especially a friend who had been such an influence on me.

At Eric’s funeral I got the chance to see my friends from the basement again. Even under the circumstances, it felt good to catch up. We swapped stories about Eric and the jokes he told. We silently chuckled when all the good things were said about him from the preacher and his family. Not that he wasn’t good, just that our views on good were a little different. Then at the gravesite I said my final goodbye. I walked in line to the casket, laid my hand on his clean shaven head and told him how I would miss him. I still do. A few days later I was in the shower, and with tears running down my face, I shaved my head again…this time with a multi-blade razor.

I will carry his memory with me every day for the rest of my life and hope to see him again in heaven someday. He was just a simple guy working on his ambitions, but to me he was a hero. You want to know how he influenced my life? Through hard work, compassion, and mutual understanding my marriage is the best ever. I still walk around like I got a pair…and I still shave my head. Thanks Rigs…

Eric Joseph Rigney January 10, 1973-November 29, 2001. 11 years gone, forever missed…


  1. I am so very sorry for your loss. He sounds like an incredible guy and you're absolutely honoring him, with your words and your heart. Thank you for sharing him with us here.

  2. I am glad that you posted this and that he touched you just as much as he touched us all. I know as his little brother I am proud of him for all that he has done and all of the lives that he has touched. It almost made me cry to read this post and made me smile as well for I could see his expression on his face when he saw your head shaved for the first time. Eric was a good man and a great brother. God blessed me with him in my life and he blessed me today by allowing me to read this and gain more found memories of him through your eyes.

    Thank You for that.
    David Rigney

    1. Wow, I just saw your response to this post. Your brother meant, and still means alot to me now. I share this post every year to remember him and to let others know what a great guy he was. Thank you for reading!


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