Jesus, I think. What have I done to offend this bastard?
I am at the barbers. The Barbers
, mind. Not the hairdressers.
It has been a long time coming, in two ways.
The first: I will leave it and leave it until at least three people during one single day will inform me that I look like ‘a twat’. This is because I look in the mirror once each day, mainly just to check that everything is where it should be, and sometimes to shave. Latterly, I do not look at the hair on my head.
The second: I have made a decision to have my hair cut, and am lurking outside my usual barbers, pretending to be walking past it in an unconcerned manner. It is heaving. It is one of those no-nonsense-wait-on-the-bench-no-appointment establishments. The bench has been full each time I walk past. I have walked past every 15 minutes for an hour and a half now. Of course, each time I walk away, a space at the bench becomes free and I miss it.
It occurs to me that my behaviour is verging on the OCD, so I make the brave decision to go to the Barbers (not Hairdressers mind) Round the Corner that I Have Never Been To Before.
This is a big step.
I don’t like being touched. Generally. There are situations in which it can be the best thing ever, but to my mind these situations do not take place in commercial premises. My own mother is given to hugging me on occasion; frankly, I rather wish she would not. To have people I do not know touching me in a semi-intimate manner (and let us not ignore the whiff of perfume and tit-in-the-face that usually have to be tolerated during the haircut experience) is one thing. To have it happen in a Barber Shop (not a Hairdressers mind) that I am also quite unfamiliar with is another matter.
I step inside, with the confident manner of someone who is not a bit weird about strange people touching them.
There is a space on the bench. I take it, despite the fact that a moment’s lack of concentration and thence relaxation of muscles will result in my touching thighs with the person sat next to me.
I wait my turn. Grinding my teeth. I expect the usual. Going anywhere nice on your holidays?
No. I’m of to Greece next week.
Amazing. Day off work is it?
No, I’m actually at work and you are dreaming. Ooooh, we had a lad in here with terrible nits.
Get fucking off me now.
It is my turn. I step up to the chair. A Swarthy Guy
with obvious upper-body strength and an awful lot of body hair wordlessly motions me to sit.
He slings one of those black-sheet things around me.Swarthy Guy:
He shrugs in a contemptuous manner and grabs a pair of clippers. Having exhausted all of my best lines, I fall silent and take my usual stance of staring at a random section of wall and trying to disassociate myself from the whole experience.
He begins JABBING at the side of my head with the clippers. Like he has seen something there that has annoyed him.
It fucking hurts. And he is wasting no time either. JAB JAB JAB JAB.
Looking back, I do not remember the buzzing sound these devices usually make. I suspect he had not even turned them on, and was relying on brute force and friction to remove hair from my head. Who needs electricity?
He gets to a point where he seems satisfied with this section of my head. At which point I would expect to feel a number of gentle fingers on the back of my head along with some murmured instruction.
Not this good man.
He SHOVES a big meaty Mediterranean FIST
under my chin and forcefully JERKS
my head to his desired position.
And begins STABBING
my head with his clippers. He finishes, and then with heel of his palm, SLAPS
the back of my head so my chin near touches my chest, and sets to work STABBING the back of my head.
He shoves his FIST under my chin, jerks my head upright and grabs a random pair of scissors. There is usually some discussion regarding what should be done at this point. He delves right in without a word. I notice my heart rate is not exactly at ‘resting’. I drag my eyes away from their usual space of disassociation and look at his face. He does not look friendly. I look away. He has access to sharp things, is standing, and I am sat with my arms under a sheet.
He JABS at my hair for some time, repeating the fist-chin-thing as he sees fit.
This entire process has been wordless.
He steps back, and wordlessly looks in the mirror. I consider this ordeal near an end.
From NOWHERE he produces a CUTTHROAT RAZOR
. I was not aware they even existed anymore.
He flicks it open, and twirls it in a manner reminiscent of Mexican villains in old B-movies (they were always Mexican). More of the fist-chin stuff whilst he tackles the nape of my neck and the side of my hairline. A new technique, and one I did not welcome. Perhaps would have been better if the razor had been sharpened this century, and something resembling soap/foam had been employed. It also hurt, is my point.
He whips the sheet-thing off. At this point, there is usually some nonsense with an additional mirror, some blow-dryer action to get rid of the loose hairs, or sometimes some rather inappropriate action with a soft brush and some talcum powder.
Again, not this man.
He tosses a single man-size tissue in my general direction. Very much with the air of somebody who would think me to be the ‘queer’ they had barely disguised their suspicion of my being should I decide to use it.
He tells me the price, and gives me a look that suggests I would be unwise to barter at this stage.
Less than ten minutes after first sitting in the chair, I am on the street.
I see my reflection in a shop window. I look Alright.
I shall probably use him again.NEXT:
Some entirely innocent people going about their blameless daily lives make me so cross I consider 'doing time for them'.