Sept. 21, 2013 – Bangkok, Thailand
I’d realized for weeks that I looked like a hobo. Not the rugged, manly, dirty look that some women are into, but an actual homeless person. A vagrant. I supposed this look adequately matches my current lifestyle, but a haircut is now within my means. Plus believe it or not, I actually do somewhat care about my appearance.
Today I embarked on a mission to rectify my pathetic situation. Today is Sunday, and let me tell you something about Sundays in Bangkok: Everything is fucking closed. I highly doubted I would even find a barber shop, let alone food, which I was also in desperate need of.
Luckily, my friend Sajeer from the hostel offered to help. I followed him through some back alleys and eventually to a salon, which, given the length of my hair, was probably more appropriate than a men’s barber shop. Unfortunately for my poor disheveled mop, they all shook their heads “no” as I entered. I’m still not exactly sure why, but either way I turned around and walked back out.
We turned around and headed in the opposite direction, towards Bangrat, where more stores were usually open on Sundays. Sajeer asked a local man if he knew of any barber shops, and he pointed us up the road a couple blocks. It was here that we finally located the barbershop.
Upon walking in, I scanned the place. The paint was peeling off the walls, sinks were rusted and cracked, and the barbers’ scissors and combs, etc. were all kept in old beer cans with the tops cut off. My heart palpitated.
There was a woman sitting in a desk near the door with papers scattered across its surface, and behind her all of the barbers sat on a bench against the wall. She pointed to a chair, and I sat down. Sajeer went back to the hostel.
As I sat down, still somewhat in a daze and concernedly light-headed from a lack of food, one of the barbers stood up from the bench. He walked over to my chair, looking somewhat annoyed, and cracked his neck. He pointed at my head:
“I would like to take some off, but keep the same shape,” I told him. He stared back, confused and still annoyed. “Coulden cowtsie passa Enlit mai kub?” I asked, inquiring if he understood any English. He shook his head, implying that he did not. Oh boy.
I spent the next two or three minutes trying to explain to him what I wanted, and he finally seemed to understand. He let out a long sigh and then slowly made his way towards the table on which his barber’s tools were spread. He stopped halfway and motioned towards my beard, then made a gesture with his hands, asking if I wanted to shave it.
“No,” I replied. “Just hair.”
He got out a comb and started his work. My pulse increased. What is this man about to do to my hair? Would he give me an Asian-style bowl cut? Or perhaps in some phenomenal language mis-communication cut off all of my hair? Too late now.
He combed and combed, spraying my hair with a small water bottle as he went. Then he combed some more. I was starting to wonder if he was ever actually going to cut it; maybe he was planning to comb it until all the hairs fell out one by one? He combed some more…
Finally the scissors were extracted from the beer can in which they sat, and he lifted some hair. Snip snip.
The hair fell in what seemed like smaller tufts, and I was somewhat relieved. He kept combing. For every ten swipes with the comb was one snip. He worked majestically. I started to wonder if I had judged the man incorrectly. He seemed fluid, like an olympic ballerina gracefully dancing through my hair.
It started to take shape. It didn’t look bad. I beamed. My God, this man is an artist.
He stepped back and looked at my beard again, and then pointed:
“No?” he asked a second time.
I could tell, he wanted this beard. He was hungry for it; it was his patchy white whale. He could almost see himself crushing its underwhelming glory and standing atop its ashes in a plume of smoke; his barber’s scissors held high above his head like a mighty sword.
“Yea,” I finally consented, “but no shave, just trim.”
A smile consumed him and he quickly reached for his trimmers. He used a comb and artfully trimmed my shitty beard, carefully rounding every corner with an exact precision. This is where the man really shined. Beards must be his forte, and he had been patiently awaiting his opportunity for showcasing.
He got to my mustache, and became a brain surgeon with the clippers; ever-so-carefully gliding the trimmers along the comb just below my nose. As much as my trust had grown in the man over the past twenty minutes, I was still somewhat sketched. I awaited the moment in which the trimmers dug into my skin. It never came.
He stepped back, still smiling. Goddamn, he pulled this thing off. The hair looked good, the beard trimming was an overwhelming success, and I was very satisfied. Especially given my dismally low expectations upon walking into the shop. He picked up the scissors again and carefully combed through every piece of hair, clipping any small imperfections in his work. He was my Da Vinci, and I his Vetruvian Man. I was his Fur Elise, and he, my Beethoven.
He stepped back and marveled at his work. He was proud. I was proud.
Then he began doing something that immediately made me question the legitimacy of any barber in states: When you’re done getting a haircut, what does the barber usually do? He takes out a brush or towel, smacks away the cut hairs from your neck and then removes the barber’s cape. You’re left with an itchy back and neck for the entire remainder of the day, or until your next shower.
Not this guy. He was a hair-assassin. His work was perfection; no incriminating clue to be left behind.
He got out the brush, and swiped away. Then came a towel. Next was the brush again, this time slightly pulling the barber’s cape away. Then he really blew my mind and pulled out a wet towel and covered the entire area again. Such a simple solution, right in front of our faces this entire time…
He combed again. Finally the cape was removed and he stood with his hands on his hips, comb and scissors in hand.
“Ehh?” he asked.
“Dee mark kub.” I replied, in awe of his excellence. “Dee mark.” This translates to: “Very good, sir… very good.”
…Okay, so I lied. The haircut sucked. But hey, what do you expect? 🙂