Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Gone tomorrow

Everytime I go into my barbers for a haircut, I expect some sort of royal treatment. I’ve been going there consistently for ten years so always half-expect them to remember me. But they don’t- they have a huge turnaround of staff and there are always new additions there. I started going there over ten years ago in my student days. There was a pretty lady cutting hair. I would go and hope to get served by her and wow her with my flimsy student banter. Each time though, the fates intervened and sat me down in the chair of a stoic silent bald German barber with tattoos all over his scalp. He did an impeccable job. I kept coming back and the same thing kept happening. Fate would drive me to his chair and he would do a sterling job on my hair while I looked on longingly at the good-looking one. It didn’t matter really because he did such a fine job of sculpting my quiff. One day though, hubris decided to show me a ‘what-if’ scenario, an alternate universe and sat me down in the good-looking girl’s chair. She proved to be positively conservative and scarily eerie and did a really bad job of doing my hair. The fates had spoken to me- always go for the tattooed German guy. Everytime. In any situation.

Soon, he moved on and I stayed loyal to the barber, going out of my way each time to get to it as it’s in a strange location for where I live my life. The stoic silent German guy would never speak to me and just get on with doing the hair business; after a while he didn’t even have to ask me what I wanted done. He did it instinctively. But he’s moved on. And I stayed. Since, the barber has opened up a chain and become a nomadic hub for travelling migrants with a trade, passing through London in 6-12 month bursts with a ready-made skill to apply to the world. Not one person cutting hair in that barbers is English, which makes a multicultural melting pot dream. The richness of accents and the wealth of styles are luxuriant in their unique diversity. For example, a Russian male barber was giving an English businessman that classic Russian block-buzz look that made 80s KGB film actors so irresistible. Whereas the diminutive Japanese girl was the one to guy to with suggestions for something bizarre and out of the ordinary. I always seem to end up with the silent stoic one though, the one who’s happy to receive instructions and get on with it. I look around month after montha, oozing with jealousy at the banter around me. The conversations, the ‘how was your day’, the ‘have you seen this film?’, the ‘I work in adversiting ya-ya’ and I think, do I have a miserable hairline that makes people not want to talk to me? Or maybe I’m so used to the meditative moments I used to spend with a bald German tattoo-headed barber, while he went about sculpting quiffs to perfection as I dreamily looked over at the object of my teenage affections. Even though it was over ten years ago now, I can remember it so clearly, and it’s affected my hair-cut experience. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I’m missing out on banter- I’m used to the German way... efficient, clinical, schnell.

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