…thanks to the Barber of Sea Ville.
Life on a small island can be strange, and more than a little challenging. It’s not that Ko Yao Noi is physically small, but the resident population is only about 3500 of us. And that means goods and services you would consider normal – are not.
3500 is not enough to sustain a supermarket. There’s a handful of Mini Marts that stock whatever they can get from the mainland. Supplies tend to be sporadic at best.
Sliced bread – the commodity that legend would have it is better than anything – appears once a week, and is gone before you can blink. I like to eat salads for lunch, and most people would agree, lettuce is the most important ingredient. I’ve never seen one here. Some green leafy things of unknown origin do appear from time to time, but they don’t appeal.
And I could list other essentials, but won’t. Because you opened this article to read about haircuts.
Strangely, there’s no shortage of barbers. Maybe the sea air makes hair grow faster. So, one day while driving into the village I asked Umberto for recommendations.
“Don’t go there” he said, pointing almost immediately to a place on the left. “They charge farangs more than the locals, and that’s not right.” I couldn’t disagree.
Then he pointed out one on the right before the village, one at the start of the village and one at the end, which he noted was new. When I finally got around to getting what’s left of my hair tidied up, I chose the latter. Partly because it’s new and hence clean, but also I assumed the owner would do a good job in the hope of getting recommendations.
Being at the end of the village was an advantage too, as I could sneak around the town on some back roads – thus avoiding the usual chaos in the town. You see, in the opinion of this one farang, Thai people seem to lack any sense of when they are inconveniencing their fellow humans.
Motorbikes are parked with their front wheel against the kerb and the ass-end sticking out. Does that block the road? Well, yes. But does that really matter? With only one lane remaining, through the middle of the parked bikes and cars, everyone will wait their turn. Traffic will flow. Sort of. No one will honk or lose their patience.
It’s the same in supermarkets. The unwritten rule seems to be that if you need something from the next isle, you abandon your shopping trolley in the middle of your isle, preferably sideways, while you head off to find that one special tiny thing that wasn’t worth the effort of taking your trolley.
I used to move the offending trolley, but that causes embarrassment (not to me) even though it’s accompanied by copious smiles. Now, I just wait, smile a lot, and wave to the little one usually perched in the dickey seat. There’s some human contact, and no one loses face.
But; getting back to the haircut, it’s less stressful to the avoid the village if possible, which is how I found myself sitting in a new, clean and rather bare, air-conditioned box.
Well, it was bare except for the one table, where I struggled to find space amongst the clutter of assorted hair-cutting paraphernalia to put my glasses. Not a great start.
Mr. Barber, a youngish chubby fella asked how I would like it. “Short” I replied. What with moving and other things, there hadn’t been much time to think about mundane things like haircuts, so it was a bit untidy to put it politely. “Short?” he asked, in a way that implied “Do you really mean that?” Like I’d asked him to shave it all off and paint my head green with red stripes.
It is anwyays a question that has always confused me. I mean, how many choices are there? Is “Long” a option?
First he combed my hair to the font, and then put the parting on the other side. He must have been thinking “Stupid farang doesn’t even know which side to part his hair” while I’m thinking “Maybe it’s easier to cut that way, and he’ll put it back later.” Then he asked for permission to use the electric trimmer, or whatever it’s called. “Strange” I thought. “Sure” I said casually while wondering why he’d ask. Then I discovered…
Bbbbrrrrrrzzzzzzzzeeeeep, and I was bald on one side of my head. Well, there was no point in me shouting “Stooooooopppp.” I was hardly going to walk around for the next six months bald on one side. So it was Bbbbrrrzzzzp Bbbbrrrzzzzp Bbbbrrrzzzzp up the back and Bbbbrrrrrrzzzzzzzzeeeeep up the other side, and there I was – bald.
I figured this guy must be a frustrated sheep shearer who’d been denied entry into New Zealand on the grounds he had no apparent knowledge of the trade, nor cutting any type of hair for that matter. Am I exaggerating? Yes. I still had hair on top.
And that’s where his scissors came in useful – after he’d found them amongst the jumble. I suppose a twenty second haircut doesn’t justify the usual Bt100 fee, so he spent the next twenty minutes cutting one hair at a time… each time rushing around behind me to cut the opposing one, and then checking in the mirror to be sure the two were the same length. Set to music it could be a winner on YouTube.
I had presciently declined the usual beard trim. I can’t even imagine how that would have turned out. But I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
Normally, for the trimming of facial hair, you are unceremoniously shot backwards so your upper body is horizontal. The first time this happened to me I was so unprepared that I was left with my knees up in the air, with my legs flailing sideways, looking for all the world like I was about to give birth.
Then it’s time to trim eyebrows, nose hair, ear hair, even the tiny hairs that dare to grow out of ear lobes. No, I didn’t know that either. Then it’s a comprehensive shave with the cut throat razor leaving the barest nanometer of stubble. The first time this happened I was left wondering “What the hell’s he going to tackle next?”
I think, realizing he’d already done enough damage, Mr. Chubby settled for the shave only – an experience I survived without the letting of any red liquid.
Then it was time to be shot upright again (I often think barber’s chairs should be equipped with air bags) for the obligatory brief massage.
Now, I’m not a massage person, but a few minutes of neck muscle manipulation can be quite relaxing. However; the chubby one had misplaced his copy Neck Massages for Dummies, and proceeded to massage my face. I was sure he was trying to pull my eyes out. Not content with that, he next grabbed my ears, and repeatedly pulled them outwards. I’m surprised I still have them. It’s taken me three days to get them back into the right place.
That was it. I survived. The usual gratuity was not forthcoming. I paid and escaped. Oh, and my parting was not replaced on its correct side, but I had so little hair by this point I only needed to shake my hair like a wet dog, and everything was back to normal.
If only I could have done that with my ears.