The Ugly American and the Professional - Graham McMillan
My hair was shaggy to say the least. It was 3 months since my last hair cut and the growth rate was alarming. The thought was simple: reduce the need for my hat (which had developed a salty brine around the rim and had been observed to be problematically aromatic) and keep the hair out of my eyes during activities. Not to mention, I was finally granted permission by the only one who enjoyed the mop on my head.
Decision made, the procedure began to find a suitable expert for the job. Luckily for me, a friend immediately suggested a trusted friend. He directed me to Level 8, a row of cabins for families and young men at the bottom of the hill the camp sits on, towards a friend. It was a boy with a crisp comb over, a sharp beard and smiling eyes. I had met him before, and knew of past clients, and agreed his credentials were good. It’s important at this point to understand a full court basketball game can be organized with the barbers living in the RIC on Samos. With Subs. They can be observed industriously laboring in the shade of a tree in the extended area, preparing their spray bottle across from the tea window, or even teaching young protégés in a home-made lean to.
On the day of my appointment, however, I was told to meet him simply in front of his cabin. When I got there, he had an old wooden chair with a torn red cushion on it. The most comfortable seat around. He smiled wide, clasped my hand, and offered me some food. I declined, after a polite explanation from me and a disappointed look from him. The offer of coffee was the same. At this point, two of his neighbors who knew me from Alpha came by to see what was up. When I told them I was getting my haircut they nodded their heads, told me I had chosen the best barber, and asked if they could stick around. They offered me a cigarette and asked me what I was hoping for from the artist this day. I laughed, put my thumb and forefinger 4cm from each other and ran it along the top of my head. I’ve been itching to get a Mohawk since my brother said I wouldn’t and this was my shot. I laughed, the two boys laughed, but the professional was cold, if not hurt. “No,” he said, “your hair is good you don’t get that.” He had begun wetting my hair and I turned around grinning, only to realize he was serious. My smile dropped and my argument was weak. It was clear. His job was to make my hair look better than when I’d walked in and he wasn’t willing to play the immature games with my head that I was. He smiled quickly, as a courtesy to show forgiveness, and then repositioned my head to begin. I conceded defeat, let my neck go slack, and watched the master go to work. For thirty minutes, he combed and cut, pausing briefly here and there to share a laugh with his buddies and I. He concentrated to measure out the length on either side, and faintest smile of self-approval formed. He sharpened the lines in the back, corrected the out of place strands, and combed it one last time. He grabbed his mirror, a wall hanging small circle with a slight crack, and waited for my smile to show off his own. I laughed, told him how much my girlfriend would appreciate what he’d done, and showed off the new cut to the group.
The barber, after he was done cutting my hair, had a new energy. He grinned while talking, and breathed a little deeper. He sat back and got comfortable in our conversation, the master of his domain.