It is quite the thwarting quandary I find myself in. One’s hair grows bitterly unevenly and I can’t for the life of me find a suitable barber to put my aesthetic woes to rest. I have been without a haircut for six weeks now, six inconsolable weeks, and it has left me in quite an uncomely state.
I know what you’re thinking ladies and gentlemen. A haircut! What importance is there in that? If one’s shabby appearance bothers one so profoundly, why then doesn’t one just simply seek out another barber from the multitude of barbers that London (of all cities) has to offer?
Well ladies and gentlemen, I beseech you not to look at such a cleft stick so flippantly. The art of barbery in this once great city has become increasingly debased and its artisans uncouth. Yes uncouth! One cannot just stroll into their local barbershop purely by virtue of spotting the very trade advertised on their shop window. I know this from experience. I once did the very deed and promptly came to rue the decision.
As soon as I placed my foot on those varnished, checkered tiles I was met with sheer derision. In hindsight I should have immediately interpreted it as a sign to leave, but instead took it as a cultural misunderstanding and gave the barbers (all four of them) the benefit of the doubt.
I stood there like an idiot, trying to get a moment’s notice so that I could make an enquiry. But not so much as a glimpse came my way. Instead I resolved to seat myself on the waiting chair and hoped that my image of impatience was quickly picked up on - but to my utter disbelief, not one barber showed any interest in my presence. And despite being aware that I was waiting courteously with such inexorable forbearance, all four barbers had made the conscious effort to pay me no mind.
Well, allow me to be forthright when I tell you that no thinking man would tolerate such a deliberately contemptible service. No upstanding man at all. I had to speak.
“Excuse me sirs,” I exclaimed vociferously. “I don’t know exactly what your problem is, but I’ve sat here like a fool for the last fifteen minutes without so much as a welcome gesture. And what’s more, I see before me four perfectly able barbers, with all their respective chairs unoccupied - and as far as I can tell, I am the only customer in the shop! A scandalous offense if you ask me, or anyone else for that matter. Most other people would completely blow their top at such a shameless disregard for proper service and would most likely leave a rather damning customer review on every platform available to them. With that being said, I consider myself a lenient man, and I am willing to forgo any formal grievances I may have had hitherto this moment - that is, if you would be so kind as to give me a haircut, as is your duty!”
All four barbers looked at me with plain apathy, as if nothing I had said registered in the slightest. The barber positioned furthest right, a plump, lumbering figure muttered something faintly under his breath before mockingly saying “Ah English mi ah speak my yute.” That phrase alone was enough to make the other three barbers erupt into hysterical fits of laughter - bending over on their chairs, slapping their palms on their laps, whilst exchanging idioms peculiarly in their own dialect.
“I’m delighted to see that you’re all having such a splendid time,” I said mordantly. “But I’m afraid the joke whatever it is, and I’m sure it is pertaining to my expense, is indeed beginning to wear rather thin on me.”
“What in a bombaclaart!” said the barber noticeably astonished. “Mi seh mi ah speak English nuh mon? Mi nunno what kinda nonsense yuh ah seh." The three other barbers, equally as dumbfounded, continued gabbling scathing words of impropriety. “Weh you want?” said the plump barber firmly.
“A haircut!” I said exasperatingly. “A haircut! Why else would I be here if it wasn’t for a haircut?”
I have to admit that my enragement at this point had most likely made me appear as somewhat of a crazed individual, a kind of hot-headed fool. I had lost myself. Regrettably so. And shortly after I felt quite silly. But you have to understand, regardless of how inane it may seem on the surface, weeks without a haircut is no trifling matter.
When I walked into that barbershop all overgrown and unkempt, it should have been of paramount importance that my seeing to was a matter of urgency. Any skilled tradesman of worth, who claims to offer a reputable service, would have indubitably taken it upon himself to fix the problem that was unambiguously presented to him with immediate effect. And to reiterate, my problem was unambiguous indeed!
But of course, such impeccable service that this nation once knew as part of its intrinsic value is simply no more. We now incongruously look to the Japanese and even the French for such heralded virtues of decorum. It’s true! I was in Paris not too long ago and was absolutely astounded by the kindness and care I received during my stay. It boggles my incorrigible mind. The French! It sores my throat to utter the words with such starkness and praise. The French! What culvert of baseness have we descended into to be having to take lessons of propriety from the French? The absurdity pains my very soul, hurts my craggy head. Anyway, I digress, albeit not superfluously!
“Sit down pon a chair mon, mi coulda tek your money long time,” said the barber with a sharp bite of disdain. Utterly shocked with his continued disregard for any morsel of cordiality, as with his shameless haranguing of avarice, I contemplated the notion of issuing him quite the verbal beatdown of a much wittier and impertinent nature than the one I had just delivered. But seeing that he was at least offering me up his services, as well as (admittedly) the unnerving malice of his tone, I resolved to obey his instruction with staunch obsequiousness and plumped myself adroitly on his chair.
“Weh you want?” said the barber cantankerously.
“First of all,” I said candidly “I appreciate that you’ve finally found the decency to offer me up your chair, but please, I implore you to listen carefully to what I’m about to instruct you.” The barber goggled at me menacingly before briefly turning his back to me whilst kissing his teeth. He turned back around and glared at me again with a fevered crimson in his eyes.
“Look now,” he said pointing his thick finger in my face. “Mi no take no foolishness from nobody you eeyer? Now tell me wah yaw want before yaw really vex me, mi nah ‘ave all da time in da world.”
The barber clearly peeved, then proceeded to spin my chair around with such brawny vigour, that it almost sent me flying out of my seat.
The sheer, unadulterated insolence of it. The barber had now resorted to a zenith of out-and-out bellicosity. I was convinced he was mad, but the domineering power of his demeanour made it so that I was unable to move. Rather flustered, I cleared my throat. “Well, there’s no need for all that,” I said tentatively. Slightly nervous I made compliant eyes with him as to signal that I was willing to be civil. I took a discernibly anxious gulp and a discreet breath and tried to appear as composed as possible. “Now, as you can see, my hair is in somewhat of a state,” I said plainly. “It grows far too quickly on the sides, and far too slowly on top.” The barber looked scrupulously at my scalp.
“Ya hair dead on top mon,” he said abruptly.
Fairly affronted by his cavalier bluntness, I felt my chest flutter with suppressed ire.
“Well, yes I guess that’s one way of putting it - Anyhow I do believe that I have enough healthy hair for you to bring about my person the most imaginative of transformations.” I placed my hand on the perishing threads of hair that remained peppered on my head, scuffing them roughly with my palm to attempt to make the fibres appear plusher.
“Now if it’s not too taxing, I’d appreciate it if you’d endeavour your best to contour my head in the most artful of fashions. I am merely asking for one level all over, but since my hair grows unevenly, many a barber have found it quite a trial to get the precise proportions down aptly. Therefore, it is vital that you should take thorough care to match the sides of my head to the exact proportions of those on top. However, seeing that the top has fluffed up, it may need a light smoothing out with the clipper to renew its freshness. Understood?”
The plump barber, with absolute amazement in his eyes, mishandled his hair clipper which he held loosely in his hand and fortuitously dropped it on the floor. With growing frustration, he barked a series of obscenities before addressing the barber beside him.
“Mi no no what him bloodclaart seh,” said the plump barber with a brewing venom in his tone. “Yeh know weh him seh Errol?”
Errol, a small elderly fellow with a crooked back and a full head of tight curly hair as that of pure white wool, insouciantly shrugged his shoulders before coolly saying “Mi no no weh him say, a pure yab him a yab.”
“Shine him off!” another barber howled “a one shine him want.”
“Bal’ him?” said the plump barber inquisitively “you sure?”
“Yeah mon, a one shine him want mon,” said the other barber positively. The plump barber sighed a groan of discontentment and proceeded to work at my stubble.
Shine him off? Yes, shine him off - It seems so clear now. But believe me, ladies and gentlemen, I couldn’t have possibly known in that instant what that meant. And if it wasn’t for the fact that my barber had done such an adept job at cleaning off my stubble, I would have given more consideration to its likely interpretations.
I proceeded, however, to issue upon him the keenest of grins, as to build up in him a sense of assurance and to dispel any notion of uncertainty he may have had leading up to working on my head. I did not want him to fumble under any misguided perceptions, and to make sure of this, I even voiced (regrettably) that he was doing such a splendid job that I didn’t even know what I was so apprehensive about in the first place.
Much to my ruin, of course. Those grins of such flagrant encouragement simply rendered utterly useless. Before I knew it, before I even had the chance to blink, the barber had applied the clippers to my head, and with so much as a flash had inconsiderately shaved off the near entirety of hair (such as it was) right down to the skin.
I could not believe it. I did not believe it - so much so that despite seeing that glossy, elliptical horror of a head reflecting back at me, I proceeded to ask the barber if he understood what I instructed him - as if this latest travesty that so frightfully bushwhacked me could somehow be corrected.
“I did not ask to be bald sir, I hope that’s not what you’ve done,” I said with a nervous pant. He remained silent. Ha! How ridiculously puerile of me. What a wretched man of straw I was. How passive and trusting I had become. I, a man with perfectly normal vision as it were, could not allow myself to see that I was now as bald as a bowling ball and that there was nothing to be done about it. “Look, sir,” I persisted morosely, “I think there’s something wrong, I think you’ve made a mistake.”
“Mi nah finish yet,” said the plump barber indolently.
I was wracked with dread, but did not dissent and allowed the barber to finish the job. Each shear from the clipper upon my head took a part of my soul as I sat there helplessly. When he had finished, he reached for a tall canister which appeared to be some sort of hair sheen and sprayed a cloud of mist on my new polished head. I did not know if this was some sort of sick joke or if it was just custom, but it was in bad taste in any case.
“Here, as good as new,” said the plump barber cuttingly. Snide laughter mingled amongst the other three barbers with such supercilious tenor, that they may just as well have called me a fool to my face. They were certainly not shy of letting me know how pitiable they considered me to be, and boldly proclaimed their contempt for me to each other in the most conspicuously pointed of fashions.
“Mi never seen a head so tall,” said one of the barbers sneeringly.
“And so moist and shiny too,” mocked one of the other barbers.
“Him must have water inna him brain,” said Errol with a gravelly chortle.
“Him look like Shaquille O’Neal’s thumb,” chuckled the plump barber with a twisted air of pride.
Although slightly hurt by their spiteful vituperations against me, I simply ignored them. I knew they were just trying to get a rise out of me, thus I was determined to appear altogether unbothered and to not give in to such juvenile incitements. My restraint lasted a while, as did their insufferable takes on the various reasons for my head shape, but I endured it still. I endured it to the last – to the extent of which I believed that my unforeseen self-control was even beginning to irritate them.
The plump barber ensued to take the cape off my neck and dust me off with his brush. Still emotionally dampened by my new look, I determined that I was going to do the equitably civilised thing and confront him coolly and calmly and elucidate to him in great detail how wholly unsatisfactory his efforts were. I dusted myself off, but before I could get out of my seat and face him like a man, he brusquely said “Twenty-five pounds!”
“Twenty-five what?” I shrieked with incredulity. “Twenty-five pounds did I just hear you say?”
“You ‘ard of ‘earing?” He asked with a tight scowl. “That’s what mi seh,”
“You’ve lost your goddamn mind!” I roared with indignation. He looked back at me vacantly. “Pay me nuh mon!”.
At that moment I became utterly beside myself with fury. Righteous fury. Yes, righteous fury! I shot up from my seat and gasped with revulsion. I fell on my knees even! I pounded the ground with my fists so hard I bruised myself. “Don’t you see what you’ve done, you fool!” I said with maddened tears in my eyes. “I gave you very clear instructions! Pristinely clear instructions! And you fumbled it! You fumbled it and now you ask me for payment? At twenty-five pounds no less. How did you arrive at such a licentiously preposterous sum? The disrespect! You call yourself a barber? Well I tell you, you’re nothing but a bum. A mindless, incompetent bum! Payment for your misdeeds? Payment! You ask me for payment? I should be asking you for compensation for this defilement you’ve brought upon my person. Oh, how you’ve wronged me!”
Adrenaline soared through my bones. I became rickety all over and shook uncontrollably. I suddenly felt my limbs heavy and weak as if I had been stricken with the palsy and struggled to get back up to my feet. All four barbers looked back at me with a mystified mien. “Rahtid!” exclaimed Errol, “Mi nevah seen such a crazy blabba mout in all mi years. Him ah just chat ah whollipa nonsense!”
“Him head nuh good,” said one of the other barbers with a pity in his tone.
“Yeah mon, him sick inna him head,” agreed another barber with disgust.
“I’m not crazy,” I barked back. “Neither am I sick in the head. I am merely indignant and rightfully so! Can’t you see that it is you who are the outrageous ones? Lord have mercy!
“Ha, him seh lawd ah massi – him a Jamaican fuh true,” joshed one of the barbers.
“Him not a Jamaican, God forbid!” said Errol unimpressed. “Him jussa crazy baldhead.”
The plump barber stood intrepidly and marched a couple of paces towards me with venomous eyes. He bore an injurious demeanour, but I was so consumed with folly that I felt no fear whatsoever. “Sekkle yuhself! Yuh no no who yuh deal wit,” he said austerely.
“Oh, is that so!” I said goadingly. “Or maybe it’s you sir who doesn’t know who you’re dealing with! I have friends in very high places in this borough. Friends that could see this place out! You just try me, just try me!”
The plump barber took another step towards me with his chest puffed out and was now almost standing on my toes. “Pay me now if yuh know what’s good fi yuh.”
“Or what?” I exclaimed cockily. “What is it exactly that you are going to do? Hit me? Is that what you’re going to do, hit me? Well please, I invite you to do just that, in fact I beg it of you, give me your best shot! Punch me right on my muzzle, let’s see where that takes you shall we?” The plump barber backed off slightly with a vexed grimace.
“Yes, that’s right. I thought as much!” I said vindicated.
“Baxide!” bellowed Errol incredulously. “Him want one lick inna im face!”
I edged towards the door facing all four barbers. Each of them glaring at me with loathing. “Now, here’s what’s going to happen,” I said with renewed calmness. “I’m going to leave. I’m going to leave this shop as an extremely disconsolate and unsatisfied customer and you better hope and pray that nothing else comes of it. And if just one of you so happens to try and stop me, I’ll have you closed down faster than any of you can say medium fade.”
I turned to the door and attempted to make my way out, but as I reached to open it I felt a thick palm grab the back of my neck with such untold strength that I could have sworn it wasn’t human. “You better pay mi naw before mi hurt yaw real bad,” said the plump barber with a psychotic whisper. Suddenly I came back to my senses, reached for my wallet that was wedged inside my trouser pocket, and pulled out a note. “I only have twenty on me,” I wheezed contritely. The other three barbers began cackling hysterically again. “A dat fi appen to yuh, yuh thought yuh were a badman,” said Errol contented. The plump barber snatched the note from my hand and released his grip from the back of my neck. I gasped for air and departed from the shop immediately without saying another word. I ran all the way home with both my palms pressed to my head. I winced as I felt those newly smooth textures beneath my fingertips. “I’m bald! I’m bald!” I shouted solemnly. “I’m bald!”
Oh, the treachery!