I got tongue tied when giving directions to the tricycle on which barber shop I wanted to go to but I arrive nonetheless. Fortunately I have been there before so I am able to guide the driver. Unfortunately there is a lineup today. I guess that’s what I get from getting a haircut on Saturday afternoon.
I climb out if the tricycle (not made for people as big as I am) and hand over the fare. Then I pop my head in to ask, “Is there any hope?” I am number 2 so that’s not too bad. It looks like today Noel has another guy cutting, too, so that makes the line go down quickly. Noel, the owner of Marvin’s Barber shop, has been cutting my hair ever since I moved to Pingkian 12 years ago. Once I find a good barber I tend to stick with them. It’s gotten to the point where I just sit down and Noel knows what cut I want. Nice!
I sit outside along the front of the shop on a stack of two monoblock chairs. A bench of similar design is already occupied by three other people. The shop features the typical striped colours symbolic if barbershops the world over. It’s glass front featuring a painted lettered sign “Marvin’s BARBER SHOP.” A black plastic bucket on the ground beside the door catches water the drips constantly from the air conditioner. Faded photos of haircuts are featured prominently in the windows.
Life passes us by. Tandang Sora avenue is always busy. Only two lanes but it leads people past several schools, a mall or two, and a wet market. The road has improved over the years. Now it boasts a smooth asphalt surface that makes driving easy. The steep edges, however, make walkers a little more cautious.
Small delivery trucks, jeepneys, vans, motorcycles, tricycles, and cars pass by going here, there, and everywhere. Pedestrians also frequent the way carrying bags, purses, or books.
Directly across from the shop is a brand new stripmall, still unoccupied. Looks like there is room for fourteen shops on two floors, each with it own rollup door. A roofdeck is on the third floor. It’s one of the new places that are constantly being built in anticipation of the road being widened to 4 lanes.
The urban sprawl tends to hide the physical geography, but signs peek out from time to time. The south side of the road, where I am sitting, appears to be higher and the ground slopes away across the road towards the creek that I know is there.
The bench just emptied itself of people — I guess the lineup wasn’t as long as I thought. Soon it will be my turn. All of a sudden I see the nod and head on in. He seats me in his barber’s chair and starts the preparations. As I look into the full-width mirror I see Noel’s tools of the traded arrayed before me. There are seven electric clippers. A box holds 8 different types of brush with a couple more in various places on the shelves. An assortment of bottles sits on the left, ready to be applied during various stages of the haircut. Scissors and combs abound! A TV hangs on the wall behind me, playing the latest telenovela. I can see a reverse image in the mirror in front of me. This mirror is actually an infinity mirror since it works in conjunction with the mirror on the back wall.
A strip of toilet paper is wrapped around my neck to be held in place by the striped cape that will protect my clothes from falling hair. The clippers are chosen, and will be exchanged with other clippers at various times — why? I don’t know. From time to time the scissors come out, being used rapidly, sometimes held vertically as Noel swiftly operates them and spins them around the back of my head. Then the razor comes out to make sure the edges are neatly trimmed. At one point, the cape is removed, shaken out, then replaced as the final push begins. A razor makes sure the edges are neat.
Then comes perhaps the most interesting part. After putting rubbing alcohol on my hair, he begins to massage my neck and shoulders, making sure all the “lamig” is removed from my muscles. Then, with a sudden move, there is the head twist and neck jerk move that frees up all the bones there. This is always accompanied by a a laughing “Ayus!” on his part. The secret is to just relax and let it happen. But it is always a little freaky. Then a quick brush off of any fallen hairs and the process is done!
What is your favourite haircut story? Why not record it for posterity in the comments below?
Remember sharing is what friends do.
Image is mine.