Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Papua New Guinea: The Barber Shop: Part II

Around the time when I was ready to get my hair cut again, my colleague Bill, who had only been in-country for a few weeks, asked me if I could recommend a barber shop. When I told him about Brad's, he was interested in giving it a try.

A few days later, we walked over together during lunch break. That day was our third or fourth straight day of non-stop rain thanks to a cyclone in the area.

The impact of the rain on Brad's business was undeniable. The shop that had been full on my first visit was now dead. There were 2 guys getting cuts, and only Bill and I were waiting (along with a dreadlocked man who seemed to just be loitering).

All of the barber chairs were usable now because 3 days earlier they had fixed the water leak that had taken one chair out of commission. There were a few empty chairs, though, because there weren't enough barbers on hand to man them all.

When the first barber finished with his client, he called me over. It was the same skinny guy with a mustache who had cut my hair the time before.

I explained what I wanted, and he started with the clippers as usual.

He shaved the sides and back of my head and kept creeping higher and higher. Not wanting a buzz, I asked him if he wasn't going to use scissors on the top. And right at that moment, he decided it was time to switch to scissors.

Meanwhile, the other barber finished with his client, which should have meant that it was Bill's turn to hop in the chair. Instead, though, the barber went on break and started chatting with a woman who was probably his wife.

My cut was shaping up just like the time before. The guy started cutting my hair using the thinning scissors only. This time, however, I asked him to switch to the normal scissors, which he did.

When he was almost finished with me, a man and woman walked into the shop. The barber finished my cut, cleaned up my sideburns with a razor, and gave me a face full of baby powder. Then I was all done.

It was a better cut than the time before, so I was pleased with the progress.

When I left the chair, it seemed like it should be Bill's turn again. The barber, however, called the man over who had just entered the shop.

After I paid, I went and sat down next to Bill.

“I'm not really sure how this line is working,” I commented.

“Me neither,” Bill responded.

Perhaps the new-comer guy had made an appointment and that is why he was bumped ahead. We had no clue what was happening.

Once I sat down next to Bill, however, the barbers took note and they and the shop manager immediately started talking amongst themselves.

They broke their huddle, and the dreadlocked man, who also turned out to be a barber, asked Bill, “Were you here for a haircut too?”

At this point, a bit of information about Bill is in order. Bill is older than me, and he is balding. He has no hair on the top of his head and a band of gray hair going around the sides and back.

When Bill acknowledged that he was indeed waiting for a haircut, everyone – the shop manager, Bill, me, the barbers, the other customer and his girlfriend – broke out laughing.

The barber who had gone on break told me, “We thought that your father was just waiting for you to finish.”

It wasn't until I sat back down to wait for Bill that they realized he wanted a haircut of his own.

I couldn't make eye contact with any of the employees for like 10 minutes without one of us laughing. Something about the whole thing was hilarious.

The man with the dreadlocks ended up giving Bill his haircut, and while he didn't care for the rough technique, Bill was another relatively satisfied customer.

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