Yet another guest post by the International Man of Intrigue. 1. He's funnier than I am at the moment, and 2. I've never gotten my hair cut in this country. (Yes, I look a bit frightful.) Enjoy!- Dorothy
Let’s face facts. A guy needs to have a hair cut every once in a while, especially when that guy is a member the world’s greatest military force. And living in country without fast and cheap military post barber shops can be problematic.
Let me back up a few years. Since going to college I cannot remember an instance where I paid more than $7 for a haircut. In fact, I would hazard to guess that I’ve spent about $5 on average per haircut over the last 17 years. Much of that average is driven down by the fact that my normal job has never necessitated anything other than a high and tight, and many times my hair could be cut by a) a cheap barber, b) a toddler, or c) myself, and few would know the difference.
But now I live on the pearl off the coast of India, and cheap barbers are not easily found. In fact, it took me a few weeks to even identify a barber shop. Part of the problem lies in the fact that barber shops here are not called “Barber Shops.” Instead, they are all called salons. Compounding my difficulty, however, is a strange linguistic quirk derived from British colonization and an accidental acceptance of the wrong word into colloquial Sri Lankan English. Consequently, many salons are not labeled as such at all. Instead, they are often labeled saloons! Now if that hasn’t made for some embarrassing circumstances in which I thought I’d get a beer, but instead left with an eyebrow wax and short side burns.
I finally decided to use the saloon (salon) on the ground floor of the hotel we stayed at during our first month on the island. The price is more than double what I was accustomed to paying in the states, but hey, when in Rome try not to get your hair cut in saloons…er, or something like that. At the end of my first experience I was pleasantly surprised to a) still have hair and b) to have left with my masculinity. After all, it was salon.
So, I’ve been going back to the same place and I think my experience is worth sharing. If for no other reason than posterity, I need the contradiction of my diverse haircut worlds to meet. I normally get my hair cut from the head hair dresser at my Colombo saloon. His name is Nimal and he is one of the shortest Sri Lankans I’ve met, but he has a Napoleon complex to give him height around the shop. He actually struts through the rows of chairs and the saloon, er, salon staff gracefully leap out of his way. He wears a strange little goatee and mustache and has the only Sri Lanka/French accent I’ve ever heard. When he needs something an apprentice runs throughout the shop and hands him whatever it is he needed. Outside the shop I’m not sure he has any social status, but inside he is a god among hair dressers. In their skin tight black matching shirts with the coolest number of buttons undone and freakishly skinny biceps, these lower hair dressers worship Nimal.
I always feel as though I’ve walked into a weird cartoon or horrible sitcom: Due to Nimal’s lack of height, I’m forced to sit in the lowest possible position in the barber chair while Nimal climbs onto a high stool cut my hair. Underlings hover in the background just waiting for Nimal to say, “get me a #3” or “mirror!” I try not to engage in small talk, and perhaps this is why I like Nimal, because he doesn’t make chit chat either. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t regularly cut thin, fine red hair off of unusually handsome American dudes of Irish descent. Maybe it’s because he’s too cool. Maybe it’s because he’s glued to the strange piped in Sri Lankan cable network that is on each TV in front of every barber chair. Oh wait, that’s me!
While I wait for Nimal to figure out how or what he’s doing with my straight forward haircut, I watch some weird TV. Last time it was 1990s music videos. I saw Shania Twain, C&C Music Factory, and a Michael Jackson video I’m pretty sure never aired in the States. Between the throw back videos, the cable channel can’t decide whether to be sponsored by feminine hygiene products or contraceptives. It would not be so strange if I’d seen either of these products advertised anywhere else on the island.
And here I wait. I know that in just a couple weeks I will need another haircut. I am no longer embarrassed to walk into a salon and pay three times the amount I think I should pay for someone to cut my hair. No, next week I’ll call Nimal and ask if he has any openings, and I’ll look for uncomfortable foreigners and hope they enjoy the weird TV selections. Maybe I’ll see if Nimal wants to grab a beer. I wonder what they advertise at saloons, er, bars?
*Disclaimer. Nimal is my barber’s real name and he is incredibly short for someone who walks around like he’s about to punch you in the face. He gave me his card once and asked that I call him instead of the girls at the front desk because, “they’re idiots sometimes.” Yes, I’m going to miss Nimal.