A new barbershop opened in my neighborhood and I thought I'd give it a try. I like to support new businesses and I’m always willing to buy a magazine at a fledgling newsstand or have lunch at a pristine restaurant. It’s great to see the excitement and optimism of the owners when a new business opens up, before they realize that Wal-Mart or Target sells whatever they have to sell for about one third the price. I’m amazed at politicians who insist that paying taxes or abiding by worker safety rules are the enemy of small business. The real enemy of small business is…Big Business!
I used to go to a very affordable barbershop located along a dingy subway station concourse but they shut their doors recently, leaving a sign in the window reading “Closed for Renovations.” In New York “Closed for Renovations” means “Closed for Good” so I had to look for another place to care for my hair, still copious at aged 57 thank you very much.
As I walked into the new barber's I was greeted like a long lost family member. They were effusive in their praise, overwhelming in their concern, ebullient in their laughter. Of course, I couldn’t understand a word they said because they all spoke Russian, but the language of zealous flattery is universal.
They knew a few words in English - "How short?", "Sideburn?" - but mostly they spoke Russian. And once I was seated in the chair they earnestly went about their work in relative silence.
This was wonderful relief. My old barber was very talkative, usually sports -- "How about those Yankees/Mets/Jets/Giants/Knicks/Rangers" depending on the season and who hadn't gone on on strike. I like sports as much as the next guy with a full head of hair, but once we’ve discussed the latest trade rumors and injury report, I’m pretty much done.
It was serene to sit quietly and not be asked to analyze why so-and-so was a bum, and why whoozits was an overpaid crybaby. Someone must have told the Russians that Americans like games with their hair care, though, because they did have some sport that I did not recognize on the small TV in the corner. They had turned the sound down so it wouldn't interfer with the balalaika music playing on the stereo.
There were two other customers being tended to, and occasionally the barbers would toss an aside to each other, but for the most part it was just the whispering of the scissors snip-snipping a hirsute lullaby. I must have nodded off for a bit because I began to dream that I could understand what they were saying…
“Vladimir, how about those Voles? It looks like they may go all the way.”
“Don’t forget the Lynx, Dimitri. They have a pretty good team this year. And what about the Otters? If they can stay healthy, well who knows?”
“The Otters? Feh! They play like women!”
“Perhaps they play like women, Arkady , but at least they don’t fall asleep in the chair like this…”
I awoke with a start. My haircut was over and my barber was holding a mirror behind my head so I could review my neckline. It actually wasn’t bad.
A little like Leonid Brezhnev.
But not bad.