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Monday, February 16, 2009

The Haircut, Part 1

One of the more uncomfortable things about moving to another country and culture is how and where to get personal services done. Ok, get your minds out of the gutter, I know where to get "THAT" done. I am talking about doctors, dentists, tax accountants, barbers and such.

About 3 months into my residency in Abu Dhabi, my sharp "First-Day-At-Work" haircut I got a few days before I left the States started to look a little shaggy.  If I was still in my small Utah town, I would have just gone to the local barber that I had been going to for the last 8 years. He was and Old School guy with an Old School shop. You know, the kind with a couple of those big hydraulic swivel chairs that the barber could pump up and down with a foot pedal. My barber had a classic chair with lots of shiny chrome details and was upholstered in glossy two-tone metalflake gold and ivory vinyl. It always reminded me of a 1950's hot-rod. The chair also had one of those large cast iron, doormat sized footrests. It was a masterpiece, Elvis himself would be proud to sit there!

While waiting for my haircut with the other guys, our conversations would always feature the newest bawdy jokes as well as debates about government, taxes, women and cars, not necessarily in that order. It was just like being at Floyd's Barber Shop in the Andy Griffith Show. Real Americana, and fun. Not to mention that my barber was a real professional who gave a perfect haircut for $8. He enjoyed his job.

 You can't find many of these places anymore. In my book they beat the hell out of the mini-mall "unisex" franchises that have the 20-something young girls who are recent beauty school graduates cutting hair. They are nice eye candy, but the random chance of a perky breast brushing against your arm as they do their work is not really worth the crappy haircut you inevitably walk out the door with.

Now that I was here in the Middle East and my previously tame follicles were winding their way over my ears and down the nape of my neck,  I desperately needed to find a professional to remedy the situation. Here they call anything to do with hair a "saloon". There are mens' saloons and ladies' saloons. Ladies' saloons outnumber the mens' saloons by at least 10 to 1 which is surprising as the Local women end up covering up the coif anyway with the traditional scarves when they go outside. Go figure?

I finally found a mens' saloon in a sort of Arabic strip mall 2 miles from my apartment and decided to take the plunge into cultural differences and risk my appearance for a few weeks with what could turn out to be a very visible disaster. I really had no choice. Imagine the difficulty in communicating just a simple "a little off the top and sides" or "make me look like Brad Pitt" to a person armed with sharp scissors and a straight razor who may not be so well versed in English!

I parked the Jeep outside the shop and walked through the door and saw that the ground floor looked like it still was under construction but a large red arrow on the wall pointed up the stairs. Not very confidence inspiring. It was quiet and empty in the place as I walked upstairs, I didn't know what I would find up there. Maybe it was a place only reserved for Locals who would be offended if a Westerner showed up. Maybe there were strange customs that had to be followed in getting a haircut in this part of the world. Incense and goat sacrifices crossed my mind. I had no clue, but I kept walking up those stairs. 

Note: I intended to keep this long story short (I know.....too late) but I will have to continue this report tomorrow. I am writing this after my 12 hour night shift and the sandman is rudely throwing grit in my eyes ...stay tuned!


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