OF BARBERS, SOUL MATES AND SURGEONS

Whenever I set out to visit my barber for a shave, a number of thoughts begin to run through my mind in rapid succession; a number of thoughts that always leave me shaken to my very bones, chief of which is the harrowing fear that I might not find my barber due to one reason or another. Believe me, there is nothing a guy hates like not having a permanent barber. There is nothing more tiring than having to explain to every new barber how low you like your cuts, how sharp you like your carves, and whether you fancy aftershaves or not.

My preferred barbershop is just down the road by the corner. Nothing extraordinary for the slum I live in. A room barely two metres long and three metres wide. A miniature ceiling fan that squeaks like a rat caught in a trap; a television that needs to be slapped several times before the picture steadies; a wall mirror with more cracks than the scars on a Terminator’s face, and a swivel chair that doesn’t swivel. Orzaoh, my barber, is from Edo State. He is a good man who, I would swear, would not hurt a fly unless when it can’t be helped. I enjoy his funny talks said in a funny accent, an extra services which I don’t have to pay for. Which is why I get a heart attack whenever I arrive in his absence and find that I would be sitting under the operation of one of his boys.

Just the other day, I began to see connections between the barber and the surgeon. They put on special clothe before they start work. The one puts on a lab coat, the other wears an apron. They both sterilize their tools before they cut. They both ensure that you feel comfortable before and during the operation. The difference is that while the surgeon would sedate me before the operation, my barber doesn’t so that I get to feel the entire thrill and pain. Once the humming electric clipper begins to tickle my powdered chin, it is difficult (if not impossible) not to chuckle. Once I sit on that stiff chair with my eyes closed while the barber holds a newly sharpened blade just under the soft skin of my throat, I can’t help but remember all the animals that get slaughtered during festive periods.

And then, I extend this connection between the barber and the surgeon to include soul mates and tailors. Commonsense insists that it is best to stick to one sex partner (at a time), just the same way it is preferable to stick to a particular doctor who is already familiar with one’s medical history, just the same way it pays to have a permanent tailor who already knows your measurement by heart.

I like what visiting my barber (or my doctor or my lady or my tailor) does to me. It makes me know that I can be selfish and self-centred. It convinces me that despite my pretensions to reasonableness and civilizedness, I am no different from any other human. And that realization humbles me. For instance, I hate to find a long line of people waiting outside my doctor’s door, just the same way I hate to meet a long line of others waiting to get shaved at my barber’s, just the same way I hate to stroll down to my lady’s place only to find a couple of other guys waiting in line to see her. Again, while I expect my barber (or my doctor or my lady or my tailor) to spend the whole day with me, I begin to get uneasy when they are doing that with someone else before me.

It is a curious thing how seemingly unrelated things end up having a lot in common. It makes me begin to wonder if the world wouldn’t be a much better place if only we would pay more attention on finding common grounds than differences. Like someone I know very well would say, “Most things are not really what they seem; everything is what you make of it.”

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