The Unpleasant Visit to the Barber

I hate going to the bar­ber to have a hair­cut. It is a com­plete waste of time and I am dis­mayed at the cumu­la­tive num­ber of hours I have wast­ed of my life vis­it­ing the bar­ber.

Of course, these days, nobody refers to a “bar­ber shop”. It is a hair­dress­er, or saloon, a par­lor, or a beau­ti­cian. A saloon is a bar in the whole world, except in South Asia, where it is a bar­ber shop. What­ev­er fan­cy names they come up with, for what they do with our hair, they are bar­bers.

Grow­ing up in a mid­dle-class fam­i­ly in urban Mum­bai, I have become used to vis­it­ing these mid­dle-income bar­ber shops and don’t vis­it the fanci­er saloons or par­lors. Also, I have found that the fanci­er the place, the more imper­son­al­ly they treat you.

A vis­it to the bar­ber, just like with a doc­tor, or den­tist, starts with wait­ing. In this wait­ing peri­od of time, I have a choice of glanc­ing at sexy pho­to shopped Bol­ly­wood hero­ines in Film­fare or Star­dust, today’s news­pa­per in Eng­lish and the local lan­guage, or sim­ply be busy on my mobile. All these shops must have these Bol­ly­wood glam­our mag­a­zines, else they appar­ent­ly don’t get any busi­ness.

Mean­while I occa­sion­al­ly glance at the cus­tomers being served and won­der when they’re going to fin­ish. Then I am amazed at how long men like look­ing at them­selves in the mir­ror. His­tor­i­cal­ly, this has been assumed to be a fem­i­nine trait, but vis­it any typ­i­cal men’s bar­ber shop in India and you will dis­cov­er the truth.

They just don’t fin­ish. There is a lit­tle strand here that should be trimmed or an angle there that is just not quite right. And there’s a bit of trim­ming required here and one hair that needs to be cut there. Then the bar­ber holds up a mir­ror behind them so they can see their rear and then oth­er require­ments come up. This is when I seri­ous­ly think that the cus­tomers have stud­ied a Bol­ly­wood hero in those glam­our mag­a­zines while they were wait­ing.

Bar­bers appar­ent­ly don’t earn much so they have evolved to be masseuses. After the hair­cut, a head and shoul­der mas­sage seems as essen­tial as dessert after a meal.

My approach when I final­ly get into the chair is “just do it, and get it done quick­ly”.

I do not like being tied with a noose around the neck with an over­flow­ing tow­el. I do not like how the bar­ber casu­al­ly leans against me and I am left won­der­ing if my elbow is inad­ver­tent­ly touch­ing his groin instead of the stom­ach. I have to keep my mouth closed and be care­ful of my eyes to avoid the hair. I pon­der over the exis­ten­tial ques­tion of how I am to instruct him ver­bal­ly when I can’t open my eyes or mouth. I have to peri­od­i­cal­ly request the bar­ber to brush my face. On top of all this, I have to endure some pathet­ic music or movie on the TV that the bar­ber uses to enter­tain him­self.

By the time the exer­cise ends, the expe­ri­ence is not too dif­fer­ent from a vis­it to the den­tist. No won­der these guys once also per­formed surgery and den­tistry.

Hair once served a use­ful func­tion dur­ing the evo­lu­tion process from apes to us. Why do we still have eye­brows and eye­lash­es and mous­tach­es and beards but are not entire­ly cov­ered in hair like apes or oth­er ani­mals? Because each has served an evo­lu­tion­ary func­tion.

Those apes or cave­men wan­dered through the jun­gle in rain and inclement weath­er. Those whose eyes were pro­tect­ed by eye­brows and eye­lash­es sur­vived. Oth­ers who did not have mous­tach­es prob­a­bly had some poi­son drip­ping into their mouth. Ones with beards had few­er scratch­es left on their face after fight­ing with wild ani­mals, and whom the females then chose to mate with.

But what func­tion does scalp hair play today oth­er than pro­vid­ing a pro­fes­sion to bar­bers and hair­dressers? It is just a use­less evo­lu­tion­ary ves­tige, like the appen­dix. Which is why when I think of the bar­ber, the bar­bar­ian comes to mind.

Also, when an advanced alien species is fea­tured in main­stream cul­ture, they are always bald.

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