My Vietnamese Haircut


I haven't had a barber cut my hair since 1983 in Turkey, and that was an awful experience.  It was only our second week in that country.  I didn't have any language, but thought I could handle it with a small Turkish/English dictionary.  Well, I got the word order completely wrong and instead of taking a little off, the barber only left a little.  It was military style for the next couple of months.

So, I'm walking down the street in the beautiful little town of Hoi An, Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Margery is off shopping somewhere and I have some time to kill.  I pass by this tiny little street-side place and a guy says, "Haircut!  Two Dollah!"  For some reason, I am compelled to go in.  I did need a haircut and Margery has been too busy lately.  I have been hacking away at it in the mirror for the past few weeks and it looks pretty scruffy.  So, I sit down in the single chair and begin to give directions in English to the guy.  It turns out the only thing he actually does know in English is "Haircut! Two Dollah!"  Uh, oh! 

He takes out a pair of thinning shears, which is anachronistic, as my hair is already thin, but…Hey! Who wants fat hair?  I notice that he is somewhat cross-eyed as he whistles some sort of Vietnamese folk song.  He snips away wildly for a minute or so with the thinning shears. He then shifts to the real scissors.  I am a bit nervous, but I can see in the mirror that he is doing a pretty good job, so I begin to relax.  In less than five minutes, the haircut is finished.   I think I am done. 

He sweeps off my grey hair on to the floor to mix with the dyed black hair of everyone else in the city and then grabs what looks like a medical scalpel.  He slides a new blade in it and then dry shaves the back of my neck and around my ears. Still OK. Then, he pulls my shirt back and starts to shave down my back.  Hell, I’m a Swede!  I don't have any hair on my back!  Then he lays the chair back and starts to shave my face.  No lather!  He does deep inside my ears and then shaves my forehead!  Scraping away inside my nose, on my cheekbones, outside my nose, in between my eyebrows, my eyelids!  What kind of hair could be growing on your eyelids?  

He dribbles some aftershave on his hands and commences to lightly slapping my face.  Biff! Baff! Biff!  It doesn't hurt, but somehow seems undignified.  Next, he puts a cold, damp cloth on my whole face and begins to vigorously rub everything, including my eye sockets.

He takes the cold washcloth off and grabs a long thin tool with a little scoop on the end.  He puts on a light, like a miner's light, on his head and, before I can say anything, he is deep inside my ear canals scraping away.  I feel like I am going to throw up, but I don't dare move for fear he will do some damage.  Then he takes a small brush and spins it around in my ears, I guess to clean out the debris.  That finished, he puts some drops in my eyes and again, before I can say anything, he cleans out my tear ducts with a needle.  Visions of dripping infection and blindness pass through my mind, but it is over in a second and doesn't hurt.

Satisfied, the barber gives me a quick massage, a violent shoulder rub followed by a rhythmic whacking and pounding with his hands. Suddenly sweeping the cloth off my body and spinning like a toreador, he turns to the street and yells out,   "Hair cut! Two dollah!

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