A: When it is a full-on experience.
Well, the haircut started out in routine fashion. Apron in place, scissors out, mono-syllabic communication and hand gestures that I wanted my hair "this short". Snipping commenced, a straight razor gave a clean finish to sideburns, and then my barber deftly lit a rather large throat swab on fire and began hitting me in the face and ears with it.
Apparently, this is how they take care of the wee, little hairs around the periphery of cheeks and ears of gentlemen of my vintage.
With the language barrier between us, the good fellow that was providing the service couldn't (or didn't feel it necessary) to warn me or explain the whole process that he was about to put me through. Had the haircut started out with something unusual, I might have been on my guard, but no, I was lulled by familiarity until suddenly, there he was, lighting what looked like a benzine-soaked cotton ball on a pencil-length wire. "Hmmmm," thought I, "I wonder what he plans to do with that. Sterilize his scissors? Blow out the inch-long flame to signal, in a dramatic fashion (much like candles on the cake at a birthday party), the cut was over and I was free to go to the till to pay? Oh my goodness, it is still lit and he's bringing it awfully close to my ear-" then, thump-thump-thump he was hitting me with it, grabbed my chin from behind and then wump-wump-wump my cheeks and nose received the same treatment. Even though the heat from the little torch was quite intense, I was too shocked to try to escape. For a second I was worried that he would finally jab the burning skewer into one of my ears to extinguish it with a bit of pizzazz.
Kate, who had previously been distracted by a muted Turkish news channel, suddenly had a REAL show to watch.
I admit that after the flambeau-kabob-stray-hair-removal (and a few less-terrifying tidy-up techniques), I felt quite dapper. So, if you happen to need a haircut while in Turkey, here's what to expect:
- into the chair, apron on, gestures regarding what you want done (as you'd expect)
- trimming with scissors and comb
- eyebrow trim with said scissors and comb
- straight razor sideburns trim
- flaming kabob ear and cheek slapping
- semi-invasive nostril hair trim with regular cutting shears, the whole time with your chin being held to prevent a sudden move
- having your head pushed forward towards the big mirror and an up-to-now-unnoticed sink where you go face-first into the bowl and have your hair and, unnervingly, your face wetted, soaped, lathered, rinsed and vigorously rubbed dry. It is surprisingly unsettling to have someone else wash your face from behind.
- a final bit of touch-up work done to get the few strays (thankfully, from the top of the head) that have presented themselves as unruly after the wash
- a brisk brush off with a whisk broom to get rid of the cutting remnants that haven't made their way to the floor already
- a quick and dramatic snap off of the apron, and an awkward pause as there is no till to go to. Your barber pockets the money right there at the chair.
- then you are done. He's already gone to fetch the next customer from the sofa, a few feet away
As the Turkish are generally more hairy than the pale, northern-European stock that I come from, the barbers here are practiced at producing clean-edged head of hair. Kate watched ear waxing, plasters, massages, something being done with a thread (with both hands and one part in the barber's mouth) to remove hair ... all happening in chairs beside me, somehow out of sight or in the periphery of my attention. I was glad to say that I survived the ordeal and new grey hairs I may have because of it are all very, very neatly coiffed.
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