Haircuts are somewhat of a stress-inducing event. When in a foreign country with a foreign language, however, they're nothing short of an adventure.
To make things even better, I've started going to this middle eastern barbershop down the street. Its convenient, inexpensive, and gives great fodder for stories. They are two things you can be certain of when leaving this place: 1. you hair is going to be well-shorter than initially planned, looking slick enough for a nightclub in Istanbul, and 2. in about two-weeks time your hair will be looking fantastic.
The process is quite simple for a guy to get a haircut in the US. You drive over to the local Boricks and the conversation goes something like this:
"Hello. How do you want it?"
"Um, An inch and 3 quarters on the top with a 4 on the sides - blended."
Voila. That's about it. Then you just white-knuckle the chair hoping that the framed cosmetology license on the wall dates longer than two weeks.
Here however, when my blond locks start resembling a dirty mop, I know the time has come for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Groom". Walking down the block I start converting the conventional measures into the metric system, and start racking my brain for the French translation of the words "trimmer" and "blended". Walking through the door into the small room you're greeted with the dancing melodies of strange middle-eastern pop music playing from a cell phone in the corner. The guy at the chair peers at you inquisitively as if you lost your way before showing you to an open seat. The usual cape is thrown on and then he asks, "Alors? This is when the fun starts. As soon as you ask for 4 centimeters of length on the top, the Turkish guy immediately stops you and starts arguing that that isn't possible - it's way too long for a proper haircut. What then follows makes you feel like you found yourself in a Turkish market haggling over the price of lamb. I pull out my thumb and index finger in an attempt to physically show what length I want. We frustratedly go back and forth until, eventually, we settle on a something seriously shorter than I planned. For the sides, I do my best to show that I don't want a weight line but a blended length between the bottom and top. When the trimmer comes out, I beg for certain blade length number, but apparently the trimmer companies renumber all their blades every 2 months, because he looks at me as if to say, "would you like a fries to go with your ignorance!" Then once these agreements have been made the process can begin. As the trimmer is pulled out to work on the back, there are immediately problems. Apparently, my neckline is too "V"-shaped for his liking and thus requires a full-blown intervention. "Il faut de-grrrrrr-aaaadey"! He says over and over again in his thick accent. At certain points you don't know if he's speaking French to you or Arabic to his colleague. Before you know it you have mirrors pulled in to show you how terrible the current situation is and how difficult his work will be. The next thing you know the trimmer is getting loaded and unloaded with an array of clips like an AK47 in the midst of battle. Your pulse begins to increase and a bead of sweet rolls down your forehead as it looks like he is giving you the Turkish version of a military "High and Tight". Just as your nail marks start to disappear from the chair arms, you see him loading a fresh razor blade into the old-fashioned strop. I've seen enough mafia movies to be uneasy when I find a razor blade near my neck. Thus at this point I'm forcing myself to breath in a normal fashion, while bordering on hyperventilating. However, I'm shocked how these guys are masters with a razor. Their attention to detail is unbelievable. They're so meticulous that you wouldn't be surprised if they pulled out a protractor to make sure the angles are really 90 degrees square. Heaven forbid if your sideburns were a sloppy 88! Apparently that would surely eliminate the possibility of a second date in Istanbul. Somewhere along the line he'll starting singing along to the strange music, digging deep into the hair gel canister. After a good gel-slathering and some final frightening flashes of the razor blade, you're looking and smelling slicker that Turhan Bey at a Hollywood premier.
Feeling somewhat like I cheated death again, I tip well and head home to wash out the hair gel and asses how long it will be until it grows out.
"Give it two weeks...maybe 12 days this time..." and I hang the fedora and whip back on the hook.