To the more critical of you the fact that I get my haircut for $9 in Chinatown probably speaks explanatory volumes as to my coiffure. But in all honesty I do like how my tresses are shorn. And living on the cusp of Chinatown allows me to take full advantage of paying a much appreciated single digit fee. Though admittedly there is truth to the Family Guy remark regarding adult filipino males and their seeming disdain for grownup haircuts.
The shop itself is an unassuming subterranean enclave, home to the ma and pa who have been running the joint for years. I say ma and pa to take advantage of the familiar idiom that describes a small business, realizing that in truth this ma and pa are about my own age. Which may in turn speak volumes regarding time’s relentless assault on my own stage of life.
The corner-mounted television continually blares a cacophony of Cantonese action movies or Chinese soaps depending I presume on who has control of the remote. (Note though I make no assumptions as to which half of the couple favours which of the contrasting genres!). And over the years I have been witness, in some way shape or form, given the fact that I have absolutely zero knowledge of any Chinese dialect, to many shenanigans and high hilarity that would resemble an all-sino rendition of Barbershop.
During my tenure as one of their myriad habitués neither ma nor pa has given me the impression that their command of the English language is complete. Our communications often taking the form of monosyllabilic utterances, head nods, and at times wild gesticulations, but I do suspect they understand me more than they let on at times. Ironically, given my own Chinese ancestry, I am to them but a humble yet welcome Gweilo who pops up every month to ensure that I can still be somewhat presentable to the general public. If they were to uncover my penchant for sweet and sour chicken balls, my identity as an outsider would, I am sure, be promptly and permanently cemented in their eyes.
Today I descend the steps to the shop at a quiet, almost intimate moment. Right away I can tell that there are no customers waiting ahead of me, which is a welcome relief given how busy they can be. But my guy, the pa of the ma and pa shop, is indeed working on someone. A more studied look on my behalf helps me discern that it is ma herself who is being tended to by my guy’s ministrations. She dutifully moves in harmony with her husband, bobbing and weaving as he curls and foils her hair, clipping various contraptions in place. Their movements like a well-honed hairstyling choreography which is halted only by their notice of my arrival. And then shortly thereafter by another customer’s entrance.
Pa tends to my locks while ma, hairstyling accoutrements still clinging valiantly and clanging resoundingly to her own scalp, begins to chop and style the hair of the gentleman who immediately succeeded my own incursion.
It really was quite the scene and one I’m sure that I’d never have been privy to in more upscale environs.
After presenting the rear of my pate in the mirror and ascertaining my satisfaction, pa releases me from my black hair-strewn smock and I make my way to my jacket and the baseball cap that I had used to hide my previously rebellious tresses. I pay my $9 and add my customary $2 tip, smiling as I leave for another 4 weeks both at my haircut as well as the scene of which I was just a minor part.