I confess. The prospect of going to the barber in Turkey made me a bit uneasy. Walking into a strange shop, where they might not speak my language, and where sharp, pointy things are going to be used in close proximity to my neck and head gave me pause. I wasn’t real sure I wanted anyone putting a knife against my cheeks and neck, especially considering what has been going on a little further east of here.
Ah, but logic prevailed: the likelihood that I would randomly encounter a jihadist barber in the resort town of Bodrum seemed so ridiculously remote that I decided to go ahead and get the haircut that I needed. I spied a likely “berber” just around the corner and worked up the nerve to walk in. Having blogged about getting a haircut back in Manchester, UK, I had not intended to blog on this topic again, but the experience was so unique I couldn’t resist and still call myself a travel blogger.
My berber was busy with another customer, so I quickly–nervously–walked in and took a seat. From the comfort and (perceived) safety of my chair in the corner, I sized up my would-be coiffurist. From top to bottom, he wore a pouffy hairdo of thick black concentrated on the top and a bunch in the front, a skin-tight t-shirt, skin-tight blue jeans rolled up at the ankles, and blue denim loafers. Beside him, beneath the counter, slept his dog: a toy poodle at the end of a pink leash.
The likelihood that I would encounter a gay jihadist barber approaching impossibility, I was greatly relaxed. I casually waited my turn.
I had no idea whether he spoke any English, so I carefully planned my contingencies. As I took the chair, I asked, “Do you speak English?” as clearly as I could.
He smiled and shook his head, “No, no English.”
No matter, I knew how to get my desires across. As I watched him standing behind me in the mirror, I outlined my face with both hands. “Make me look like…George Clooney.”
My joke died an instantaneous death. The crickets were so loud they woke Fluffy the poodle. Apparently I was in the presence of the only (gay) guy in the world who didn’t know the name “George Clooney.”
For a couple of very awkward moments he had a blank look on his face. Then he said, “Short?”
I nodded. Yes, short. My lesson from this is that the only English any barber in the world really needs to know is “short” or “long”, and that a few might not even know who George Clooney is.
For a few minutes, my haircut could have been taking place in El Paso, Texas, Cheyenne, Wyoming, or any number of other manly locations. He dry-clipped my sides, shaping them with Edward Scissorhands-like dexterity. Then he cropped off large chunks from the top, where it tends to get overly thick. He had a quizzical look on his face when it came to my sideburns; I used my fingers to show him where to shorten them. Snip, snip, snip.
Then out came the blade.
Carefully but firmly he carved the rest of my scraggly sideburns off. I had shaved that morning, so there was no need to shave any more, but he amazingly, with a single straight edge, did better, got closer, than the 16-blade Gillette Fusion Pro Maximus Super Ultra Mega cartridge thing I use. He proceeded to the back of my neck where he worked similar magical smoothness and (thankfully) left my head attached. He spray-dampened my hair and thinned it out to desirable dimensions.
Then things got exciting.
Back home barbers ask you if you’d like them to trim your eyebrows. Not so with Turkish barbers. He produced a sharp little pair of scissors, and–snip, snip, snip–knocked my eyebrows back down to normalcy. Then he pushed my nose up against my face and proceeded to trim my nose hairs. Barbers back home never ask to do that. Peeking around his arms, I could see myself in the mirror: I looked like my daughter’s pug.
Then things got really exciting.
Breathing through wonderfully unobstructed nostrils, I watched with curiosity as he pulled a small length of wire from his berber’s drawer. He opened a little Skoal can, extracted a small red dot, then attached it to the end of the fairly rigid wire.
Then he set the red dot on fire.
I’m sure my eyes were much larger than normal, but I didn’t check them in the mirror: they were glued to the little blade of bright blue flame. He pressed my ear flat against my head, and I was imagining a spa-like treatment of gently warming…my ear lobes? Instead, he flicked the little wire against my ear, and with a crackle and a puff of acrid smoke, he BURNED the hair–that nuisance of middle age–out of my ear. As he passed quickly to my other ear, I nervously laughed and said, “I’ve never seen that before!”
He replied with the extent of his command of English, “Too long,” and BURNED the hair out of my other ear. Apparently my middle-aged ear hair was too long for good Turkish tastes.
Honestly, it’s the best haircut I’ve ever shelled out 40 Turkish Lire for. It’s certainly the most memorable haircut experience I’ve ever had.