Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Mario's Barber Shop

As I was walking back to my place of employment and running my hands over my now tightly cropped do, I was thinking that the joy I take in going to the barber shop has a bit of irony in it.

True, if you know me, you certainly know I can be a bit on the obsessive side when it comes to getting my haircut. I associate a bit of cleanliness and the feeling of freshness with the experience, so sometimes rather I'm in what some would consider "need" or not, I make the regular appointment. It is one of those things in life that we choose to do for ourselves in an effort to keep stability and self-confidence.

Further, I've found this barber shop and barber that is near my work and I can sneak away at lunch, pay my $20 and get the same haircut nearly every time. Certainly I vary length, but generally I can count on it being the same thing and there is a lot of comfort in that as far as haircuts go.

The funny part is how uncomfortable the barber shop generally makes me. I'm not your standard clientele. Most of the gentlemen frequenting the establishment are in their 40's or 50's, Caucasian, in business or retired. Let's just say, they aren't the type of guys I do best conversing with. The funny part is, I actually have this desire to be integrated into the situation and not just an observer. Sometimes, my approach to the barber shop feels sociological and not participatory. As though I'm doing an ethnography on Chicago barber shop culture.

I don't exactly know how to fully participate. Some of the conversations are just clearly out of my league. For instance, today Mario asked my barber (a Serbian guy named Zoran) "When'd you get your last Playboy." "Meh, dunno. Maybe 3 months." "Maybe they stopped sending 'em." "Maybe."

That's it. That is the whole exchange. Nothing further.

Later on.

"Mario, what's for lunch."
"I dunno man. Burger."
"You want soup too?"
"What kind soup they have?"
"Chicken. Maybe veal."
"They have veal soup?"
"Nah. I dunno man. The soup changes. They might not even have chicken."
"Ok. Burger and soup."

That's the end.

I mean, it's hysterical. It's classic caricature barbershop talk, but I have nothing to add. I'm sure discussing the problematic nature of veal wouldn't go over very well.

But, you know, it's a great haircut. I can count on it. I can count on those two guys being there. I can count on their conversation being amusing and maybe that's as participatory as I need to be.

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