Updated: Mar 26
I was in Kastamonu - Central Turkey - so it was time for a haircut.
Actually Kastamonu had nothing to do with it . . . but I wanted to sprinkle some shots of the city because they are great.
But it was time for a haircut and I was in Kastamonu. I’d been delaying for months because part of me is still ‘70’s’ enough to want a pony-tail. Every time I’m in a barbershop the length in the back seems to snip away and I’m left depressed for months thinking every barber should be ‘snipped’ to Eastern Turkey.
I’d been passing these crowded establishments for months but in Kastamonu, I sucked in my gut and projected air in my chest - for some crazy reason - and stepped into a shop. All 17 eyes shifted towards me. (One guy appeared to have lost an eye, for you Arithmetic majors, doing the math).
Anyway, communicating in a Turkish barber shop is near impossible and, because they are always full, it’s difficult to ask anything discreetly. How do you whisper . . . “I know it sounds crazy because I’m old, but – ahhh - could you keep it long in the back so that in 15 months, I can have a cool ponytail?” I can barely get it out in English . . . it’s like wanting to whisper after the emergency nurse shouts through the hall, “AND WHAT SEEMS TO BE YOUR PROBLEM TODAY????” (Well, ahhh . . . I got something stuck up my butt and I need someone to pull it out slowly . . . shhh).
So . . . as I gestured and made it perfectly clear exactly what I wanted . . . all ten men in the shop started talking and making it perfectly clear to the barber.
Ok . . . think back . . . way back to the Andy Griffiths Show . . . and recall the barber . . . I think his name was Floyd. (After three years on the air, no one has ever named their child ‘Floyd’ again).
As is the case in many Turkish villages - if something unusual is happening - everyone wants in on it . . . the shop barely held the ten men already in the place but they squeezed in to make more room . . . and sidewalks can be used as extra space in most towns.
Floyd settled everyone down and assured me that he knew the style I was interested in . . . I wasn’t convinced and didn’t sit down, contemplating my rationale for stepping into this mess. That’s when the Floyd’s gang jumped into the fray, suggesting (I think) that Floyd was the best of the best. 'Renowned from Kastamonu clear to Karabuk'. Even the guy with one eye was nodding profusely. (Well, why didn’t they say so in the first place . . . is what I wasn’t thinking).
I sat and it started.
Floyd gave me the works . . . I was in that chair for a little over an hour . . . back home in Canada I’m gone in 15 minutes – tops. This barber insisted on shaving me with the sharpest blade I’ve ever felt . . . I use dull Bic’s 15 or 16 times before I reluctantly toss it. (Towards the end, the blades are so rusted I’m surprised I haven’t poisoned myself).
But he started with smearing hot wax into my ears . . . scorching black wax . . . I think he didn’t want me to hear what the gang were talking about . . . truth is, I have no idea what anyone’s been talking about for about two months.
As he shaved and cut my hair, the wax hardened. I was perplexed to say the least. But the spectators were pointing their approval, watching, I think, to see if I’d flinch . . . I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction but I was anything but comfortable. How the heck is he going to shave that out of there, I thought.
Mid-way, he shoved Q-tips into the hot wax container, curled the wax around the ends of the tips and promptly poked them up my nose!
No warning . . . maybe there was a warning but what’s “LOOK-OUT” in Turkish? My eyes were watering as Floyd’s gang waited for me to . . . grab Floyd around the throat! I was now panting through my mouth and the last thing I was worried about was a pony-tail.
He had kept my hair long in the back and had pulled the hair back into the shortest tail I’ve ever seen, held together with gel, pins and elastic.
The men in the shop murmured their approval.
And now the wax . . .
Gentle reader . . . at this part of the story you may want to turn away.
All eyes were on my face . . . and I still had no idea why. The tension was mounting and I didn’t know what the heck was coming . . .
First the right ear.
Floyd grabbed the tail of the wax that had ‘frozen’ when it was still dripping hot- and with a mighty yank – in one swift heave – unforeseeable wrench – he ripped the wax from my ear. I mufflered a scream as one-eyed Barney watched with a colourful grin.
Floyd casually brought the wax to my face and pointed out ALL the hair the wax had kindly retrieved from my ear cavity. Blinking away tears, I pretended to be grateful.
Floyd nodded as if he'd conquered the world.
The left ear was left bleeding as the same ripping ended the life-spans to all 85 hairs in that cavity. The gestures were met with waggles of approval.
Yes, Floyd was the best! There's no one like Floyd.
The problem with all this was . . . that I now knew what the Q-tips in my nostrils were all about.
The men seemed to move in slightly as Floyd moved his hands towards my face.
I remember thinking, “Oh NO!".
When I was a child - a few years ago - I remember a story about how Egyptian Pharaohs were prepared for burial. I was told by Eric . . . (the guy who sat next to me in grade 4 and who was always pretty much right about these kinds of things) . . . that straws were stuck up the demised Pharaoh’s nose and that his brains were sucked out in preparation for entombment. Apparently, you don’t want the Pharaoh’s brain rotting in a pyramid. I was always left wondering who exactly was responsible for that job. Kept me up at night.
As Floyd’s hands were reaching for the Q-tips, I remembered my good friend Eric. Odd how your mind works when your mind is about to meet its maker.
With two yanks that felt like ‘too-long’, ugly black wax blocks came out of my nose to the cheers of Floyd’s gang. I was certain that part of my brain was stuck at the bottom end of both blobs.
Immediately the men suggested that I breathe deeply and notice . . . notice how NOTHING was obstructing sweet air from flowing into my lungs. Floyd proudly showed me - and those interested - what exactly had come out of the foreigners’ nose . . .
And I thought . . . life is a mystery. No doubt about it.
It’s been several days and I do think something mysterious has been gouged from my head. I can’t seem to get my north and south and east and west directions set properly. It all started in Kastamonu. I wonder what Eric would say?
The worst episode of this failing happened in Bursa . . . but that’s for another day.