Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Barber Shop Francais

Another bad haircut day.

I've got to learn the language.

I don't get my hair trimmed too often. I like it long, and D-L prefers it that way as well. But sometimes it gets too unruly, or I feel the need to not look like a homeless drifter, say, when I attend a professional conference. 

I went to a fantastic barber when I lived in Texas, Sonya at The Boardroom in either the Plano or Southlake location. After moving to Europe, I would wait until I was going to be in Texas so I could have her do it perfectly. But sometimes the timing doesn't work and I'm going to a meeting before touching base in Texas.

Donna-Lane goes to a hairdresser in Geneva (or at least she did before she lost her hair with the chemo treatments ... but it'll grow back and we'll make it an event when she needs to get it trimmed the first time).

We made an appointment one time for me but with her hairdresser's brother. Nice guy. No English. My French is rudimentary at best, and I hadn't yet gotten to the lesson about haircuts, ie "Not too short" or "Low around the ears - not whitewalls," the latter an American slang that probably translates very poorly anyway. I ended up with ... well, a decent haircut by most standards, but way too short for my preference.

Fortunately my hair grows rather fast. Pretty remarkable for someone in his mid-60s when most men are bald, balding, or at least thinning. 

One time D-L tried at least trimming the back of my hair, and she did a pretty good job.

When we were in Argeles, she found a new (backup) salon there, so we tried it a couple times for me. The first time, D-L went to the appointment with me so she could explain to the woman in French how I wanted it done. The second time, flying solo, I took along some photos of my hair at its best - front, back, sides - to give her a visual reference. Both times it worked out reasonably well.

Do you get the idea I'm a bit critical of hairdressers? Except Sonya.

What I really needed, though, was a barber in Geneva because I tend to have more meetings here than in the south of France. So I tried a new barber shop in the same building as my favorite grocery store (I like their parking garage the best of the three grocery stores - the aisles and spaces are wider; easier to pack the bags without dinging the Mercedes or Range Rover next to me.)

The young barber sported a beard and mustache similar to mine, though without the silver. And to my surprise and delight, he spoke enough English that I could get across how I wanted my locks lopped. The result was good. Not Sonya great, but good nonetheless.

So now, maybe four or five months later and a trip coming up, it was time for a wee trim. Made an appointment, I thought, with Bearded Barber. But when I arrived, he was not there. Okay, I was a little early. But after a few moments, his partner motioned me over to the chair. Apparently Bearded Barber was not coming in aujourd hui. He spoke - panic - almost no English. Less English than my un petit peu de français.

Of course, I still hadn't bothered to look up the phrasings I should have had in hand for des instructions sur la façon de couper mes cheveux. I tried to demonstrate with my fingers the amount to cut. I suggested I did not want it pas de corporate but rather Bohemian style.

But clearly, I was at his mercy to cut it any way he thought best. After all, once a barber has trimmed too much on one side of your head, you can't really stop him from "evening it up" on the other side. I cringed as large lumps of my carefully cultivated coiffure fell on my shirtsleeve, my hands, the floor.

I rationalized - all in my head of course, as I lacked the français skills for a regular barber conversation - that if he cut it too short, at least I had a month or more before the trip. It would grow back ... some.

I should not, should not, should not complain. My lovely wife has lost all of the hair on the top of her head, her eyebrows, her eyelashes, etc., and it will take months for it to grow back. (We are curious what color it will be - been a long time since she's seen her natural color.) Seven weeks since the final chemo, it is starting, a bit of peach fuzz. I'm taking photos so we can do one of those speeded-up time-lapse videos once it has grown back and she can dispense with the wig. (Which, by the way, she looks great in.)

I was not happy on the drive home from the barber shop, but it's my own fault. I should be much farther along with my French at this point. Odd how a brief, routine, everyday encounter with a barber, a grocery store clerk, someone asking for directions as if you were a local and should know (well, this is my official residence, so perhaps I should), can quickly make you realize that things you take for granted in your own language are not so simple when you go somewhere that is dominated by another language. (Tomorrow, by the way, we will be in Bern, which is in the German (or Suisse-Deutche) speaking part of Switzerland, so I'll be even more linguistically lost.)

Next time, S'il vous plaît, ne coupez pas mes cheveux trop courts.

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