Saturday, April 1, 2023
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The all-knowing barber


“Hello; it has been a long time since you last came. Where have you been?”

“It has been only a month!”

“For a haircut, a month is too long.”

Another visit to your barber’s; It is going to be an interesting forty-five minutes or so with your barber. You are about to be fed some breaking news. At the barber’s all news is BREAKING!

 “They are going to demolish our village.”

“You don’t mean it!”

“Yes, they will demolish it within a month.”

Where did he get the news? Who cares! Can the barber kindly reveal his sources? No way! He wouldn’t reveal his source kindly or otherwise. In fact, the last thing any veteran customer of the barber shops wants to ask a barber is where he got the news. I mean the guy is doing service to your otherwise very ordinary looks and offending him wouldn’t be anything less than a cardinal sin. One thing you don’t ask your barber is to reveal his sources. This is not about the ‘style book’ of some newsroom. You go in like a Rip Van Winkle badly in need of a haircut and you come out like someone badly in need of some, what else, hair! In the process, your current affairs knowledge goes a few notches up.

The last time a close friend of mine was at his barber’s a few weeks back he got some breaking news.

“The Third World War would start in a couple of weeks,” he tells me.

“And, where did you hear that from?”

“My barber told me.”

His barber didn’t pull the whole thing out of the thin air. He had some doomsday predictions to support his claim. Everything, so he said, would be wiped out within minutes. The dinosaurs must be rolling over in their graves with laughter! At least theirs wasn’t over within minutes!

One thing I like about barbers telling stories is the confidence they radiate. If they say the Third World War would start then that’s it. They don’t have to quote a Fareed Zekariah or someone to substantiate their story.

Look, personally, I prefer to listen to the matter-of-fact revelations of barbers than the so-called analysis of half-baked politicians whose sugar-coated ramblings would give you the beginning symptoms of Alzheimer’s or something equally scary. I prefer the innocence of the barbers than the snobbery of those learned fellows who think they, and only they, hold the magic wand to everything.


Of course, if everything our barbers tell us was to see the light of day, nothing short of a Moses who’d take us across the troubled waters would ensure our survival as the descendants of the Adam fellow.

Your Internet is down! Don’t worry. Go to the barber, even if there isn’t a single strand of hair left on your head. He’ll tell you what is happening in Afghanistan if that means anything to you. He’d tell you what they are talking about in the corridors of power.

Barbers usually don’t try to convince you. They don’t say “You are with me or you are with them. No middle ground!” They don’t say, “Play second fiddle to my music or else you wouldn’t know what hit you.” You are told a story and that’s all. The revised version is for the next customer.

In a way, barbers are in the thick of things. I mean every guy who drops in has something to say, be it about political fallouts or marital intrigues. Talk of multiple sources, if only the barbers acknowledge it in so many words.

“Did you hear?

“Did I hear what?”

“So and so has been arrested;”

“Sorry, I thought I saw him the other day.”

“I told you he is arrested!”

That’s it. The barber told you son-of-a-gun has been arrested and who do you think you are to dispute his story?!

I prefer the barber. He tells you this country is to demolish that country and that is it. No conspiracy theories; no “They are fooling us” sort of conspiracy theories. The news is final.

“Don’t you know that girl?”

“No, I don’t.”

“What! Don’t tell me you’ve been sleeping like the Rip Van Winkle fellow!”

“Who’s she, the niece of the Queen of Sheba?”

“She acts in films and TV serials.”

“So what! SO WHAT!”

The barber would tell you more down to earth things. “That lady is flirting with the owner of so and so factory.” He doesn’t even want to know whether you knew her or not. That’s not the point. 

One thing you don’t hear barbers complaining about is that they are charging to low a price. They don’t say “It’s easier to cut razor wire than some people’s hair. And they pay only thirty birr!”

That makes them different from the cabbies who are always complaining about the fares. You can give him a hundred birr or two hundred birr and still he will be complaining. “The fuel prices are high, it is easier to buy a new car than spare parts and still I am paid three hundred birr!”

That is why barber are more interesting than the other lot.

Speaking of the barber shop there are these customers who sprinkle dark clouds to the otherwise clear skies of the barber shop. Some nine or ten months back I stumbled into a barber shop accompanying a friend of mine. There was this guy having haircut. Under normal circumstances he wouldn’t have deserved a good first look let alone getting a second one. But this guy has taken of his jacket and what do we see glued to his right hip; a gun. A gun! Yes, you heard me right. The guy was flashing his gun and what an ugly sight it was.  He wasn’t rehearsing for the next episode of James bond because the Craig guy still has that role. If he was trying to convey some message he succeeded, though in ways he probably didn’t imagine. The barber shop was so quite the creepiest chapter of a Stephen King story wouldn’t have been scarier.

A few months back, someone was telling me about a 300-birr haircut. I don’t know how life is at such a place, and my exploratory genes aren’t going to kick-start anytime soon. “You should try it one of these days, just for fun!” Just for the fun! If I bleed three-hundred birr for a haircut fun is the last thing that would come to my mind. I am from Mars, they are from God knows where. End of story; the curtains are down.

“What’s so special about a three-hundred birr haircut?” Maybe, it’d boost one’s IQ.  Maybe one wouldn’t need a Hugo Boss suit to impress the womenfolk.

These days most of us are losing confidence in people we once thought hold their heads a few inches higher than us commoners. I mean they are supposed to clear all the jumble in our heads with authentic and refined information. You expect wisdom and what do you get? Boredom! Sheer boredom.

“What do you think about this North Korea thing?”

“What North Korea thing?”

“You know their leader is threatening to launch nukes against those he says are his enemies.”

“Don’t believe what you hear. The West is trying to smear his name. I think the Americans are behind the whole thing.”

“But he is threatening to nuke American cities!”

“I told you this is conspiracy. I think the Americans are telling him to say so.”

So, who fills the void, you might ask. I’ll tell you who fills the void. The barber! The good old barber fills the void.

Three cheers for the all-knowing barber!


Contributed by Ephrem Endale


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