Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Zen and the Art of Having Your Hair Cut

"Please wait for a while. I almost finish." The old man said as I entered that little barbershop, chosen with no particular reason except that I felt annoyed that my hair growing too long and that I just happened to pass the place.

So I sat and watched as the barber deftly shaved his customer's sideburns in one quick movement with his straight razor.

"Okay, that will be $10. Thank you."

"Okay, you next."

"Okay, so how you like your hair cut?"

(A brief instruction of cutting very short here and there was given.)

"Not a busy day today, huh?" I made a wonderfully stupid remark highlighting the most obvious thing of the barbershop having no other customers except me.

"Monday always like this." He answered while his fingers did not stop playing with a comb & clipper blades.

"Just finish work?"

"Yeah." Not in the mood of being asked more about work (after work hours, I didn't even want to think about it. No, thank you), I attempted to steer back the conversation.

"Mondays are always this quiet? So that's why only 1 barber ya?" another stupid remark.

The old barber was polite enough to ignore my point.

Some silent moment as I was too embarrassed to talk. I chose to divert my attention to the radio program. It's Warna 94.2FM & there was a talk about a family matter. Basically about managing expectation between the newly married. For example: the husband should not expect that his wife can cook like his mother. And some clich├ęs about how a marriage is like a ship sailing across the ocean. Expect a few storms occasionally. Be prepared. Address the problems together; don't expect them to resolve by themselves.

It was a grim, but a solemn talk.

"You married?" the old man suddenly cut short my concentration.

"..." (still trying to hear the radio talk.)

"Trust me, young man. Not easy to share your life with someone else."

Was he making a general remark about that? Or was he discerning & able to notice my anti-social tendency?

"..." (I nodded expressing "Go on. I'm willing to hear more. However, don't expect any argument from me. At least, not till you finish cutting my hair.)

"Somemore, very expensive. High cost of living." he replaced a razor blade with a new one, getting ready to shave me.

"Imagine. This little place cost me $3,850 per month. Not including electricity." he sounded upset & tired.

"But I am happy. Make a honest living. And in the end of the day, can go home and see my family."

(My mind wondered about those 167 foreign workers who were locked out by the landlord till very late at night)

"Yes. Tough living, but glad my family support me." he added. At this point, he had finished shaving me. Using his scissor, he then continued with a little trimming.

"I don't have to work, you see. Yet if no work, what I do at home?"

(If I don't have to work & for some reason, I'm constrained at home, I'll use that time for reading, reading and more reading. When was the last time I did a book review, by the way? Currently, very slow progress with Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

"Okay, that will be $10. Thank you." the old man smiled.

I left the place with still a lingering question. Why didn't the barber prefer staying at home spending the time with his family?

The more, the better. Isn't it?

Nah. Perhaps not. Perhaps, it's the quality time that matters & not how long it is. The whole day seeing your family & bickering with them is, without doubt, pointless compared to merely seeing your loved ones in the end of the day & spend loving time together. No matter how short it is.

PS. The title is inspired by "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig.

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