As many of you know, I have been rocking a buzz cut since I graduated college and in that tradition, it was time to get my hairs cut as the last such incident happened before Brian and Kari's wedding. Anyhow, I was far from shaggy, but having just been paid, it was time for the buzz.
I have never had a problem getting a buzz cut no matter where I have travelled. The "barber shop social script," as I like to refer to it, is a well worn path, especially when all one needs to do is point to the clippers and raise two fingers in reference to the length at which I want my hair cut.
I explained this plan to my coteacher, to which he responded its impossibility. But why? Because everything in Korea is different of course! After his brief explanation, he took out a post-it and wrote instructions for style and length that I would give to the barber upon arrival. The barber spoke little to no English and, after delivering the post-it, the inevitable charades began confirming the instructions.
The barber pulled out the 90mm, battery-operated clippers from a drawer and began buzzing my head in patches. My hair was looking something awful; by the time the battery-powered clippers gave up the ghost (I think it was having culture shock with hair thicker than what it has been used to), I had a luxurious reverse mullet.
"Oh my God!," I thought, "I'm going to have to find some hair clippers quick style before school tomorrow."
I wish I knew I was in the hands of an artist, but up to this point, how could I have known? He pulled out a comb and scissors and, Edward Scissorhands style, his tools of the trade started flying around my noggin and all I felt was the breath of his hands maneuvering in perfect orbit. It reminded me of that scene in the live-action Ninja Turtles movie where the foot clan is training and they throw a smoke bomb to the floor, having to grab all the bells from a mannequin without making a sound before the smoke dissipates. After the cut, we went over to a sink, I lowered my head over a bucket in the sink and he began vigorously applying and massaging mentholated shampoo and conditioner into my scalp and hair. Needless to say, this felt amazing!
Now I was thinking by this point that I have been spoiled by Filipino haircuts. Filipinos clean up edges of a buzz cut with a straight razor; not only does this feel amazing but it looks pretty darn sharp as well. And the moment of truth...
At first he put a pillow behind my head, flipped a lever and the back of my chair flew backwards. He dipped a towel in a rice cooker heating water and put it across my face. As the towel warmed my skin, I heard the clinking of wood on ceramic. Could it be true? Is he really...?
Yes! He pealed the towel from my face and began applying a rich lather around my face and forehead (to get the edges of the hairline) with a soft brush. He sat and began the shave with straight razor, the second time I have ever had such a treatment. After he shaved my face to the point where it felt like a beach ball covered in KY, he began shaving my ears and between my eyebrows. I swear he shaved every invisible hair on my head. But that's not all. After fixing up a few spots, he took very small scissors and began trimming my nose hairs! This was a first!
By the end of the process, during which not a word was spoken, I had the dumbest smile on my face, high on endorphins and ready to shell out the equivalent of $50 for this most exhilarating of treatments. As is common here in a goods and service exchange between a foreigner and a Korean, I handed him my cell phone to dial out the total of the bill as my Korean numbers skills aren't what they should be. And the total? Seven dollars.
I walked all the way home with the biggest, dumbest smile on my face.