Mohammed the Lebanese Barber
Mohammed of the Laila Unisex Salon in Victoria Island – Lagos, can only be best described as a beast. He must weigh in at +100kgs and has hands that look like they were used for grinding rocks. Having walked in and (surprisingly) negotiated a price for a haircut, a sudden realisation came over me that this may not have been a good idea, yet there was no turning back.
It was as he shouted to his staff, referring to them all as useless human beings, that I started to think that this may not have been one of my greatest decisions here in Lagos. I had actually already arranged for the ‘local barber’ to come by my apartment tonight, but his problem is that he has only ever cut a white person’s hair once before – and that was mine some weeks ago, and what an episode that was. Previously when he cut my hair, he could not understand that he had to use the hair clippers AGAINST the direction of my hair. With all of his other customers, he can use the clippers in any direction he chooses. I realised only after making the arrangements for the local barber that I would not actually be home in time that evening, so I opted to go to Mohammed.
I tried to be all cool when he asked me what I want. Trying to pass on the impression that I was a seasoned pro, I suggested that we go with a nice number 4 on the top and smoothed into a 3 on the back and sides. What I had not realised was that Mohammed only asked this question out of some sort of force of habit, something you do without realising or expecting any reaction. I am quite sure that he did not even know that the words he growled at me actually formed a question, and that a question is typically proceeded with an answer.
No sooner had I finished with my simple style requirements, Mohammed had chiseled off a sizeable chunk of whatever hair I actually have left on the top of my head, using the number 2 blade. He had attacked my head like a gardner taking on the unsightly thorn bush that had overgrown at the bottom of the garden – which had now become a danger to humans and wildlife. No mercy. Had he started his onslaught from the side, we could have worked together and salvaged something. But because I had just been given an inverted mohican, any possible negotiations about potential alternative styles were rendered futile – like the kind of joke you play on a drunken mate when he passes out. You only trim of enough noticeable hair to force him into doing the rest himself. Just shave that little bit on top to the wood and he would have to humiliatingly, and the best part – consciously, shave the rest off himself. I had to just look on, sit there and take the fleecing.
Now I am not a sap. I did actually think about standing up to Mohammed. But how? This man looked like he had killed before and that it would not be too long before he did so again. I had contemplated asking for an address to where I could write a complaint letter to the manager. But I scrapped that idea. Mohammed looked like he would just eat the letter and possibly also the writing instrument it was written with. It also looked to me like he was enjoying himself too much. Like a kid burning ants with a magnifying glass.
I reasoned that whatever hair I do have will perhaps grow back – unlike my head if it were to be trimmed from my neck. And anyway, it is not like I am setting the styles and trends here in Lagos, so I sat back and adopted a sunshine policy throughout the whole duration of this brute grinding his clippers further and further to the bone.
Eventually, it seemed like he became bored. After tossing the clippers to one side, he walked away saying nothing and left one of his poor staff members to try and piece together whatever shape I had had, prior to walking in. I nervously placed the previously agreed amount of money on the desk in front of him, hoping that this agreement still held. It had to. I had no other money on me… But I could see that what had just happened was not done out of the pleasure or necessity of being remunerated for services rendered… It was done out of a neanderthalic need or primordial desire to remove hair from peoples’ heads. I am just glad that he decided to use the clippers. And electricity.
He then handed me FOUR business cards as if it were some sort of exchange for my money and I went on my merry way feeling cold and exposed to the elements. I would highly recommended Mohammed’s services to all people who should not have hair in the first place – Gingers and Combovers. Or people who I don’t like very much…