I know, I know - I have got to stop comparing everything at home to the way things were in Italy. The reality is it makes things at home appear to be lacking. I am sure if I were living in Italy and dealing with bureaucracy and the many things which don't work as they should I'd be wishing I were back home in Canada where things generally work as they should.
Today I went and got a hair cut and while I was sitting there hating every second I couldn't help but think about the last hair cut I had gotten while I was in Italy.
There were two barbers in our neighbourhood. I used to wander from one to the other looking for a time when there wasn't a crowd of Italians inside waiting (unusual in itself since Italians generally don't wait their turn for anything, prefering to just shove into a crowd as is their due apparently). I figured if I was going to look like an idiot while trying to communicate what I wanted done the fewer people in the audience the better!
Finally one morning the barber closest to the apartment had just opened (it was 7:05 AM) and there was no one inside but the barber himself. I opened the door and went in expecting far more of an adventure than I was to experience.
We smiled. We mimed. He said something in Italian. I replied 'si si si', I had no idea what I had agreed to but all went well.
The shop was tiny - two chairs and a back room that looked as if it were for washing and setting. The walls were decorated with pictures of Italian soccer heroes.
I sat down in the chair and he whipped out a large sheet that covered me from neck to toe.
I showed him how much I wanted cut off and he started to work. He used scissors for everything . . . his hands whirled and reminded me of Edward Scissorhands.
He was quick and accurate. When he finished he looked carefully and started trimming individual hairs that were longer than the others.
Once he was satisfied that everything was as it should be he pulled out a straight razor. This was something new - I'd never been on the receiving end of one of these. All I could think was 'don't move Jerry or you'll be a gonner!'
He trimmed and shaved with accurate precision.
After the razor was put away he pulled out a fluffy towel that had been steaming and placed it over my face. It must have had something on it other than just water because afterwards my skin felt amazing!
Another fluffy towel dried me off.
Then he pulled out one of those giant brushes - like a shaving cream brush (who remembers those?) only much bigger. He sprinkled powder on it and proceeded to brush my face and neck all over.
Finally he took out a hair brush and carefully brushed my hair the way he thought it should go. Since I have very little hair this procedure took a nanosecond.
Clapping his hands he said 'finitto!' The sheet was carefully lifted off so as to not cover me with hair bits and I was done.
This process took about 15 minutes and the tally was about $ 14.
Today I couldn't wait any longer. My hair was getting scruffy and I needed to have it looked after. I went to my usual spot back home. There was no line so I was promptly shown to a chair and shoved back into it.
The sheet didn't cover much.
She pulled out the electric clippers and proceeded to run them over my head as if I were a big ol' sheep.
She was done in 5 minutes.
When she pulled out the mirror I could see that the back was uneven. I asked her to make it more even. She rolled her eyes and trimmed a hair or three.
In her mind I was done.
I was wishing I was back in that barbershop on Via del Governo Vecchio in Rome!
She pulled out an old towel that had clearly been washed too many times and mashed it in my face in an attempt to brush off stray bits of hair.
When she whisked off the sheet half of the hair fell on my pants.
It was then that I decided to not tip her!
Even without a tip the hair cut came to $ 18 and it wasn't anywhere near as good as the one in Rome.
In my mind it was clear that she didn't care about the cut she was giving. I was another number and hopefully a tip to augment her salary. The guy in Rome clearly took pride in his job and wanted to make me look as good as he could since plastic surgery wasn't happening at that point in time. He was neat and precise. He cared.
Apparently I need to jet back to Rome every three weeks or so so that I can become a regular there.