Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Thai Barber

I like this guy. The first time that I visited his shop, almost five years ago, I may have been the first Farang ever to clear the door. I said hello and sat down, I was number four or five for a haircut, the joint was jumping. I was brand new in Thailand and I could hardly introduce myself, maybe say a couple of things in terrible sounding Thai. Everyone was interested though, and I explained my presence to the other customers as well as I could.

Cut my hair? I could say, “I want a hair cut,” but that was it. That simple statement is always met with many questions. I assume that they’re asking me how I want it cut, so I usually say, in Thai, “whatever,” which was all I could muster at the time. Now I sometimes say, “make me handsome.” He gave me a generic haircut. It was fine, I don’t care about haircuts, hair grows back, it doesn’t matter.

“How much?” I asked, “taowerai?” He started to say forty, “see . . ,” but changed to twenty, “yee-sip-Baht,” the usual price. He was going to charge me double, but he’d heard me talk to the other patrons and knew that I lived around the corner and realized that I would be back and would know that I had been charged “Farang price.” I gave him thirty Baht, as I always did thereafter, and he always got an expression like, Farang are crazy, paying too much like it was fun.

Every time that I have seen him prior to this trip he was dressed very conservatively, as a young man, casually but very conservatively, and his hair was a very conventional young man’s hair cut. This trip, and it’s been six months since I’ve seen him, he had blossomed. You can see his hair, now flowing and waved and frosted, and I can tell you that his blouse was fancy and lace trimmed. I’m happy for him. I could see that he was gay from the beginning; maybe he was shy, or thought that it would be bad for business. This time he seemed more comfortable with himself.

My Thai has improved, and on this occasion we could have quite a nice little conversation. I think we were both very happy to see each other, and happy that we could have more of a conversation. I gave him forty Baht this time and barely resisted giving him a hug. He made the same look, like Farang are crazy, throwing money away.

I asked him if I could take a picture, and he was delighted. He even took off his surgical mask.

I like BKK, but I love my little Northern town. It’s nice to be known by so many people and to be greeted warmly in so many shops.

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