The Barbershop

I just came back from a haircut at a barbershop I frequent. Today though, I was surprised by the addition of another barber — this used to be a one-man-show. This new barber was the one who attended to me.

Small-talk, like politics to a cab-driver, is an unspoken requirement to barbers; naturally, it he got the small-talk going almost immediately.

“You a secondary school student?” he asked, implying I looked like a 16-year-old; if I was a girl, I’d be flattered; being a guy who wished he looked more mature, it was had the opposite effect.

“No, I’m in Poly now,” I replied, though technically speaking I was a graduand, and had in fact, no more school.

“Oh, first year?” By this, he implied I looked like a 17-year-old who looked like I was 16.

On and on the small talk went, when he brought up the fact that he wasn’t supposed to be working today: his wife’s aunty, whom he and his wife were very close to, had passed away yesterday, and the funeral was today. It was a strange thing to bring up, especially in the middle of my haircut.

My lives, literal and social, were in his hands — his scissor and razor-wielding hands. He looked distracted for a while, then excused himself for something (I wasn’t sure what), then returned. Small-talk was not immediately commenced upon his return.

After a while of silence, he started talking about education, about how important it is. He talked about starting a business, and how you cannot trust anyone. As he was saying this, he took out his razor to shave my sideburns and clean up the haircut.

While fixing on a new blade to the razor (“we use used-blades for children as it’s less sharp, so if accidents occur, like if the child moves while shaving, it won’t be so bad”), he mentioned he had started a business before, with his now ex-best friend (“we cried together, can you believe it?”).

Just as he placed the blade on my temple, he told me never to trust anyone, not even your best friend (“I wish I had put it in black and white. But I trusted him, my best friend”) — all the while I was thinking: “Why now?!”

After a minute or so of shaving (it felt like an hour), he stopped and put the blade down, cleaned me up, and let me go.

Freedom never tasted this good.

Handphones Can Diminish Our Responsibility

I invited a friend to join me on an evening jog. I confirmed with him the time we were supposed to meet, and warned him that I would not be bringing my handphone — no last minute changes this time. He expressed surprise at my last statement, which I duly reciprocated.

“Who the heck goes out without a handphone?” he asks.

“Who the heck goes jogging with a bloody handphone? Don’t tell me you’re going to jog with a handphone?” I counter.

Come to think of it, going out without a handphone nowadays does seem strange. The handphone is like an extension of the body, the one that connects you with the rest of the world. Going out without a handphone is like going out without your house-keys, knowing full well you’ll need them when you return in the middle of the night.

Diminishing responsibility

I find that the handphone has dimished responsibility somewhat. No longer is one confirmed to be meeting you; last minute changes can easily be made as you can be reached anywhere, anytime.

I remember an incident when together with a friend, I waited for another friend to arrive. We had met to have lunch together. On that day, I had forgotten to bring my handphone. We waited, and waited, and waited. After half an hour, he was still nowhere to be seen.

We found out later he had sent me a text, saying he would be having lunch at home. Now, think about that. If I didn’t have a handphone, and he didn’t have a handphone, would that have happened? You might argue that he would have called me instead, on my house-phone perhaps. But note that the text was sent rather late; it was a last-minute decision.

His not calling me, but instead texting me also seemed to me a refusal of accepting responsibility. The text contained a question: “Would it be alright if I ate at home?”, which I didn’t, and couldn’t, reply to. He probably guessed I would have put up much more of a fight had he called.

Responsibility is diminished. Nowadays, you can afford to be late as a handphone allows you to inform the other party you’ll be late — after which you might still take your own sweet time, as you’ve already said you’d be late. Without a handphone, you’d rush to your destination as quickly as possible.

Somehow, as a handphone user, being late doesn’t seem as rude if you’ve told the other party you’ll be late. As if the magic “I’ll be 30 mins late” when the other party has reached makes it much better.