Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Ears Are Burning

Istanbul, Turkey

A Turkish barber shop is a lot like other barber shops I've been in, but everybody speaks Turkish and there isn't one of those rotating blue, white, and red things out front like you see in the US (and elsewhere?). I only had to wait my turn for about five minutes before being ushered into a chair. I managed to work out a pretty good mime for "gimme a close cut and take all this stubble off my face" to get things going.

The first part of the operation passed without incident. Electric clippers do not leave too much room for improvisation. The shave was notable for the luxuriously extravagant amount of foam and the use of a straight razor. This was my first shave with a naked blade. It was a little unnerving. I just met this guy and already he had a knife at my throat. That kind of reaction is usually reserved for people that can understand what I am saying. I was not the least bit worried that the barber might slip. The bigger fear was that I might move unexpectedly and throw off his groove. It is hard staying absolutely still - especially when you are thinking about trying to stay absolutely still.

After the save, things started to get a little weird. Instead of a dusting of cologne about the head and neck, I received a thorough swabbing of some kind of alcohol onto my left ear. Before I could raise the alarm, the man set my ear on fire. The flame was alive for less than a second, and there was no pain, but you can not help but take notice when part of your body is burning. I was too stunned to resist a repeat of the procedure on my other ear. That done, the barber seemed to lose interest in setting me alight and went to work on my nose hairs with a small pair of scissors. He finished off with a thorough steaming of my face and neck with a handheld boiler.

I determined later that the ear ignition is an efficient means of removing hair on an irregular surface. It was by far the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in a barber shop, including the time I got a red mohawk in Brazil. Turkish barbers do good work, but be warned that they employ unconventional techniques.


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