People Who Don’t Give a Shit

On Friday I went for a haircut. About 98% of my Prague haircuts have taken place at this location. Though it’s just a dinky little place in the metro station, it’s cheap and good. The hairdresser always speaks to me in Czech, but slowly, and she deals patiently with my backwards Yoda-like syntax and my pronunciation assaults on her language. Unbelievably, she remembers right where we left off with our last conversation.

Still, aside from all of these very positive things, they ensured my everlasting loyalty a few years ago during a heatwave in Prague. As I am in possession of a system that overheats as fast as a cheap computer, heatwaves are miserable for me. When I went to get my haircut, the hairdresser not only didn’t complain about how much I was sweating, but also used the cold setting on their hairdryer to cool me down. When she offered and gave me a free cold head bath I decided that this place was always going to have me as a patron and that this person was going into my will. She would have been enraptured by this had I been able to explain that in Czech, along with the importance of a Steve Carlton rookie card.

There was one man waiting when I arrived this Friday. He was large and had a great big mop of gray hair. He looked a bit nuts and he stared at me angrily, and offered an incongruously pleasant “Dobry den.” I responded and sat down with my book. My hairdresser swept up the previous client’s remaining protein filaments and this dude sat.

The Hippocratic Oath requires doctors to always pursue health and, I gather, adopt an illegible scrawl. Politicians, ambassadors, and presidents take an oath before taking office. Though I am pretty sure that the whole part about upholding the constitution blew right over the eight-second attention span of the Pol Pot wannabe who currently naps in the Oval Office, but still, there’s an oath. Even we English teachers take an oath before we are allowed to wield verbs and nouns to the general public. I’d tell you, but it’s secret and the grammar is too confusing, and, ironically, there’s a typo in it.

I have no idea what kind of a credo barbers have to take before being allowed to cut another person’s hair, but it’s clear they have one. I’m guessing the oath involves always having a jar of blue sanitation water on hand, as well as a stack of magazines from the 1980s. It must outline having to follow a strict line of ethics, disallowing the barber from taking out personal revenge on a person’s head. Now I know that you are remembering a hideous haircut, perhaps a woman with spiked cobalt blue highlights and you’re wondering “Wait. If there’s an oath, that means this person requested that on purpose?”

The answer is yes. Let it sink in. OK, let’s go on.

So if people aren’t tricked into bad haircuts by evil hairdressers getting back at them for a crime against her family, then that must mean that part of the barbers and hairdressers oath involves following the customer’s request to the letter and not to implicate judgment or their own will, but just to give the person the haircut they want.

It was clear this fine Friday afternoon that my favorite hairdresser had not only taken such an oath, but was struggling to find the strength within herself to follow its hallowed code. They had a brief discussion that mostly went over my head, but I could see that she was trying to understand exactly what it was that he wanted. She asked questions and then began working.

I got lost for a little while in the world of Neil Gaiman and before I knew it, the man was done. I looked up. The top of the man’s head was completely shaved, and the rest of it was completely untouched. This left him with a thick mop of a horseshoe running the track of his head around a shaved scalp. She asked him some questions, all of which he answered with affirmatives. She pulled off the smock, told him how much, he paid, said thank you, picked up his jacket, wished us both a merry Christmas with quiet words and the glare of a maniac, and then left. He had elected to have nothing but the top part of his head completely shaved.

The hairdresser swept up the man’s scalp hair and I sat. We did not speak about him, the hairdresser obviously following her oath’s requirements about client hairdresser confidentiality. Still, I could not stop thinking about him. First of all, I wondered why he would pay for someone to shave the top of his head. Why not just shave it at home? But this was soon put on the back burner to wonder obsessively why the man would want that haircut at all. Was he in a Christmas play in which he played a monk or a western in which he played a scalping victim? Before my face exploded in confused I just left it at the possibility that he didn’t give a shit.

While I was amazed, I found another emotion creep in. It was jealousy. It was his head and he was going to get his hair cut the way he wanted. Screw other people. By the time she was pulling the smock off of me and I was handing her cash, I almost felt ashamed that I had gotten a simple trim and an ear shave. I left.

As I stood at the tram stop, I was in awe of this guy. He just didn’t give a shit what others thought. We use that term all the time “I don’t give a shit” and yet most of us really, really do. We dress nicely and do our makeup. We act the way we’re supposed to in public, so as not to draw attention, judgment, or unpleasant scrutiny. I can’t say I don’t sometimes narrow my eyes and take notice when I see a morning tram drinker or a guy in Daisy Duke cut off jeans walking into the opera, but I’m also usually a bit impressed and a bit envious.

A young woman at the tram stop was eating ice cream straight from the container. She was digging a spoon into 900 milliliters of Carte D’or Praline and gave zero shits what those around her were thinking about it. We made eye contact and I nodded in a comradely kind of manner that said, “Yes we can.” She didn’t give a shit about my approval either, but gave me a smirk and then went back to work.

I think next time I get my haircut I’m going to leave out the ear shave. Rebel.

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