I had this traumatic episode a while ago and I am still far from getting over it. Healing, as they say, is not linear, but I am trying everyday.
You see, when it comes to many things, I am cheap as hell and these are well known facts. I love to cut corners with prices and when I can, I prefer to procure things at the cheapest possible price. My aversion to expensive things is chronic.
Take haircuts for instance. On general principle, I only procure haircuts from 2 or 3 barbershops that charge no more than 70 shillings for their services. Any intended increment in prices in these outlets must be communicated in writing, preferably a year in advance.
If possible, the notice must be notarized by a notary public of good standing and should be in triplicate. One copy for me, another for the notary and one copy to be retained by the barber.
I have a particularly strong preference for one Kinyozi that charges a suspiciously pocket friendly 50 bob. The 50 shilling haircut is usually quite elusive because this particular barber has very strong feelings for beverages of the intoxicating variety. He keeps fleeing the Kinyozi after each paying customer to go and irrigate his constantly arid throat.
This, on top of the fact that regular alcohol poisoning doesn’t allow him to hold onto a phone for more than a few days, makes him a notoriously difficult man to find.
As the saying goes, ‘ethagwo na makinya ta nyamù ya gíthaka’. You track the ninja with his hooves like a wild animal.
In the course of writing this, it has just occured to me that I accrue alot of hidden charges in the form of fuel while pursuing his pocket friendly haircuts. This is primarily because I have to drive along his shop a few times over the course of a day or two until I find his wandering self there.
This is also a slippery slope because while you may find him there, you are not guaranteed to find him with sufficient motor functions to actually give a haircut that doesn’t require emergency medical attention immediately afterwards.
When I hear friends tell me of how good their 200 bob a cut barber is, I can’t relate with their extravagance. To be honest, I am appalled by the excesses of their consumerism. I also quietly question the source of their obviously vast wealth.
There are also a select few plutocrat fatcats I know, whose scalps are as delicate as their tastes, that get 500 bob haircuts.
500 kenya shillings for a haircut. A whole Jirongo. I have heard some go to the extent of claiming that they give a thousand, 500 for the services, and a further 500 as a ‘tip’. A whole elephant for a haircut in this economy. Of course I know they are all lies. The only way to explain this Hollywood standard, jetsetting grooming; is that they are at the heart of every major government Corruption scandal. Naturally.
So now, sometime last year, I was waiting for a client at one of those upscale Nairobi malls, and she was late. Very late. I had a lazy lunch at one of those upscale eateries even though I wasn’t hungry, to pass time. Client still was nowhere near.
I walked around the mall and passed by the same shops so many times that it started feeling a little suspicious. Even by my carefree and oblivious standards, I was beginning to look very much like an aspiring jihadist shopping for a perfect site for a little suicide bombing run.
When I started feeling like a would-be mujahideen, I decided to enter this high end looking spa and get a haircut. I had wanted a haircut anyways and I reasoned that a simple haircut couldn’t be more than 200 bob max even by their obviously upscale standards.
Though procuring such a prohibitively overpriced cut was highly out of character and felt immoral, I reasoned that it was far less unpleasant than having security called on my suspicious looking self.
I did not want to attract the inconvenience of having to convince law enforcement that jihad isn’t my cup of tea and that I find suicide bombings to be unnecessarily dramatic and a little too fatal. How do you tell polis that you feel that there must be less combustible ways to settle a dispute apart from jihad; it can’t be that serious.
So i decided to enter that elitist looking spa.
The moment I set foot on those premises everything escalated. As soon as I stated the purpose of my visit to a very smart looking receptionist, I was quickly whisked and placed on the most snuggly comfortable leather seat I had ever sat my village behind on.
Then a very well groomed Ninja in an immaculate white uniform top appeared and continued to strap on to himself a futuristic looking leather apron. The apron had numerous pockets filled with many shiny tools that looked like standard equipment for a triple bypass, open heart surgery.
I immediately became very aware of the fact that things look very likely to heighten and probably get out of hand. I was then clad in the finest barbershop apparel I had ever laid my eyes on and received a suspiciously long and very detailed cut. Many of the tools used were tools I was seeing for the first time in 30+ years of haircuts.
Then the first Ninja stepped aside. A separate and equally well equipped Ninja stepped in to put in place the finishing touches. My mental calculator started overheating and spewing errors at this juncture.
Hot on his heels, a lady in angel white gear and wearing way too much make-up, came and ushered me into an even comfier leather chair. It was located in front of some fancy plumbing and futuristic looking faucets. She delicately scoured, at length, my ashy head with numerous fancy looking oils and shampoos that I couldn’t recall anyone asking for. I think they must have been essential oils, whatever those are.
Then another lady in white swept in and settled me in another armchair in a different station. She proceeded to give me a detailed, machine assisted massage even in places where hair wasn’t cut.
I was becoming very unsettled by all this. This was against normal aftershave procedure at my local Kinyozi. Normal procedure was basically being doused in copius amounts of industrial strength methylated spirit and being sent home.
Of course you would get a once over with one of those fly whisk things to ward off the evil spirits because it cleans nothing.
By this point, my mental calculator had short-circuited and I decided that I would turn down any additional services on general principle. I genuinely felt that things had already escalated exponentially and gone badly out of hand.
This was all a big misunderstanding, all I asked for was a haircut not a full body transplant.
My impoverished self was playing in leagues far outside my own.
Though I wasn’t very fluent in upscale haircuts, I became quite uncomfortable. I reasoned that the tab for an hour long, four-man, four pit-stop job for a singular haircut wouldn’t have a sense of humor. I didn’t want to risk aggravating it any more.
I was very relieved when I was finally ushered in the direction of a cashier. I figured that even by their obviously high standards, that was a 400 bob cut at most.
Be that as it was, I didn’t want to risk the embarrassment of dishing out a Jirongo only to have more monies demanded from me so I dished out a 1000.
I patiently waited for change. The only thing I got was a rehearsed, “thank you very much sir” from the cashier.
I came very close to a serious cardiac episode. And a nervous breakdown too. I wanted to demand for change but I didn’t want to make a scene.
I also wanted to cry because in my neck of the woods, an elephant had five cold tuskers, pun intended.
A haircut couldn’t surely be a thousand bob. One thousand kenya shillings. 1000. I didn’t even know that numbers went that high.
I know that my regular barbers felt a disturbance in the force. So I walked away a very disillusioned man.
I felt like screaming to them, ‘death to capitalism!’ but it seemed pointless.
I contemplated procuring the services of practitioners of alternative medicine and occult sciences from Ukambani to settle my grievance. I remembered my Christian upbringing and I reluctantly elected not to.
That day still gives me night sweats and chills to date. Nikiikumbuka mimi huisha nguvu. There are wounds that even time cannot heal. I have some good days though.
My friend, don’t joke, there are Ninjas out here who don’t play. I know that you can’t put a price on happiness, but those Ninjas in that Kinyozi made a very good effort at putting a price on happiness.
I hope you who are reading this are not one of those elitists Ninjas that have lost touch with the plight of the common man and indulge in 200 bob haircuts when scissors will do.