October 25, 2019
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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
Time was when every little town had a barber, and that barber was busy ten hours a day, six days a week. For 75 cents one could get a haircut and catch up on the local news and tall tales. The day of 75 cent haircuts is long gone; barbers today, if you can find one, charge 20 dollars. The conversation is still good, though. If you can find a barber.
Two days ago I went looking for a barber in my old home town. This town is actually a city of 35,000 people. It’s two and a half hours from where I now live, so I don’t get there often. I went looking for the barber that I have known for 50 years. He’s not there any more. After a little mental calculation, I realized he was in his nineties the last time he cut my hair, about a year ago. I guess it was time for him to retire.
I found out there are two barber shops left in that city, with two elderly barbers who will also probably retire soon. That will leave the young lady who cut my hair on Wednesday. At least she is young from the perspective of my 77 years: she says she has been cutting hair for 19 years. It looks like the whole future of barber shops in that city is in her hands.
Closer to home, in a city ten times the size, I have been frequenting the same barber shop for twenty years. That barber shop used to have three chairs, three barbers. Now it is down to one chair in the front corner of a hair dressing salon. He still charges barber rates, not hair salon rates.
It seems the younger generation prefers the hair salons, where they pay twice as much for a haircut that doesn’t look any different than a haircut by a barber. I guess they consider the barber shop too lowly a place.
I’m thankful that there are still a few old-time barber shops left where an old geezer can go to get his hair trimmed, as much as he has left, and have a good chat to boot.
October 8, 2016
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Listen carefully when Canadians talk about the weather and you will discover there is a protocol that we all follow. For instance, here where I live, we just had an early snowstorm. When we get together with neighbours, the first thing one does is to complain about the weather: “It’s not fit for man nor beast out there;” “Quel temps de chien!”
The proper response is to agree how bad it is and give an example, perhaps how they barely made it to town in the deep snow on the road. Everybody takes his or her turn, adding details of how awful the weather is.
Then, somebody will say “Do you remember the blizzard of ‘98? Now that was a storm!” Then we all start to talk about how we’ve experienced weather that was a lot worse than what we have today.
Do you see what’s happening? We love to complain about how hard we have it living in this harsh climate, but then we flip it around and boast about how tough we are and we can handle it. The same protocol is followed when talking about mosquitos or grasshoppers in summer, or any other event in our immediate environment.
If you are a newcomer to Canada, listen until you get a feel for the drift of conversation, chip in with a personal experience if you wish. Be careful, though! This is not the time to tell us about floods, earthquakes and hurricanes in your home country. It’s not that we don’t care, but the flow of conversation will just wash over such thoughts as if they hadn’t been uttered.
Let us enjoy our little pity party / boasting session. It’s part of who we are. If you can learn to just go with the flow, nod at the right moments and add a word or two when appropriate, we’ll begin to feel like you’re one of us. Eventually, someone will ask you what things were like where you came from. Then you will have our full attention.