Needing a haircut, I decided to take an hour or two away from the computer yesterday morning. We’re still new in the area, and I ventured into a barber shop I’d been to once before. My cutter this time was not who’d cut my hair previously, but I recalled he had been there trimming someone else the last time.
He seemed around my age. Initially he was soft-spoken and I detected “oddly” accented. Also appearing to be somewhat (in my book, as part that heritage myself) “Mediterranean,” I suspected he might not be from these shores.
That’s not uncommon in barber shops here. I’ve been to one in Bristol run by an Italian Briton who’d had a thing for – of course! – The Godfather films; the shop was covered in mobster film-lore. And Frank – of course! – Sinatra photos. And, wow, could he cut hair well too.
As we talked, quickly my cutter yesterday figured out I wasn’t a west of England “local” either.
“You are American?” he paused and gestured with a comb at me and smiled.
“Yes,” sitting in the chair, I smiled back. [Oh, here we go, I also thought to myself a bit defensively.]
“Ah, I’ve never been,” he shared. “But I have relatives in Chicago.”
I asked, “And you’re from?”
“Morocco.” He then quickly added with a satisfied, friendly grin, “When we’re in school, we are taught that Morocco was one of the first countries to recognize the United States.”
He went on about how he loves Britain, and asked me what I thought was different here compared to the U.S. I said there was no one way to describe the U.S. overall; that in some respects, because America’s so regional, that’s like saying “Europe is….” or “Africa is….” Finally I suggested (and I do believe) that people here appear more “tolerant” of each other, more respectful of neighbors, and there seems more “community” – probably all brought on by the close proximity in which they usually have to live to one another on “this small island.”
All while we were chatting, he was cutting my hair with the dexterity of an athlete. It was astonishing. He could have been an Olympian.
He’d been to London, he said; but he had never lived there. I said I’d lived there for over five years, and that it reminds me a lot of New York City: everyone you bump into seems to be from somewhere else. Sometimes from VERY FAR away…. somewhere elses.
He said he was also amazed at the number of people he’d met here in Wiltshire who had never lived anywhere but here within miles of where they were born. And he has run into quite a few who had never even been to London. He added he still can’t get over that when he meets customers who tell him that.
“There’s not a lot of work there [in Morocco],” he went on, “so if you get a chance you move somewhere to work. 55,000 Arabs a year move to America,” he laughed. [I’m not sure about that number, but didn’t question it. I’m just relating some of his barber shop chatter.]
“People move for work or family usually,” I replied. “If you don’t have to, you may never.”
There we were: an American who has never been to Morocco, and a Moroccan who has never been to America, jabbering about both, and England, in England.
Once again, just in case you were still unsure of where a novelist may get story material. 😉
Happy Friday! 🙂