I did a dangerous thing the other day and went for a haircut to a hairdressing salon after it opened for the first time after more than two months.
It was a bit disappointing as I was expecting a huge crowd, somewhat like the queues that form in front of a beverage shop after a long dry spell, or the first day of the opening of an Ikea or a Mama’s Samosas eatery in your city.
“It must be because of movie stars giving their sons a haircut during lockdown. The middle class may now be giving themselves upper lip and hair dye jobs at home. Salons could be another services sector that may go out of business,” I pondered.
I pressed the foot pedal and got two squirts of warm hand sanitiser in my palms. I sang, ‘Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to you,’ twice while rinsing my hands and grinned at the hairdresser, but she seemed impatient. “Come in, Come in,” she said quickly, as if she wished to shut the door against something lurking outside
“Hand sanitise, please,” said the hairdresser from inside the salon. I looked around and there it was, a plastic bottle hanging in mid-air.
Looking closely, I realised it was clever piece of engineering. The bottle was on a tiny shelf and there was a foot pedal down below at the end of the long contraption.
I pressed the foot pedal and got two squirts of warm hand sanitiser in my palms. I sang, ‘Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to you,’ twice while rinsing my hands and grinned at the hairdresser, but she seemed impatient. “Come in, Come in,” she said quickly, as if she wished to shut the door against something lurking outside.
As I was walking up the steps she pointed something in my face and I came to a dead halt with my other foot still hanging in the air. She said, ”34.5”. It was one of those non-touch thermometers that is shaped like a gun and has a laser that points at your forehead, like some Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
What would happen if my temperature was higher than normal, would the thermometer turn into a gun, and would I have to hastily run away from the salon, as the hairdresser slowly takes aim at me, I wondered.
Then I took out my phone from my pocket and checked on the converter app, as I am a Fahrenheit guy, and I remember when growing up, everyone periodically screaming, “OMG, he has 101.4 !”.
My temperature 34.5 Celsius, was below normal. “It must be because of my wife,” I thought. Summer has barely begun in Bengaluru and she has the air-conditioner at full blast and it seems like working in an ice-cold Dubai office, all over again.
She also does not believe that air-conditioners spread coronavirus inside our home with the circulating air, and my money plant and I have to suffer the Arctic wind blasting at us.
As I was going to plonk myself in the barber chair, without first sanitising it with the pocket spray my wife had given to me, looking very worried as I stepped out into the germ-laden world, the hairdresser said, “Sign this please.”
Then I saw the thick stack of Xerox copies at the receptionist table. The contents reiterated that it was I, and only of my own volition, that I had stepped into the hairdressing salon and that nobody had invited me here and I take responsibility for anything untoward happening.
It was like the paper they shove in your face as you are being wheeled on a trolley into surgery, that you take full responsibility for going in for an operation, and the doctor and the hospital, have nothing to do with it, so “Goodbye for Forever, or “Wishing you a quick recovery”.
Then the hairdresser disappeared into a room and appeared with a disposable face shield and a blue apron and gloves, and you only see this in movies when something terrible has happened, like a virus pandemic.
— Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi