Masha had a mean set of bangs – bi-colored and hanging around her left ear, but high and tight on the other side. She was wearing a black Mickey Mouse t-shirt with pudgy little middle fingers instead of eyes. On account of her roly-poly dimensions, Mickey seemed even more intent on insulting. The desk in front of the mirror was a mess of dust, hair, and bottles of ‘Blade Lube.’
I stumbled through her question about what I want by saying, “I don’t speak Russian well, especially about hair.” You’d think I’d have mastered this gambit by now, but I enjoy the dissociation from my own vanity. It’s liberating.
That’s when they ask if I want the clippers. I say something in Russian, probably equivalent to, “Me no like do by thing them.” As a rule, I don’t like clippers, but when they see my mop-top, they probably consider doing anything otherwise would be like harvesting a field of wheat with garden shears. She giggled a bit to acknowledge mild misunderstanding and took to her task.
It was a silent procedure. I sat there analyzing her use of the clippers (occasionally dragging them across the comb without any hair to cut, probably neither right- nor left-handed) and wondering if this request for a ‘trim’ was a good idea. With classes starting on Monday, I needed to dull my ‘professionally dishevelled’ summer look. Would this be enough?
Trying to avoid eye contact or over-analysis, I noticed a broad-leafed, palmy plant near the door. It was about 10ft tall and dusty as hell. I wondered if it had been around since the business started – some sort of barometer of success or longevity? – or was it brought in as organic ambiance to offset the tatty blue linoleum and glitzy style product posters.
In-between cursing her ‘all thumbs’ coordination, she was probably thinking, who is this scruffy idiot coming into my hair studio on a Saturday, mid-afternoon, to ask for a ‘trim’ without clippers? Ass.
Without much fanfare, Masha was done. She unbuttoned the black hair cape and looked at me. “That’s all?” I said in Russian, checking the fade and attempting to verify if it was anything like I expected. She said, “normalno?“, the Russian equivalent to “It’s alright?” I checked the back and saw no areas for complaint (the truth is only told after a shower, anyway), so was herded to the front desk.
Standing next to the cashier woman, Masha said something about the cut being a trim and they only charged me 400 rubles. Surprised at her honesty, I gave her a 100 ruble tip, even though I’d probably never come back.
Across the street, I noticed a sign that said, Инструменты. Curious, I discovered the closest version of a ‘hardware store’ I’d ever seen in Moscow. I’d been to open markets with booths or large department store affairs, but this was a real hardware store with screws and nails of all sizes, hammers of decent quality, plumbing kit, knives and blades for woodworking, soaps, lightbulbs, buckets, batteries, the lot. They even sold strips of wood! Not yet a 2×4, but close.
I took about three laps around the place (enough to makes the clerks suspicious of me) just ogling at the tools, thinking about what I could build, what I could fix, and reminiscing the days at ‘Irv’s Hardware,’ mixing paint for housewives, carrying bags of fertilizer and mulch, shooting the shit with the locals, trying to stay out of the pesticide aisle, listening to Kool 105.1 FM ad nauseum…
The clerk got shouty when I picked up a pine shelf and put it on the floor, attempting to test if it was level or not. A conversant customer jumped in and said it was for hanging, not for standing. He smiled, had some jovial chit chat with the clerk and went on his way. In a city of people that sometimes go out of their way to be unhelpful, this was a special person.
With enough to fix and break on my bikes, I settled for a new comb to keep the coiffure in order, and a mental checklist of other things I would buy in due course.