It Takes Two

If you want to get anything done in Shanghai you have to do it twice.  At least.  I went for my second chinese hair cut the other day and the guy who stepped up to the hair-strewn mantle was definitely not a certified barber.  I doubt anyone would let him cut the grass.  He snipped somewhat randomly at my general head area before stooping in front of me with the clippers so I couldn’t see the mirror.  I always hate this bit, all you can see is stacks of your own hair piling on to your lap and there’s no inkling of what they’re doing to your head until they step to the side for the big reveal.  This big reveal was quite a shock as I suddenly seemed to be facing a blonde Adolf Hitler.  The ‘barber’ grinned at me via the mirror, as if he was saying “Ta da!”  I told him via wild hand gestures that he needed to fix my head.  Twenty minutes later I walked out of there and straight to work, whereupon everyone laughed at me and started calling me “Box-head.”  Immediately after work two of my teaching assistants escorted me back to the scene of the crime and demanded in their own unique Shanghai style (screaming, pointing, mocking, swearing) that they sort my barnet out.  The poor barber then had the unenviable task of cleaning up his own mess while two seething women breathed down his neck, giving him detailed instructions of where to snip and what to clip.  Thirty minutes later I had an acceptable, and much shorter, hair cut.

I then went to buy glasses.  I’d lost my treasured NHS ones in Hong Kong due to a hole in my pocket, so I trooped along to Glasses City next to Shanghai Railway Station.  Glasses City is a four floor behemoth of a warehouse, filled with tiny stalls that only sell, you’ve guessed it, glasses.  Nobody in China seems to have made it to that class in business school where they teach the importance of a unique selling point.  If there is a niche in the market here, they cram the niche with so many identical shops that no-one makes a decent profit.  Especially with glasses it seems, as I got new frames, an eye test and new lenses for £35.  My chinese friend told me I was ripped off by about half though, so my bargain now became a fleecing.  (Insert joke about being robbed blind).  The fleecing became a pillaging however, when I started cruising round Shangers in my new specs.  I began to feel whoozy, like I was on a ship in a storm.  After a couple of hours I took the glasses off and found that I could hardly see.  The city had become a blur and I was swaying from one lamp post to the next, clutching my eyes like a Chilean miner in the sunshine.  I woke up today and my right eye felt like someone had rubbed gravel in it.  So, tomorrow I’ll be trooping back to Glasses City with my two teaching assistants, ready for the same performance but this time in an opticians, which should be a great laugh.


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