We're visiting my wife's family today to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival. But first, my son and his friend need a haircut.
We go into a salon by the subway station, where we're greeted with a hearty, “Huanying guanglin!” My wife makes the arrangements, and then it's upstairs with the boys for the treatment.
The salon is busy as a beehive, and just as noisy. There are easily a dozen customers, both males and females, and twice as many staff members moving about. There's also a clear division of labor—the women prepare the customers, but only the men cut hair.
Each of the boys is seated at a station. The hair washers lather them up and then lead them to the sinks in the back for a rinse.
While their hair dries, they get a twenty-minute massage—scalp, neck, back and arms. From the looks on the boys' faces, it must be a near-nirvana experience. I'm jealous. I wish I had hair.
Their hair dry and their muscles relaxed, the boys move on to the next station. Young men with bold hairstyles approach, comb and scissors in hand, to sculpt their clients' hair. Comb, snip. Comb, snip.
After every lock is perfectly trimmed, the boys get a second hair rinsing and then a blow dry. The stylists release their charges, and we go back downstairs to pay. Twenty RMB, or about three American dollars.
We walk across the square to my father-in-law's apartment.
“Nice haircut,” he says when he greets the boys. “How much did it cost?”
“Twenty kuai,” my son replies.
“Too much,” the old man grunts. He knows where to get the same service for ten.