Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Barbershop Chiste and Cuento

Over the years barbershops have provided a space for conversation. Where you can chat it up with your barber about local chisme or a place where at least the barbers know your name. I'm not the most conversant person, but whether here or in the Midwest I enjoyed sitting waiting my turn to get my haircut, while the barbers eithber joked with eachother or told stories to the customer they were giving a trasquilada to. Barbershops can be like the bar you frequent where the bartender remembers you whenever you come in, except they won't yell out "Norm!". I can't really complain about any of the barbers I've interacted with. Although I'm sure some might complain about their clients if they feel they didn't get a fair tip. 

I haven't had a steady barbershop in some time. Recently I started going to a local shop, and I was reminded that barbers have some great stories and jokes. When I first walked in to the shop, the barber, was working on an older man, just shooting the breeze. I sat down as the barber began to tell him a joke. The joke went along the the lines of, "There was this apartment building. And one day the devil is walking by and he decides he's going to set on fire. So he does. The building is burning up and there's people running out, and people dying in the fire. But there's one woman who is just sitting there. The devil looks and at her, like, 'What the hell.' So he walks up to this woman and he tells her, 'hey, can't you see the buidling is on fire? Aren't you afraid of being burned to death? Why don't you try to run out?' The woman looks at him, and says,'No I'm not afraid of burning to death. Do you want to know why?' The devil looks at her, and asks,'Why?' She replies, 'because I'm married to your brother.'"

Personally I had never heard that joke, so I thought it was great.

Not  long after, the barber had finished cutting the man's hair. It was my turn to sit in the chair. As I sat down another man walked in to get his haircut as well. He and the barber clearly knew eachother, and started chatting. Apparently the man, was currently on worker's comp due to an injury he had suffered at work. The injury was bad enough that the man is unable to do any of the physical work the man had done before, He is now talking with a lawyer, becuase he's afraid about being fired, since it sounded like he had mainly done hard labor most of his life. Anyhow the barber began to give his own account of an incident in which he suffered a workplace injury (before becoming a barber) and sought out compensation since he would no longer able to do the work he  had done for ~20 years. 

The barber talked about having to haggle with the company lawyer about a settlement. The company lawyer apparently offered him $5000.00 and said, "Five thousand dollars is a lot of money. With all that money you can go back to Mexico, buy yourself a taco stand and you can be set for life, because you'll have your own business." 

The barber, musta had the same perplexed look the devil had when the woman sat there as the building burned. 

The barber's response to the lawyer: "Sounds good. But I tell you what, I'll take the  deal only if you come with me to Mexico." 

The lawyer asked him why.

The barber told him, that if he thinks he can live off five thousand dollars, then he should be able to do the same if he thought it was such a great deal. The barber then told him he was a fucken asshole. Although as it turns out the barber is Salvadoran (alos possibly a U.S. citizen) and seemed a bit offended about being grouped as a certain type of Latino, just because he is brown. He said the lawyer was clearly upset about being called an asshole and kicked him out of the office. Things ended up working for the barber, he got a settlement and was able to get trained as a barber.

By this point the barber was finishing up my haircut. So I didn't get to hear any other stories or jokes. But a couple of things came to mind, like the oral tradition of passing down jokes, but even these things relating to racial or social issues. Encounters with the ignorant masses.

In my hometown my old barbers had seen military action in Vietnam and Korea. They recounted bits of this to me. Other times it was baudy jokes. Either way barbershops have been great places for cuentos and chistes.