Assam Faiz: Shave or a Haircut?

27 Jun

This is a short story from a collection called “Stories from our Generation” that I picked up at an exhibition in the Townhouse in Cairo. This is one of the 21 stories. It is about taking a taxi with a bearded taxi driver. In Egypt wearing a beard is often seen as a strong religio-political statement (http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/72285/Egypt/Politics-/Egyptian-court-says-bearded-policemen-should-face-.aspx) but here the author has his prejudices confounded, at least a little bit.

Shave or a Haircut?

I’m naturally a quiet guy.

I’m usually very tired so I use the time that I’m in a taxi to sleep or read.

If I’m a little more awake I make phone calls or write.

That day had been exhausting, what’s more I had a terrible headache.

I had decided to get in the taxi and be quiet.

I stopped the first free taxi.

I got in and discovered that the driver was a young, bearded man.

I don’t have any problem riding with bearded men even though it usually requires a kind of energy and effort which I didn’t have that day.

Because, as far as my experience with them tells me, a large percentage of then always try to start a conversation in order to get into an argument, especially when they find out I am Christian. Even if I insist on being quiet and pretend to be busy or asleep.

They try to drag me into any kind of argument, so that they can convince me about something.

It doesn’t matter what the topic is as long as they win.

For a while I was taken in and I thought they really wanted to talk but soon I understood the game and didn’t give them the chance anymore.

Back to business: the young, bearded taxi-driver who I’m riding with now.

As quick as I could, I put the speaker of my mobile phone up to my ear, just so I could start listening to something before he started talking.

I was also trying to find out a little bit about the driver’s character though.

Five minutes went past and he was engrossed in driving and the road. I began to enjoy the calm and my headache began to subside.

Suddenly,

he began to talk: disaster!

Driver: Listen sir, can I ask you a question?

Me: Go ahead.

After a while – he was hesitating and I was waiting – he asked me the strangest, very unexpected question.

“What do you think about a haircut???”

At first I thought that when he saw my hair was shaved with a number zero razor he would use this topic to start a conversation

“Excuse me?”

He very simply replied

“I’m really thinking about getting a haircut because I don’t like how I look and I need someone to advise me and tell me what to do.”

I was even more surprised, especially because he was a bearded man and his appearance wasn’t supposed to be important and his hair was a crucial part of his appearance.

After my shock and surprised began to subside, I started to listen with more interest and found him telling me:

“I feel that I am a young guy and that my hair should fit my age”

I said to him,

“But you are bearded and I didn’t think how you look was supposed to make a difference to you”

He said to me: “That’s got nothing to do with this!”

Of course I was embarrassed after his reply but I tried not to show it. I began to think about it and advised him with what I knew, that cutting his hair might ruin his look and it was better as it was.

This made him very happy and he thanked me profusely and after that kept quiet.

It turned out he was being serious and didn’t want to get into an argument with me.

He just couldn’t to take a decision by himself even in such a personal matter.

And it turned out that I still judged people on their appearance and put them all in one mould.

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