Russian Barber

This morning my barber Ray, who’s from Russia, explained why he wasn’t so concerned about the protested parliamentary elections in Moscow. “Putin’s been doing this for 8 years. He knows how it works and since he’s been Prime Minister, things have been good for Russians. How many people did they say were protesting? 50,000? Out of how many people that live in Russia? You’re always going to have unhappy people.”

I pressed him a little bit: “People were upset because they thought the elections were rigged.” He answered that “all elections are rigged. I feel like every country, they know who they want to win. They just have elections to make the people feel like they have some voice. Even in America maybe. Putin’s a KGB guy. He knows how to fight the terrorists and keep the country safe.”

Ray is convincing in that friendly way of barbers, where every utterance, no matter the topic, carries the same non-chalant, self-assured tone. Where any position, as long as it sounds good or funny, is just agreed upon. And so I shook my head in agreement at his reasoning about Russia. After all, he’s been my barber for 5 years now and it wasn’t worth arguing – if there even was an argument to made. Because maybe all elections are rigged. Politicians like Putin may not be any more or less corrupt and power-hungry than those trying to challenge him. Of Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire industrialist and owner of the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets basketball team and who this week announced he would run against Putin for president, Ray dismissively said, “he just wants to be in the history books.”

Ray holding court at his chair could probably cut my hair blindfolded. He is a virtuoso of his work and an expert of everything uttered while he performs it. At the end of every session Ray takes out his mirror to show me the back of my head and with exaggerated pride exclaims, “see, nice and clean. Now you can put yourself in your museum. Just stand there and everybody will look at you.”

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