That Stranger You’ll Never Forget

While in the midst of a pleasant stroll home from the downtown coffee shop, my mind wandered into nostalgic territory. Lovely memories of strangers I’ve encountered brought a smile to my face. There have been dozens of anonymous people who made memorable impacts on me. There are several with whom names were exchanged, but those names slip my mind now. These people did not perform heroic miracles nor offend me in any way. They were just folks going about day to day activities.

The act of walking home brought to mind a short encounter in Canada with a family at Vancouver’s Stanley Park. I had been taking in the waterfront scenery when a young couple invited me to indulge in ripe blackberries that were growing on some trailside trees. The couple’s children were laughing at each others’ purpled faces. Someone urged me to indulge, too. So I did. The berries were scrumptious. I ended up staining my fingers and lips but that didn’t matter. That’s all I remember about the interaction with that happy family.

One other person who comes to mind is a barber who set up a humble business in one of the slums at Panvel, India near Mumbai. I had been touring the city with my host Girish when I mentioned that my beard was longer than I prefer and frizzy from the humidity, too. Girish remarked that there are many barbers in Panvel who would be glad to trim my beard.

Girish pointed out a few prospects then recommended one who had once given him a good haircut. We entered the small shop that was decorated with flowers and images of Ganesha around the mirrors. The barber introduced himself and motioned for me to be seated in one of his vintage barber chairs.

He covered my torso with a fresh apron and asked what service he could provide. I explained the situation with my beard and that I wanted to have it trimmed short but not to stubble. He remarked something about never having trimmed the beard of a red haired man before. We shared a laugh while he prepared my face and neck for the trim.

A hot towel was arranged on my face. I reflexively closed my eyes because of the mellowing warmth. After a few minutes, the barber removed the towel and massaged a fragrant oil into my bearded face and neck. His technique was gentle and skillful. I’d never had my face manipulated so thoughtfully as this. The barber then honed a straight razor on a strop and announced that the trim was to begin.

The barber notched through the beard as mindfully as a sculptor might chip away to create a masterpiece. During the entire process, I savored the heavy, but not overbearing aromas of spices and lotions wafting through the shop. The barber interspersed his work with gossip about his favorite cricket players.

Following the trim, the barber washed my beard then gently patted it dry with another towel. It was time for another application of spice-scented oil and one more massage. The barber more than earned his modest fee and generous tip. Girish and I then resumed our tour of Panvel.

Two days later, I accompanied Girish on some errands. We once again encountered the barber in front of his shop. He asked if I was happy with my beard trim. I answered that I was greatly pleased with his work. The barber requested that the next time I’m in Panvel that I should look him up for another beard trim and perhaps a haircut.

Now, as I sit in Nebraska, tapping out this little story, I remember the sublime, luxurious beard trim from the friendly Indian barber. It would be great to have the royal treatment once again.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Spanish philosopher, José Ortega y Gasset. “In a way, the philosopher and the barber are of the same guild. The barber cuts hair; the philosopher splits hairs.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Meanderings, story time and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to That Stranger You’ll Never Forget

  1. I love those kind of memories too, these two are lovely. Maggie

  2. I met someone today who was easy to talk to and very interesting. He’s a handyman who was at our house, for the first time, to do some repairs. He’s somebody I’d have been glad to chat with for an hour or two, but he had a bunch of other clients to visit today.

  3. tiostib says:

    Thank you for the reminder of the pleasures of serendipitous encounters.

  4. There have been times when I’ve met someone who provided such perfect service that I wish I could take them home with me.

  5. rkrontheroad says:

    The barber story came along with the relaxation of the moment and the smells of the barber shop, which made it all come alive. It brought to mind a young man I asked for directions to a restaurant in Seoul. I would never have found it on my own, down a maze of streets, but he said “Follow me!” and told about the neighborhood along the way. And then, just as quickly, he bowed and disappeared into the crowd.

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