As I wandered through the wild frontiers of Al Sadd, I narrowly avoided death by sidestepping an open manhole, an impatient driver using the pavement as an extra lane and an electric drill tunneling through the heart of the district. This was just another day in Al Sadd.
I was on my way to the saloon, the wind was howling at me in all directions. Half blinded by the dust attacking my eyes, I could just about see the sign. I opened the heavy door and ventured inside. This was like no saloon I’d ever been in before. I didn’t see anyone in a cowboy hat and the bar had a strange collection of moonshine called ‘hairspray’ and ‘aftershave’. Before I could order myself a shot, a man in a surgical mask glared at me and motioned me to take a seat.
I scanned the room to see which customers were ahead of me. One of them had slowly removed one of his sandals and was inspecting his left foot as if it were the Mona Lisa. To his right, a man from the 1950s had just stepped out of a time machine and landed in Doha with his side parting intact. On the far end was a gentleman with perhaps the finest example of a porn star moustache ever witnessed in this part of the world.
I sank into the garishly coloured sofa and watched the Hindi soap opera blaring out of the TV. Everyone looked worried about something. There was a wedding. The camera zoomed into someone’s face and he looked really serious. Then it zoomed out again with loud dramatic music and panned to someone else looking really serious. It made me feel stressed out.
Soon enough, surgical mask man beckoned me over to his ‘dentist’s chair’. I walked over to him, ready for him to operate. After giving him a lengthy set of instructions, he proceeded to ignore all of them, bobbed his head from side to side and say ‘Medium? Ok, no problem’. Then he proceeded to give me a vicar’s collar wrapped around my neck and draped me in a black cloak which blew a stray hair into my mouth.
Aside from that, it started off pleasantly enough. He slapped on some fragrant smelling hair moussey type thing and snipped away with his shiniest pair of scissors. He made no effort to converse with me other than a mild grunt when he realized the odd shape of my head thwarted his efforts. We then got to that bit where he shows you the mirror and I breathed a sigh of relief. I half launched out of my chair, when he gripped my shoulders and shook his head. ‘Not finished’. I was bemused. What else did the man have in store for me? He went to the back room for what seemed an eternity but my British upbringing made me wait patiently for his return.
When he did return, he rubbed his hands together (maybe gleefully but I couldn’t tell because he was still wearing that mask). He then hit me on the back of the head for no apparent reason and clasped his hands together in a prayer motion. He knocked around my head like it was a rock he needed to break in two. My head was pounding but I didn’t have time in between being assaulted to make a complaint. He gripped my head around the base of my skull and squeezed it like he was drying out a sponge. I was tempted to hit my foot against something so my pain could refocus somewhere else.
It slowly dawned on me that I was probably paying extra for this ‘service’ and then wondered if I had done something to offend this man and why he seemed to hate my head.
It felt like half an hour but when I looked at the clock it had only been a few minutes. I thought the worst of it was over, when he paused momentarily. Then he rubbed his hands together one last time as he saw the fear in my eyes. He had something else in store for me. He then gripped my shoulders, like it was a rail on a rollercoaster and then ‘massaged’ them. I couldn’t tell now if he disliked my shoulders more than my head, as he pressed down on them like he was kneading dough. By this point, I didn’t want to wuss out in front of 1950s man, pornstar moustachio and one sandal dude, so I gritted my teeth and suppressed a scream of pain.
The pain had finally stopped and I breathed a sigh of relief. Just as soon as my breathing had returned to normal, he decided to splash my face with water freshly melted from an iceberg. He took advantage of my temporary blindness to wipe my face with a tissue. Shoving one up my nose and then smearing it over the rest of my face. One last dollop of mousse on my head to ruffle it up a bit and then all went silent. Was it over? Was I finally free from this mad scientist’s saloon dungeon? He crept away from the chair and I was free to leave. In a daze, I paid him his dues and staggered through the door into the wilderness of Al Sadd. Never had I looked forward to the noises of drills, blaring horns and the smell of sewage as much as I did at that moment.
Now to psych myself up for my next appointment, a month from now!