Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Bosnian barbering isn't cutting edge

23 June 1996

Dear Mom & Dad:

This morning when I went to see the barber to get my hair cut, I had to use sign language, for he only knew two or three words of English. He gave me a list to point at. Four or five selections for how I wanted the top cut and another few for the sides, and so I did my best to get my idea across. But it didn't work. Before I had so much as a chance to get comfortable in the chair, he had scalped me. Grimacing in pain, he asked me, "Okay?" And while I was gesturing, "No, no, no, where'd my hair go," he had backed up and apologized with his eyes.

People behind me in line were shouting, "Oh, man, just shave it all off," and I smiled; it wasn't the end of the world after all _ hair grows back. And I knew he was doing the best he could under the circumstances, but still he must have felt bad or guilty as everybody else was laughing.

Oh, well, it's Sunday, I thought, and there's nobody here to impress anyway, so I tipped the guy 50 cents as a gesture of good intention and left on my merry way. (Fifty cents may not sound much to you but he seemed pleased, and that's all that matters.)

Then, like I was saying, I left the barber shop, went back to the tent only to find everybody lying around watching movies again. The tent smelled like funk. Needless to say, I had to get out to my favorite spot at the perimeter _ the place with the great view _ to write letters and enjoy my time off in peace. There's been a lot on my mind recently.

Last night I got into a fight with my team leader and ended up at parade rest for a verbal thrashing for having the courage to speak my mind. It's been like this since I came back from Tampa. I don't like being constantly reminded that I'm the low man on the totem pole, that I'm supposed to be somebody's slave or that it doesn't matter what I think. And, so, these feelings that had been brewing all this time finally came out. And then he was getting even.

Geez, it's cold out here today.

Headphones were wonderful for this type of thing _ music calms the most savage beast. A few minutes later I talked to my squad leader about our difference in opinion and, hopefully, we won't have to keep bickering like this for the next six months here. With many soldiers from our platoon leaving us recently to go to other units, our leaders have been planning on rearranging the squads anyway, so maybe now I'll even get a new boss.

I've been in the same squad, with the same boring job, for two years now, so if all goes well, it will be an earned change of pace. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I can't wait for even a slight change in the routine. Maybe I even get to switch tents. . . .

Last week I also got to look at the first edition of the wives' newsletter. Everybody's been complimenting me on a job well done for the article I had to write, but, frankly, I thought it stunk. . . .

Sometimes, no, all the time, it makes me sick being treated as a college boy instead of a soldier, but nobody seems to understand that. And now it's gotten worse. I should have come in as an officer, then maybe none of this would be happening. So it goes.

I apologize for not bearing more wonderful news to brighten your day, but sometimes ya just have to take the bad with the good. Peace and...

I love you still the same,