Malilong: Kwentong barbero

The Other Side

WHEN New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down establishments like barbershops and beauty parlors and encouraged the people in the state to work at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic, one barber found a way to go around it. He shut the door to his barbershop but continued doing haircuts at the back.

“He (the governor) said do not open your shops, barbershops, beauty parlors, nail saloons, tattoo parlors,” the barber, Joseph LaLima told the New York Times last week. “So I didn’t. (But) it said you can work from home. 678 Broadway is my home!”

For a while, he was successful in keeping his covert operations from the public eye. A buildings investigator, acting on a tip, visited the barbershop four times but always came up with the same observation. “Appears to be closed”, he wrote in his reports.

Then one day, LaLima was hospitalized for the coronavirus. It was then that his racket was discovered. Many of us will probably say that it was karma, that he deserved what he got. But not LaLima. When he recovered and was discharged from the hospital, he was still unrepentant.

“I am aggravated to the nines,” he said. “Is Cuomo going to pay me? Is he going to make up the difference? Is he going to pay my taxes? Is he going to pay the heat and electric? Is he going to feed my family?”

Some of us will probably ask if the human race could have been served better if the barber had been left unaided at the hospital. He got sick because he defied the rules that were meant to keep him safe but he refused to see that point and remained ungrateful and without remorse.

The fact, however, is that we have many Joseph LaLimas in our midst. They’re not necessarily barbers. They’re anyone of us, whining about the regulations that we find inconvenient and asking if the government will pay us for our troubles.

Sometimes we do even worse than just complain. A resident of a sitio that has been placed under a lockdown because of its disturbing number of Covid-19 cases attacked a volunteer who did not allow him to pass a checkpoint. And there were reported incidents, also in the same sitio, of volunteers chasing Covid-19 positive residents who managed to slip through the lockdown, only to be chased back by the escapees.

It is not too late for us to realize that we all have to share the cost of fighting the coronavirus. Sometimes, the price consists of being confined at home or of not being able to enjoy the luxuries that had become hallmarks in our lives.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as not being able to have a haircut. Obviously, you and your barber cannot maintain social distancing while he’s working on your hair. Neither can he cut it while your head is covered by a protective shield. But then he has to keep close to you because he takes pride in his product or he does not want to suffer the fate of a colleague who was jailed after cutting the hair of a police officer who did not like the result when he woke up and stared at the mirror.

We are not expected to thank the government for making the rules and enforcing them because that is not in our nature. Let’s just abide by them and help bring us closer to the day when we can live normal, whether the old or the new, lives again.


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