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Culture, Reality

Sbu’s Hair Salon

by Hagen Engler, illustration by Rico / 31.03.2011

Sbu disappeared. He just stopped answering his phone.

The result was that half the black ladies in Sandton couldn’t get their hair did. The northern suburbs of Joburg have more than a hundred salons that’ll charge you R5 000 a pop to put extensions in. All the celebs will tell you they go there. All the ladies who lunch in their Gucci sunglasses at Tasha’s and the Design District and Madiba Square.

But Sbu is where they really go. If you bring your own hair, you can be in and out for three hundred. Five hundred maybe.

So when Sbu stopped answering his phone, a lot of ladies didn’t get their hair did. A lot of weaves started growing out. A lot of flying dog didn’t get dealt with. A lot of undergrowth started becoming visible.

And when Sbu eventually picked up, he had a lot of explaining to do.

Turns out he’s been arrested for smoking weed. In this day and age!

Ja, arrested for smoking weed outside the Randburg Mall. He tells the cop, just give me a fine, or tell me what I need to pay you. That’s the wrong thing to do, and the cop decides to teach him a lesson. Arrests Sbu, and charges him with possession. Can you believe, but he gets a month in jail!

And he had his phone with him the whole time.

In the van on the way to prison, one of the experienced prisoners says his phone’ll get taken away from him when he gets booked in. Says they usually put their phones up their bum when they come in. He kindly offers to put Sbu’s phone up his own bum.

Sbu politely declines and takes the responsibility upon himself. Gets his Nokia right up there.
The smuggling goes all according to plan and Sbu’s Nokia makes it inside undetected. But the problem comes with the retrieval. The foetus has shifted, in a manner of speaking, and delivery is impossible.
After five days of agony, Sbu goes to the prison doctor and tells him his predicament. His phone is engaged. He can’t get reception. His number won’t go through. He’s been trying to log a call.

The doctor sends him for x-rays and removes Sbu’s Nokia without too much hassle.

Then, with Sbu lying in the delivery room, the nurse takes his phone into the next ward. Fatal error! He never sees it again!

When he’s recovered, Sbu demands to know what happened to his phone. The doctor tells him, no, the screen was damaged. Five days of gastric acids and stuff. They weren’t able to save it. He’s sorry.

Within a few weeks, Sbu’s salon was open and he was back in the game. The ladies of Sandton were able to get their respective hair situations sorted, and Sbu got a new phone.

He needed to move on, and the new phone serves him perfectly well, but he still wonders, in his quiet moments, outside the Randburg Mall, what happened to that old Nokia.

It could still be alive. Somewhere. New screen. Someone else’s sim card. But Sbu likes to think if he ever sees it again, he’d still recognize it. He would know.

*This story was first published in the Weekend Post, then in MAHALA 2.
**The Illustration © Rico is entirely original.

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