Go for the seasonal haircut & - sitting in the chair sans lunettes blind to the world around me - observe that it's unusually quiet today. The barber (Monsieur Charly) laughs bitterly & explains that he's stopped playing music. The stereo has been relegated to his flat upstairs. Apparently he received a letter the other day and realised that the performer's union had stung him with a bill (monthly & backdated several years) for playing his stereo in 'un lieu publique'. A quite staggering amount. Both he & I find this absurd. A barber's shop defined as a 'public place'? Music while you wait your turn? His own CDs in his own player?
& what if it were simply talk radio? I ask. Exactly the same. Mad!
I used to enjoy hearing a Bach concerto set against the syncopated rhythm of his snips. A blessed relief from that wall to wall thump & jangle favoured by the more upmarket trendy salons. While for M. Charly it was a way to make the hours pass and fill in any awkward pauses with his more taciturn clients. As well as, I'm sure, a deliberate attempt to educate himself, broaden his culture. He liked the entire works type of set, some 100 CDs in one shoe box size chunk. You could set yourself a target for the week, a month, a year.
So that's that then. No more music. He snips away in silence.
That's what they mean by the 'free society' he says (in French, of course) & snorts derisively. 'Free' as long as you pay.