Every major city that I have visited has its charm and personality. Some are more endearing to me than others. What I’ve noticed is that the businesses that one finds on almost every corner of a major city can tell you what that city’s residents find most important.
The last time I visited London there were pubs on many of the corners that I walked passed on a daily basis. Londoners love to enjoy camaraderie and tension breaking over a pint. Parisians frequent patisseries where they pick up their bread or a nice tart or pastry on their way home. The smells that waft through so many of those wonderful bakeries make me wish I could transport myself there as I write. For the French a wonderful piece of food is the epitome of a life well-lived.
Romans enjoy going to their cafes. They sip their espressos while talking about politics or the most recent soccer games. Their need for coffee is more an excuse to catch up with their friends than to get a caffeine rush.
Starbucks and Duane Reades pop up every two seconds on the corners of New York City. This goes to show that New Yorkers need their caffeine to get their jobs done, to get moving in the speed and hustle of daily life in the Big Apple. They also meet their friends there as well. But mostly the patrons rush in and out of their local cafes to rush in and out on their way to work or on their way through their routines. Every Duane Reade shows that New Yorkers love their conveniences. They want a place to go to one place to get a bottle of water, a chocolate bar, shampoo, vitamins, etc, whatever they need to get through the day.
What I noticed in Madrid is that hair salons adorn most every corner. On some intersections all 4 points house a coiffeur. Madrilenos care very much about their appearance and every hair must be in its respective place. If the presence of all these hair salons doesn’t let you in on this secret, you just have to watch the natives to know that it is true. Women decked out with such hair dos that one wonders how long it took them to get ready in the morning. Men’s hair gelled or coiffed into positions that are higher than most skyscrapers. The shine on raven colored thread that could blind you if the sun hits it at a certain angle. The theory is solidified every night when the natives go out to dinner or a party. You know that ‘hair product’ doesn’t even begin to encompass what was used to get these city dwellers to look the way they do. They enjoy the spectacle and expect others to spend as much time on their appearance as they do.
When it comes down to it, I’d rather walk past a coffee bar or a patisserie on my daily treks in my city. Those little treats are so much more satisfying than any show I would put on with my hair.