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A Lesson in Landscaping by BaldSurfer


Some guys were meant to go to college, get a good job in an office and spend their life indoors. I always knew that wasn't the life for me. I need to spend as much of m life as I can outdoors. During high school, I spent my summers mowing lawns and such for a few local landscapers. I loved the work and learned a lot, but those jobs didn't pay very well, and I wasn't ready to start my own business yet. There was only one landscaper that paid high wages and that was Elite Garden Decor. They were twice as expensive as any other landscaper and worked for the wealthiest people in town, but if you were good enough to work for them, you could make some pretty good money.

You could always spot the guys who worked for Elite. No matter how late in the day, no matter how many jobs they'd already done, their uniforms were always spotless and white. If I stopped to think about it, I'd have realized that all the Elite guys always had really short hair, but so did most guys my age - especially in the warm weather, so I never really noticed.

I sent an application to Elite, and was called for an interview. I didn't think a landscaping interview required a suit and tie, so I but on my best khakis and a clean polo shirt. I'd been trying to grow my hair out long enough for a pony tail, so I hadn't had it cut at all in over 6 months. Not long enough to tie back yet, and hard to even tame at that in-between stage, so for the interview, I used a ton of gel to comb it straight back and make a neat appearance.

I was ushered into the office of Joe Flynn, the owner of Elite. He looked to be around my dad's age, but in great shape. And his thick gray hair was cut in the sharpest, most precise flattop I'd ever seen. It looked like it had just been cut that morning. He looked over my list of previous jobs and asked me a slew of questions to test my landscaping knowledge. He seemed pleased with my answers and finally said that there was just one thing left: he wanted to see my work. So he led me out back to the plant nursery, led me to an overgrown hibiscus bush, handed me the hedge clippers and told me to show him how I'd prune the bush.

I carefully trimmed away the longest branches that stuck out of the main bush, and then proceeded to carefully sculpt the rest of the bush to an even, natural round shape - doing my best to take off only the few inches needed to shape it up. When I was done, Mr. Flynn was laughing. "Typical rookie," he said. "You have talent, son, but you're afraid to cut. If you want the bush to grow fuller and healthier, you have to commit to the cut. You have to know in your heart that it will always grow back. That's my motto around here: It will always grow back. If you want to work here and succeed, you have to always believe that"

I told him I'd take his advice and keep that in my mind if I got the job. He smiled and said we should get back to his office. When we got back, he opened the door to the private bathroom in his office and asked me to come in there. I thought that was an odd request, but went in anyway. As I entered, I noticed that on the counter beside the sink was a set of barber shop clippers. I thought maybe he DID trim his flattop just that morning, and that's why they were out.

But then he picked up the clippers and said, "Son, hair is like a shrub. If you cut it, it grows back. No matter how short you cut it, it will always grow back. I like you. I think you'll do a great job here, but only after you can prove to me and to yourself that you have confidence that IT WILL ALWAYS GROW BACK."

My heart sank. I felt nauseous. I knew what he was about to do. Before the words even came out of his mouth, my mind was racing. Did I want this job badly enough to let him cut my hair off? It really was a great job opportunity. Working here for a few years would teach me enough to start my own business. And as he kept reminding me, it would always grow back. So if he asked, I was ready to say yes and let him cut my hair. But instead, he handed me the clippers. I was surprised at how heavy they felt in my hand.

I was confused and then he said "Son, when you first walked in here, if I told you your hair was too long to work here and told you to get a haircut, you probably would have gone to some "salon" and had an inch or 2 trimmed off and thought that would be just fine. But now that I've explained to you about my most basic rule of good landscaping, I'm going to tell you that your hair is too long to work here, and I want you to deal with it right now."

This was worse than I'd expected. I had to cut off my own hair. I'd never cut my hair or anyone else's before. I'd seen my buddies do their own buzzcuts before though, so I basically knew how clippers worked but I certainly wasn't going to be able to do anything fancier than a buzzcut of the same length all over. The clippers in my hand had no guard over the silver teeth, but a variety of attachments were lined up on the counter. How short would be short enough to get the job? I really wanted this job, so I knew I was going to do the deed. I was still scared about the change in my appearance. How would I look with such short hair? What would my girlfriend think? My friends would laugh their asses off. The knot in my stomach tightened. I felt dizzy, and frightened and suddenly I again thought of what Mr. Flynn kept saying. "It will always grow back."

I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to really prove myself. Without choosing any attachment off of the counter, I flipped the heavy switch and the clippers jumped to life, and the purring motor finally explained to me why the call it a buzz cut. I tried to appear confident as I raised the bare clippers and brought them to my forehead. Just before they were about to make contact with my hair, Mr. Flynn said "Son, you have no guide on there. You'll be almost bald. It's OK if you want to use a guide."

But I just smiled, looked Mr. Flynn in the eye and said "Relax, Mr. Flynn. It will always grow back." And all of a sudden, I felt totally empowered and excited and I plunged the clippers down the center of my head. As my light brown hair rained down over my shoulders and down to the floor, a strip of pale white skin was cleared all the way down the middle of my head. The second pass was easier, since I knew there was no going back. With the top cleared and the sides still long, I laughed at what I saw in the mirror. I looked like my Uncle Murray, who we always laughed at, with his bald crown and long stringy fringe. I placed the clippers below my right sideburn and proceeded to push them upwards. Stroke by stroke the pile of hair grew at my feet until my left sideburn, the last hair on my head, fell to earth. I looked in the mirror and stared at my reflection. The barest hint of stubble was all that was left to remind me that there used to be hair on my head. I rubbed my head and the sandpaper feel of crisp fuzz felt electric as my hand ran over it.

Mr. Flynn was smiling broadly. He gave my head a rub, put his arm around my shoulder and told me I had the job. "Son, I think you're going to go far in my company. And now that you learned the most important lesson, you don't have to keep it that short. You just have to keep it neat enough for the 'Elite image'." But the look was really starting to appeal to me. I felt clean, fresh and somehow more in control. The more I looked in the mirror, the better I liked it.

"I think I'll keep it this way for awhile. I kinda like it. But don't worry, Mr. Flynn. When I get tired of it, it will always grow back!"



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