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G e t t i n G t h e J o b 8 “Your ears are off, I can’t do a straight line,” jokes Jason to his client, nervously. For the last half hour—the minimum amount of time Freemans allocates for normal haircuts—Jason has been trying to give his client, who happens to also be his roommate, a skin fade, or a tight cut that fades into the skin as it goes down the neck. After trimming the top and front of his head, Jason began by buzzing a line around the back, by the top of the ears, but it was clearly not straight. He then tried again near that line, but was also off by a bit. His roommate now has two crooked lines in the back of his head. “You’re fucking it up,” says Miles, whose chair is diagonally opposite from Jason’s in the shop. As he works on his own client, Miles has been glancing at Jason through his mirror and occasionally turning his head directly at him. Barbers rarely comment on each other’s work while they are with clients. When they do, that means a friend of the barber’s is in the chair and they intend their comments to be instructional. Miles uses the shop’s parlance to offer help, and Jason, embarrassed by his performance, takes it in. “Tap! Tap the machine.” “I can’t tap. Miles, you’ve got to show me how to do this.” “Turn the machine around.” Jason then turns the clippers around and starts using it in the other direction , which seems to work better. “Go with the line,” advises Miles, while still cutting his own client’s hair. “Up from the line?” “How do you fade?” Miles says in a “you’ve gotta be kidding me” manner, cocking his head for emphasis. “I’m not as good as you,” says Jason, half-seriously. Miles then leaves his client and goes over to Jason. Jason hands him the clippers and Miles shows him how to tap and follow the line. Left-handed, ‹ 226 › C h a p t e r 8 with subtle, quick motions that produce high-pitched buzzes and zaps, Miles opens his stance so Jason can see. “Just do this all around.” Van, who has been watching from the cash register, holds up his wrist and taps on an invisible watch with his finger. “I got another hour!” says Jason to Van’s sarcastic “time is money” gesture. Miles finishes with his client and comes over by me. He starts explaining to me that the fade starts too high, when Jason notices us. “What? You talking about me?” “Nah, well, yeah. I’m explaining to him what you’re doing.” “Don’t tell him, tell me! He’s writing a book, I’m learning.” Miles and I go closer and he provides Jason with detailed instruction. Jason asks him many questions and frequently expresses being nervous that too many people are watching. When he finally finishes, he sighs and says, “All right, guys, I’m going back to painting walls.” The next day, Miles and I are chatting over coffee next door at the restaurant with the espresso bar. I bring up Jason’s haircut. “Why was he having trouble with that? I mean, it seemed like he was . . .” “Jason is brand new. Like, he is fresh out of the box. I think he has been cutting hair a total of six months.” “Oh, wow.” “Which is not a long time. Six months, professionally, on the floor, having to deal with the customer back to back to back to back. Before that he was an intern.1 He spent the whole day running the shop and then at night he would do a haircut, maybe two. It’s like working out. Someone tells you, you know, do twenty-five pushups, you can do it. Doing three sets of twenty-five pushups is where it gets difficult.” “Sure, yeah, yeah.” “And that’s kind of like what he goes through right now, you know? So, he may come in and he’s just trying to hang [in] with the rest of us. He comes in and he works and once in a while he’ll just slip up. It’s weird. I remember that feeling, like, when you first start you don’t want to mess up, especially if you’re someone like me. Jason is a great barber...


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MARC Record
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