Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friday Night Follies

Friday evening after arriving home from work, feeding and walking the dogs and feeding myself a sumptuous repast of tortilla chips with melted cheese eaten under the steady “feed me” stares of Moose and Winston, after a full week of delays and procrastination (mostly procrastination), I finally set forth to mow the yard. Half of it didn’t really need it, but the other half was a combination of calf-high, willowy weedy grassy stuff punctuated with low spots of actual grass. A wardrobe change was necessary to maximize the physical area covered by fabric to prevent insect bites and the tee shirt with a robot image and the text “DESTROY ALL HUMANS” won the lottery by virtue of being the first shirt spotted after opening the drawer.  A quick spritz of insect repellant and I was ready to rock and mow.

The mowing methodology developed after a scientific process of trial, error and over thinking involves pushing the mower up the paved driveway to the top of the sloped yard near the street and starting the mower. It rarely (if ever) starts on any of the first five attempts, which is attributed (in rotation) to either my documented history of bad technology karma, my noodle-like arm strength, or the machine’s disturbing need for my tough love approach of swearing at it and the occasional kick to the side of the metal body surrounding the blade area. The mow pattern is across the yard, back and forth, each pass progressing one mower width down the slope. This fool learned the hard way that it’s easier to go across the hill than to try and shove the mower uphill and then try to hang onto it on the wild downhill pass. Science is fun.

For this particular mowing adventure, the machine was ceremoniously rolled out of the garage via the recently installed new garage door that actually functions. To mix things up, I attempted starting the mower while still in the lower part of the driveway. Options were contemplated -- save time and mow only the side jungle portion but risk awakening on Saturday to see the front had suddenly sprouted, or mow the whole yard properly as long as I was going to be out there dying in the heat and humidity anyway. I went for “proper,” but with a twist.  Like a military master, I surveyed the enemy territory and plotted maneuvers. My mower and I would attack on both fronts -- the jungle AND the desert.

After adding gas and multiple faulty attempts that nearly dislocated my shoulder when attempting to pull the cord (noodle strength!), the mower started. A few successful  narrow rows of jungle along the driveway (because full width passes in the jungle always clog up the blade), an arc around the four foot tall tree stump left by the tree company that took down the gigantic dying tree, and a tiptoe push up the rest of the driveway edge to the top of the yard launched the initiative. At its usual starting point the mower sputtered to a stop. Swearing at the temperamental mess of metal ensued, followed by generic, frantic mental pleas to the unnamed deity that ensures the successful completion of hard labor before dark descends.

The mower started again, and except for the part where the motor sounded weak and weird and on the verge of dying forevermore, it was reasonably fast going for several passes which even included crossing the driveway to the bit of land on the other side and a vague guess of where the property line lies. Maybe someday I’ll find out the border for sure. Or not.

At the surprisingly rapid pace, it seemed possible to break the current mowing speed record of 45 minutes. My old lawn company charged me $40 to cut the grass, so by not paying them, it’s like earning close to a dollar a minute paying myself to do it, which is way more than I’ve ever made at any real job and feels like a total win. And bonus -- such deep lines of economic thinking make it feel like busting ass for an MBA was actually worthwhile.

By angling the passes and crossing over the concrete walkway, the jungle section was also begun -- two feet of tough jungle, a long stretch of easy, nearly nothing; three feet of jungle, a long pass of easy. Interval mowing! To break up the straight back and forth, I took a pass downhill along the driveway edge, a couple across the bottom of the hill and back up the hill -- just for the physical challenge of it. As we all probably know by now, I do not always take the easy, predictable (dull) route. Some may argue I never take it.

The yard project (and entire plan for my fulfilling and exciting Friday night) was moving along nicely. Completion before total darkness seemed imminent. It was time to consider a reward for the accomplishment of hard labor coupled with a possible new speed record. Ice water? Cold beer? Carrot coins? Sadly, that was about all I had to offer myself.

Ultimately, victory celebration plans proved premature. With perhaps 20% of the yard left (or 80% done to view the positive), and without even a warning sputter, the mower stopped. I flipped it onto its side and removed the clumps of immobilizing grass at each end of the blade with the toe of my specially designated mowing sneakers, (the formerly designated gym sneakers). After righting the fine specimen of mowing machinery, my severest evil death-ray stare and muttering failed to resurrect it and yielded nothing more than a mocking puff of black smoke.

Another undercarriage investigation revealed no further paralyzing grass but did produce a generous flow of nasty dark liquid from the engine. I set it upright again, walked (or stomped, it’s purely a matter of interpretation) into the garage for a shop towel to mop up the wet mess. I ran through the mental archives of previous mower issues and remedies. Clumped grass had already been removed as a functional impediment. Once, the engine felt super hot on a hellishly scorching day but after letting it sit long enough for me to eat lunch it restarted. A couple times adding gas solved the problem. By process of elimination and speed/ease of cure, gas was added. Push the red button three times, pull the cord. The cord wouldn’t budge. Check the archives -- last time this problem was encountered it was grass clumps but that was already checked. A few more attempts failed and I conceded defeat. The machine beat the human, who rolled the stubborn piece of metal into the garage. Maybe Saturday the odds will be in my favor. Or maybe I have been destroyed.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Weird Wednesday

Short work weeks, like this Labor Day week, often feel screwy. There’s the confusing Tuesday that feels like Monday thing. The need to get five days worth of work done in four and the sudden appearance of Friday is met, not with joy, but with the panic of not having moved enough work off one’s workstation and onto someone else’s.

Then there are the added surprises, big and small -- like spending the long weekend not doing housework or laundry and realizing on Tuesday-Monday that you have no clean underwear that fits. Sadly, there is a drawer half full of undies that would still fit if you hadn’t spent the past 10.5 months not working out due to first healing a fractured leg, then babying it with its lingering nerve damage / numbness/ limited ankle mobility. The slower pace, somewhat hindered mobility, and newfound hobby of eating everything in sight have facilitated the recent acquisition of close to 15 pounds of fresh weight, quite possible some of the same flab newly shed by friends with more dietary discipline and a faster walking speed. 

On Wednesday of this week, as I was saying my morning goodbyes to the dogs (different than my lunchtime goodbyes) and taking my last sweeping glance at the place before leaving for work, I noticed a few signs of major laziness that needed remedying. There was a bag of trash set against the kitchen wall, waiting to be transported downstairs and eventually to the trash drop off place. The coffee table was cluttered with papers. Ditto for one of the kitchen counters. The couch pillows were heaped in the casual rearrangement preferred by the dogs. The table in the living room that sits against the wall was buried -- yes BURIED -- in plastic shopping bags. Two weeks earlier, I had decided to fuse layers of plastic to make fabric to construct a garment for a recycled fashion show in the Riverfest festival this weekend. First, I solicited bags from my coworkers, and boy did they respond. I spent several nights fusing three layers of plastic in a single sheet, many times over. Then one night drawing and cutting skirt pattern shapes and another fusing seams to connect six pattern pieces into a skirt. The rest of the raw material inventory (aka plastic shopping bags) sits on the table, sorted by size and color, atop several early fused layers of six sheets that are too thick and crunchy to use for clothing.

I never have company, there’s basically no chance in hell a man is going to show up to pick me up for a date, and after four months of the house being listed on the market with few people looking at it, it’s really hard to maintain the optimism and energy to make sure the place is ready for viewings every day. Like, practically impossible. There are days when I look back at the place and what I see as disarray and think, “Well, nobody’s been looking at it, I’m not going to be late for work just so I can take the trash to the basement / put away that sweater / pick up that dog hair,  etc.”

On Wednesday, I calculated the number of house viewings in the past four months (not that many), turned and waltzed out the door without dealing with any of the clutter. Yes, it was an actual waltz step in my mind, as I glided past multiple doggy poop bags (okay, a giant pile of them) tossed near the porch after returning from multiple walks with the fur babies that involve me transporting their poop in little black bags around the neighborhood. I traversed the brick walkway with the weeds growing between the bricks at a shocking rate. I surveyed the shaggy part of the lawn, uncut over the long weekend because I spent two hours trimming the hedges and low hanging tree branches so I could stop crouching under them with the mower and then was too hot, sweaty, hungry and tired to push the mower for the 45 minutes needed to tidy the lawn. Besides, only the half of the lawn with the fast growing scraggly grass needed a cut, the front section is some different kind of grass that doesn’t seem to actually grow. Instead of suffering heat exhaustion with additional yard effort, I had hit the shower and settled in for a full day Dr Who marathon on BBC America. And then it rained on and off over the next three days. Oops. Grass be growing now.

In any event, once at work on Wednesday, my 9:30 meeting started an hour late then ran twice as long as it was scheduled (typical, when they happen at all). It took a crazy turn when my coworker and I found ourselves suddenly reviewing a list of types of cattle as part of the work. Did you know there are over 800 breeds of cattle recognized worldwide? And that there are racing and fighting breeds? Yeah, me neither. RX3 might be my new favorite cattle breed name -- it sounds sleek, like a race car. And I'm sorry, but Jamaica Black, Jamaica Hope and Jamaica Red sound like types of pot.

When I returned to my desk and my cell phone, there were two messages from the real estate central showing center seeking approval to show the house from 1:00 to 2:00. My realtor and I had requested a one hour notice so that I could (theoretically -- if possible) get home and take the dogs out of the house. The scheduling folks had been waiting 1.5 hours for my response, and the showing time requested was now a mere 20 minutes from my hearing the message. I was just about to head to lunch at home anyway, but talk about panic. I asked for a 15 minute delay and sped across town. I grabbed the trash bag from the kitchen, loaded it with the poop bags from the porch and brought it down to the car. I neatened the stack of magazines and mail on the coffee table and kitchen counter and remade the bed destroyed daily by Winston and his luxuriating under the covers, opened the blinds, leashed up the dogs and fled the premises five minutes before the realtor and his client were due to arrive.

After the trash drop, which took approximately 12 minutes, I needed to figure out what to do for the next hour. Food seemed appropriate as I was hungry and now separated from my sparsely furnished pantry, so I went through the drive through at Backyard Burger for a veggie patty for myself and meat for the dogs. The heavy traffic prevented taking a left out of the place to head to Dunbar Cave Park near the house, so after a few curse word filled minutes, it was a redirect with a couple of rights and finally a left into Rotary Park (a County park) to eat and walk. The walk was quick -- I was wrangling two dogs in a new place, so they were all over trying to get all their sniffs and squirts in. There are no trash barrels there (Who knew? Not me!), so I was juggling the burger trash, cell phone, and keys, and trying to not be tripped up by the dogs. We lasted about five minutes.

Still with time to kill, we headed to Dunbar Cave State Park (which has trash barrels AND dog poop pickup bags!). I parked next to a dark green car with a lady talking on a cell phone,  got the dogs out and started walking. We didn’t get very far when I heard the woman yelling. She and I had the only cars in that part of the lot and were the only people around, so I figured she was yelling to me. 

As I got closer, the yelling lady explained she had a flat tire and was on her way to a job interview “right up the street.” I asked the address, as it’s my neighborhood and might know where it was.  She just kept reading from a tattered scrap of paper “Up the street. Past two churches and some apartments.” Ummm, ok. She acted like she assumed I would give her a ride and there was no reason to not help her, so I got the dogs back into the car. As I walked around to the driver’s side of my car, I made sure to check her tires. (Hey, I watch a lot of Lifetime Movies these days in my new lazy, weight building routine and I know that attractive ladies can also be psychotic murderers.)  Flat tire, indeed -- it looked like someone had sliced open the side wall.

In order to take in a human passenger I had to move the stuff into the back seat with the dogs that usually dwells on the passenger seat -- my purse, agenda book, sweater needed to prevent hypothermia in my cubicle, two CD cases that don’t fit into the car's storage thingy, plus the new bag of trash from lunch at the park with no trash barrels. I assessed my passenger as I buried my purse under all the other stuff on the floor in the back seat. She was dressed neatly in brown pants and an earth-toned print blouse (that hopefully camouflague dog hair), her blond hair was in a thick, loose braid down her back, and she carried a medium-sized,  buttery soft leather purse that was maybe a designer bag from TJ Maxx or a decent knockoff. She was skinnier that I was in my good old size four days of one short year ago. I calculated her to be a size two, and figured my new 15 pounds of heft would come in handy and I could take her if she turned out to be some psycho.

She kept repeating the directions “Up the street. Past two churches and some apartments.” I thought I knew the business park -- I drive by it all the time, and never knew exactly what was inside it. We found the entrance, and finally the building. I wished her good luck with her interview and told her I hoped she didn’t have too much trouble getting a ride back to her car and dealing with the flat tire. Then, the dogs and I returned home at the end of our one hour exile. I got them inside, and turned around and went back down my weed covered brick walkway, along the shaggy lawn and raced back to work for my afternoon meeting. But hey, at least my hedges and low hanging tree branches are trimmed. I hope the potential real estate buyer noticed that part and not the rest of it.