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.

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