SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
With the purchase of a brand new lawn mower, only the third new one I’ve ever bought, I said goodbye to my conservative lawn mower.
(So named because it stopped working whenever it tilted to the left.)
It had a good, long run. In fact, the conservative lawn mower wasn’t one of the three bought brand new—I got it used, just like my house and my cars. If it’s good enough for Pontiac/Ford/Dodge/Buick/Chevy/Nissan/Ford again, it’s good enough for Briggs and Stratton. (The less said about Renault, the better.)
Well, good for a while. I should have retired the conservative lawn mower the first time I tried to mow the hill out front, only to have it putter and die. From then on, it only worked when on the level or tilted right. That wouldn’t have been so bad on a nice, flat lawn, but over my entire lawn there is exactly one square foot of level ground. It’s as if my landscaping was done by a guy with an inner ear infection.
So I’d go one way and be fine, then forget, turn around, and the mower would gasp like someone finding a quiet moment in a Michael Bay movie. I’d have much preferred a moderate lawn mower.
I needed a mower that would match my personality: Cheap and simple. It also needed to be light because of the tendonitis, which bothered me so much when I shoveled snow that I almost forgot how much I hated snow whether it was shoveled or not.
Finally, I found a lawnmower with two stickers on the box, stickers that made it perfect for my needs: “clearance”, and “already assembled”.
It took me only an hour to have it ready to go. That’s a new record, for me. I was a little startled to discover it had no throttle, but it’s safe to say that with me the fewer parts, the better. I went out, I mowed the lawn, and I came in. That’s all a person needs in a lawn mower.
As for the old one, Spring Cleanup week was coming up. I had a suspicion that if I put it out on the curb, it wouldn’t last long, and I was right. In fact, as I came through the door after taking the first load of junk out, I heard a truck roar to a stop outside. By the time I turned around and looked out, the mower, a broken office chair, and a fifteen year old computer running Windows 95 were all gone.
You could argue that I should keep stuff “just in case”, but that’s exactly the kind of attitude that was heading me toward being on one of those basic cable shows.
For awhile the mower did a good, if not great, job. It was easy to start, easy to adjust, easy to use, the exact opposite of pretty much any government program. Then, one day … it stopped. By which I mean, by itself. By which I mean, it wouldn’t start again.
And yes, I did aggravate my tendonitis trying.
I’m not sure why this surprised me. If my life was a sitcom I’d be Gilligan, or Tim Taylor on a bad day. If I was a kid’s show, my motto would be: “Can we do it? NO!”
Still, I’m forever the cockeyed optimist, assuming that expression means you should accept defeat, but won’t. With the conservative lawn mower gone (and suddenly I missed it), I put the backup to work: an electric mower I inherited from my grandmother, tiny and unadjustable. The mower, not my grandmother. It was built, apparently, for people who scalped their yards like the villains in an old western. I call it “General Custer”.
Every now and then I’d mess with the new mower, which mostly consisted of yelling at it, shaking it around, and begging. Then I’d pull the cord a few hundred times, give up, and get out the extension cord.
Then I got lucky: Emily and I both became seriously ill, and had an excuse not to mow the lawn for three weeks. Well, lucky is relative.
Once back on my feet, I realized the electric mower would be helpless against the forest of weeds that now snapped at my knees. I would give the new mower one more try, then give up and take it back—in other words, I’d do exactly what I should have done a month earlier.
Not knowing what else to do, I drained the gas tank, filled it back up, took off the spark plug, put it back on, and pulled the start cord.
The mower started. In fact, it purred like a guided-dander-armed cat.
I can now take credit for “fixing” my new lawn mower, even though I did absolutely nothing that should have had an effect on it. It’s not often I fix something, but when I do … that’s exactly how it works.