Friday, September 12, 2014


This summer, I finally raised the white flag and admitted defeat. I’m talking about mowing my lawn.

I have 8,000 square feet of grass to mow, and until this summer, I was keeping up with it. But this year was different. It wasn’t my battery-operated lawnmower, which I bought two years ago, that bothered me – even though pushing it around, especially with the 32-lb. battery in it, felt physically similar to rolling a boulder uphill with my nose. And it wasn’t the fact that no matter how hard I tried or how fast I mowed, I never seemed to be able to finish the job in under four hours.

No, what made me finally throw in the towel was the hot weather.

I’ve never been a big fan of heat and humidity, which means I didn’t take after my father, who could have been strapped to a rotisserie over an open flame and still would have complained it wasn’t hot enough for him.

So mowing the lawn in 85-degree weather became a form of torture for me. No matter how much water I drank or how many times I splashed cool water on my face and neck, I still ended up perspiring every drop of fluid out of my body by the time the lawn was done. 

But the nights were the worst. After spending the day mowing and sweating, I’d always get leg cramps just as I was dozing off. I’m not talking about little twinges, I’m talking about something similar to labor pains in my calves. I’d scream, jump out of bed and dance around the bedroom in the dark, trying to loosen the knots. This usually involved bumping into furniture and uttering a lot of non-ladylike words.

So I finally decided I’d had enough. The time had come to hire someone to mow my lawn and take over my suffering.

I started out by calling professional landscapers.  The prices they quoted made me think it would be cheaper to call a paving company and have all of the grass covered in asphalt.  So I posted my dilemma on Facebook. By then, I was so frustrated, I might have sounded just a bit dramatic – like I was going to drop dead on the front lawn if I had to mow it one more time.

And that’s how I found Patrick – a 15-year-old looking for a summer job because he’s trying to save up for driver-education classes. He asked if I had a mower, and without thinking, I said yes, not even considering he might not appreciate having to push around my battery-operated, hernia-inducer. He then quoted his fee, which, to my relief, turned out to be at the lower end of my price range.

When Patrick first set eyes on my monstrosity of a lawnmower, complete with its even more monstrous battery, his eyes grew wide and I feared he was going to turn and bolt out of my driveway. But I showed him how to run it and he was off and mowing. A little over an hour later, he was done.

Not only had he mowed the lawn faster than I believed was humanly possible, I swear the kid had only one bead of sweat on his forehead. Heck, every time I mowed the lawn, I ended up looking as if I’d just gone for a swim in a pool of olive oil.

Then, without my even mentioning it, Patrick grabbed the weed whacker and began to trim everything. At that point, I honestly wanted to clone him.

And no matter what I asked him to do, he was fine with it. I could have asked him to kneel down and pull up every piece of crabgrass by hand, and he’d have said, “Sure, no problem,” and knelt.

Everything went smoothly until last week, on a really hot, humid day. I was sitting inside, in air-conditioned comfort, while poor Patrick was outside mowing. Suddenly, I didn’t hear the lawnmower running. I waited about five minutes, then went outside to check on things, praying I wouldn’t find him lying face down in the grass with the lawnmower on top of him.  But I didn’t see him – or the lawnmower – anywhere.

Puzzled, I headed into the garage. There stood Patrick, frowning at the lawnmower.

“Don’t tell me… you threw out your back pushing it around,” I said. “And now you need a chiropractor.”

He shook his head. “The mower just died on me. I can’t get it to run.”

He’d had the good sense to try the spare battery, which I keep charged at all times in case it’s needed. But that hadn’t worked, either. I tried poking a few things on the mower, even though I had absolutely no idea what I was poking. The mower didn’t even so much as cough.

Meanwhile, the grass in the back yard looked as if it had grown another two inches while we were standing there, just to mock us.

I slowly turned to look at my old lawnmower, which runs on electricity. The reason why I switched from it to a battery-powered mower was because I’d accidentally mowed over three extension cords with it. And the cord that did make it unscathed through a mowing session ended up covered with dog poop. Believe me, after rolling up a hundred feet of poop-covered extension cord, I vowed never to go near the electric mower again.

“Um, you could finish mowing with the electric mower, if you’d like,” I suggested to Patrick.

He stared at the machine as if it were some Medieval torture device. “You have to …plug it in?” he asked, his eyebrows arching.

“Yeah, and drag around a 100-ft. cord while you’re mowing.”

I could tell by his expression that he’d probably rather have been smeared with chocolate syrup and staked to a hill of fire ants, but true to form, he said, “Sure, no problem.”

I watched him mowing and I really felt sorry for him. Every few minutes he had to bend down and move the cord so he wouldn’t mow over it. Unfortunately, the fact I’d bought a “pretty green cord” for the mower probably didn’t make spotting it in the grass any easier for him. Also, every few minutes the cord tangled into something that looked similar to a sailor’s knot. He finally slung the cord over his shoulder and dragged it behind him, then switched shoulders whenever he changed direction.

By the time Patrick finished the job, he actually was sweating nearly as much as I usually did after mowing. Feeling guilty, I apologized for torturing him. His response was something that sounded like a grunt. He then said, “I think it might be a good idea if I bring over my own mower the next time.”

My first thought was, “Oh, no!  He might raise his price if he has to buy gas for his mower!”

So the other day I took my battery-powered mower over to Hank & Al’s lawnmower repair shop, which has been operating here in Allenstown since the pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock.

The look the guy gave my mower clearly told me he thought I’d probably be better off if I drove it up to the edge of a cliff and then gave it a good shove.

“Well, we specialize in gas-powered mowers,” he said. “So I don’t know if I can do much with this one. But I’ll check it over for loose connections and get back to you next week.”

I’ll be very upset if my mower can’t be fixed.

But I’m pretty sure Patrick will be celebrating.


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