Friday, June 3, 2016



Carl, the guy who regularly mows my lawn, and I have a system. When my grass gets long enough to conceal squirrels, I call his number, leave a message for him, and he shows up with this big turbo tractor-like mower the next morning.

The Sunday before my neighborhood’s big house-to-house yard sale on May 28, in which I was participating, I noticed two disturbing things: my lawn seemed to have shot up to nearly my shins overnight, and ticks were arriving by the busloads to inhabit it.

Visions of sandal-wearing people coming to my yard sale, walking across the lawn and emerging with so many ticks on their feet and ankles, they’d look as if they were wearing flesh-colored socks with black polka-dots on them, prompted me to call Carl and tell him I wanted my front lawn cut nice and short before the holiday weekend. But when I called, I received a busy signal.

So I kept trying…and trying…and trying again, and the busy signal continued. Three days later, and three days closer to my yard sale, the busy signal still persisted. There was no way, I thought, anyone could be talking on the phone for three days straight – not even someone as long-winded as I am. And even if Carl were having a Guinness-record type of conversation, why, I wondered, wouldn’t my call still be transferred to his voice mail so I could leave a message?

I decided something had to be wrong. So out of desperation, I did something I hadn’t done in years – I dialed “0” for operator. I had no clue if telephone operators even still existed, so I was surprised when I actually ended up talking to a human.

“I’ve been trying to call a number for the past three days and the line has been busy,” I told her. “Do you know if it’s out of order?”

She said if it was in New Hampshire number, she could try it for me. I gave it to her and she asked me to hold, then she returned and told me there was something wrong with the circuit. She said Carl would have to report it to the repair service to resolve the problem.

I hung up feeling defeated and wondering why Carl hadn’t noticed no one had called him for three days.

Meanwhile, my lawn and the ticks continued to grow until I could have sworn I heard Tarzan’s famous jungle call coming from the yard one night. Panic began to set in as Carl’s number continued to be busy. So I finally made a dangerous and desperate decision…I decided to try to tackle the lawn myself.

I have two lawnmowers – a battery-operated one and an electric one – each of which has its drawbacks. The battery in the battery-operated one weighs over 30 lbs., so it makes pushing the mower about as easy as pushing a VW Beetle around the lawn. Also, charging the battery takes hours, and I hadn’t charged it since there were only 49 states.

Then the electric mower requires an extension cord, and the longer the better. The cord then will, in the course of one mowing, get under the wheels of the mower, wrap around every tree, pole and bush it comes near, tangle into a replica of the Boy Scouts’ guide to knot-tying, and ultimately unplug itself from the electrical outlet no fewer than 1,323 times.

I didn’t have time to waste charging the battery, so I opted to use the electric mower.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my 100-ft. extension cord, so I had to link three shorter ones together.

It took me over three hours to finish mowing. One of those hours was spent untangling and re-connecting the extension cords that kept pulling apart, and another was spent swatting at swarms of black flies and mosquitoes. My vision of having a neatly cropped lawn caused me to set the mower on its lowest setting, causing clumps of grass and dirt to go flying everywhere.

I managed to transform my lush, green lawn into something short and brownish with bald spots. But on the plus side, I was pretty sure the mower had acted like a guillotine and decapitated thousands of nasty ticks.

I wasn’t, however, about to tackle the back yard (a.k.a., the rainforest) where the grass was thicker and longer, so I tried calling Carl one more time. My mouth fell open when I didn’t hear the annoying busy signal and instead was prompted to leave a message. I did, telling him the back lawn needed mowing.

Carl showed up the next day. The first thing he did was stare at my nearly bald front lawn and ask, “Have you been cheating on me?”

I laughed and told him I’d cut it myself.

“Not bad,” he said, obviously being polite. “But just a little too short.”

I asked him about his phone being busy all week and he said he hadn’t really noticed because he’d still been able to make calls. But a couple people finally told him they’d been receiving busy signals. He said by then, however, the problem somehow had resolved itself.

So everything ended up looking good for my yard sale.

And one of the first things I sold was my battery-operated lawnmower – for $50.

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