Thursday, September 3, 2015

Burn It, Blow It Up and Dispose of It [Mowing]

Yes, it's that time of year again. Ok, it's toward the end of that time of year again. The time that I dread. The time that wakes me up at two in the morning, in a cold sweat, screaming NOOOOOO. It's Mower Time.
 I have written extensively on Mower Time but since it's this time of year and I have been doing battle again, I feel it necessary to get this off my chest (and arms and itchy legs).

I hate mowing. Nothing new there.  But I have an absolutely irrational hatred of mowing. It's definitely not Mowphobia... phobia implies fear.  I have no fear of mowing - I actively HATE it. I'd sooner saw off a random limb by myself than mow the lawn (and I pass out at the thought of blood).

We started with a push mower. I have no idea why. Then a gas mower, which died in short order. The two anemic electric mowers, which did, at no time, run over their electrical cords. They're probably still in the Mower Graveyard (the shed). They probably still work, or whatever it is they did, in a very meek, underpowered way. The next gas mower failed for what looked like fuel reasons. I figured that since I knew the tiniest bit about engines, I'd give it a shot. After having removed the air filter and what looked vaguely like a carburetor (or carburettor, for our British reader and Queen fan), I wound up with a no movement solution. Since it was already broken, it remained broken, due to my lack of true understanding of engines. I strongly suspect that what I thought was a carburetor was actually a Quantum Space Drive and I somehow managed to extract the Quantumness from it, rendering it a pot-metal version of a non-working carburetor. Again, since it was not working before my experiment in quantum physics, I don't count this as my fault, much like my wife 'saving' us money by buying shoes on sale.

Finally we invested in a serious mower. I know it was serious because it was more expensive than what had to be less serious mowers. And it had a Big and Strategic engine, which was the engine of choice for Indy race cars and underpowered golf carts. It also had a lot of metal on it, which was damn impressive (and harder to push). Because it was a serious mower, the throttle cable broke after a season or two.  Doing my best impression of a Manly Man, I purchased a generic replacement throttle cable assembly, since I couldn't remember the model of my mower. As it turned out, I didn't need to know this, because the only product sold is the generic one.  Of course, as usual in these rants, the joke was on me: after doing my best to route the cable and performing the unthinkable task of zip-tying the cable to the handle, the cable flatly refused to control the throttle in any way, shape or form. It just flatly refused. The reason this is a joke is that this cable NEVER works. Like most other things, it's just Performance Art. You purchase it, you install it, then you curse at it because it flatly refuses to work, like a government employee or a Kardashian.

Cursing, as we know, is a required activity for repairing computers and cars (and by extension, lawnmowers). The neighbors are actually frightened of me, which is a condition that occurs normally without a mower in-hand. Parents pull their children off the street when they hear me pulling the cover off the evil device. The Department of Defense goes to DEFCON 5.

So, as an Imitation Manly Man, I work up a jury-rigged solution with chicken wire, several push pins and a hair tie we like to call Ralph. This alleged solution requires more cursing than simply trying to mow. I tie up the throttle, at which point the mower still steadfastly refuses to start. Checking the gas, I notice it's almost empty. This thing uses more gas than the old land yachts I used to drive (the ones with eight cylinder engines the size of small aircraft carriers). After having topped off, I hit the prime it button four times (because the instructions say two times - I'm just like that) and it still won't budge. This is because Ralph has slipped, turning off the throttle.  Cursing for good measure, I re-tie the wire and Ralph, which finally allows the engine to roar to life, frightening the dog. The mower immediately chokes on the grass, which is only waist high (don't ask me).  I found out later that, as it turns out, if you tie the throttle up a little further, the mower won't stall all that much, even if the grass is wet, as it is wont to be in Extremely West London, US.  So I mow. And I curse. And it takes the regulation forty minutes.

After I'm done, I race inside, sneezing from the aroma of freshly cut grass. As I struggle to the fridge, producing a two foot puddle of sweat under me, I down a cold can of grapefruit soda (you think I'm kidding? Go to the store and purchase some Sanpellegrino grapefruit, which, unfortunately, I do not get paid for talking about or drinking).

Eventually, after the leaking, sneezing and panting subside, I realize that it wasn't that soul-snatching an exercise (who am I kidding?). I make note of this for next time, so I won't have such difficulty with this most cursed of activities.  This matters not, as it takes two complete weeks of my wife dropping gentle hints (THE CRAZY LADY IS GOING TO CALL THE TOWNSHIP AGAIN, THE GRASS POLICE WILL ARRIVE SOON, I CAN'T FIND THE DOG) to get me off the couch and in the vicinity of the blasted device. After this, I can rely on failing to start the thing once or twice. Two nights ago it was too dark to mow. Then my near-fatal hangnail prevented all motion. After the grass has successfully hidden the actual mower, I have no choice but to walk past the thing a few times. Finally I prepare myself with tools, wire and a flamethrower and approach my nemesis.

Last night was beyond anything I've ever experienced. I go outside, in a perfectly positive mood, vowing to remain calm. The first time I try to tie up Ralph and fail, the cursing explosion starts, as if I've been trying this all day and it's just mocking me. This time I was ready, with solid steel wire and industrial tools. Knowing that there was no way I could even expect to tie the cable successfully, I had a pair of locking pliers with me. I tested the pliers, which clamped firmly onto the wire and would not budge or even release itself from the wire, knowing in my heart this was the solution.  I yanked on the cable, digging into the skin on my hand, and applied the pliers, locking them on the cable. Or NOT locking them, as it occurred.  The pliers, which worked perfectly in the midair test, completely failed to hold onto the cable in practice. It's like advanced math or windshield washing fluid - it simply doesn't work, leaving large white spots of bird shit on the glass (and I'm talking about the math here).

After a time or thirty of cursing at the locking pliers and applying a little pursuasion via the flamethrower, the machine roared to life, like Rosie Perez perceiving an insult. Aside from several branches placed in my way by a chuckling tree stopping the mower, I got done.  Yes, the mower had won, again, but I was experiencing the Mowing High people only whisper about, after getting their illegal performance-enhancing shots in Mowing Circles. Fortunately nobody from the township was around to urine-test me.

I ran into the house, crying and cursing, almost mowing down my wife (get it? - mowing). I demanded that the grass be burned down so I'd never have to perform the horrid activity anymore. My wife, used to a certain amount of entertainment post-mowing, did what she normally does and ignored me. I'd do much better arguing with the cat, only the cat occasionally appears happy to see me. As it turns out, the township forbids use of a flamethrower for mowing (or gas station tidying up), so I was pretty much out of luck.

A friend recommended hiring someone. This was a tremendous idea - one way too simple and brilliant for me to form. The wife got right on it, and by right on it, I mean she ignored it like I ignore anything with a lower case 'i' in front if it. She keeps trying to motivate me by saying 'this should be the last time you mow this year'. Unfortunately this fails the merit test in April and May.  You just try to hire someone to mow your lawn - go ahead - I dare you. All you get is services that want to come out weekly, mow and play with your shrubbery. I don't know about you but the last time I had my shrubbery played with was in my teens - a practice I vowed to avoid and have been thus far successful at. What about some neighbor kid who wants to earn a few bucks? No deal.. what used to be young entrepreneurs has morphed into selfie-taking, game playing kids who only leave the house to look at new phone cases (and get their tans from the refrigerator light). Plan B is that using the grass as a Doggy Bathroom would murder the grass once and for all.  Not so much, even considering the amount of liquids he consumes and his little chlorine-cleaned pool.

With only minor lacerations and thirty seven extremely itchy bug bites, I re-remind myself not to mow in shorts (or longs).  Meanwhile, I can hear the grass growing behind my back... inch by inch... it's openly laughing at me. Now I hear we've got a gopher or some such garden rodent (didn't anybody tell him we don't have a garden?) living in the shed with the old lawnmowers. The last time my wife checked, it had the unmitigated audacity to be swimming in the dog's pool! We might have to send the cat out after it - he's a born killa. He could drag the carcass in the house and onto the couch, which is still wet from the dog's last dip in the pool at two in the morning.

I f-ing HATE mowing.

Led Zeppelin fan?

Jimmy Page just finished the remixes of the entire Zep catalog. I have only heard two songs but they're frighteningly good sounding. Worth a listen.

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