June 23rd, 2005

Snoopy Christmas

Let the Grass Grow

Slightly off the Mark

My lawnmower and I have been through a lot together.
No, I’m not speaking of the Infamous Exploding Lawnmower -- although granted, I went through a lot with that one, too. No, this lawn mower, once red and now a rather faded rust/pink, had provided close to a decade of service, in the interest of cutting my lawn down to size.
Never mind that the grass – or in my case, weed – is just trying to do what comes naturally: grow. Isn’t stopping the natural order of things, and replacing it with the controlled and artificial, one of the hallmarks of humanity? Sure it is. Grass is mean to be … grassy. Not carpety.
But never mind, I’m just working my way through grief. I’m grieving the loss of my steady and serviceable lawnmower, the best of Chinese technology. I’m grieving for what can be lost to the march of time. I’m grieving that I’ve got no money to replace the darn thing.
While we’re on that subject, I’m grieving the fact that my mower took the Big Dive during the same month that my computer broke and my insurance took a dramatic and exciting climb in cost, but let’s not quibble.
I was, as usual, minding my own business. I fueled up my mower, pouring three dollars worth of fuel into a two dollar gas tank. I checked the oil. I always check the oil – it’s the only thing I know how to do with an engine, besides fill it with gas. My understanding is that somehow the gas and oil get together in there and make things go – I don’t know how. In this case, the engine makes noise, I push the handle, and the grass – miraculously – gets cut. This is perhaps not so miraculous for the grass, but I believe we already covered that.
And then I set off happily – happily because I don’t have to think while mowing the lawn. That’s the beauty of it. There’s enough noise to mask any distractions, such as my kids yelling for money or … well, or anyone yelling for money. I don’t have to plan, worry, or otherwise exercise my brain. I just push, turn, push, repeat. It’s as close to nirvana as a man who works at a keyboard ever gets.
I was on my second turn, and thinking about how great it was not to be thinking, when a great cloud of blue smoke, comparable to the total amount of radioactive gas released by Cheyrnoble, came gushing out. Of the lawnmower, I mean.
It took a moment for my brain to kick back into gear. Then I remember saying, out loud, “That can’t be good.”
At that moment a new sound emerged from the mower, a sound that could only be compared to what you’d hear if a clothes drier was turned on with a dozen cats inside. Not that I’d advocate that, because hey – bad noise. Although they’d probably fluff up nicely.
Actually, it sounded more like a power saw being used on a metal wall. In any case, the noise wasn’t the biggest trouble, because it only lasted a moment. It was followed by another noise, a kind of dull thud that was accompanied by various small pieces of shrapnel and drops of oil flying through the air. I had a quick taste of what the invasion of Normandy must have been like, then the noise stopped.
Oil gushed from the bottom of my lawnmower, oil in such quantities that the EPA is still investigating the source. The life of the machine was pouring out – I was watching my old pal bleed to death, right before my eyes.
“No,” I decided, again out loud. “This is definitely not good.” We’d been through a lot together. The scratched and gouged ankles after the rear guard dropped off, teaching me how seriously rocky my lawn was. The speed control that disappeared one day, never to control again. The handle that fell into pieces, to be welded back on upside down. The way it changed mowing levels at whim, sometimes skimming the ground, sometimes missing –
Come to think of it, good riddance. The thing was a menace.
Maybe that’s why I reacted so unemotionally to its sudden demise. I dragged it to the garage, trailing oil all the way, parked it by the door and, without a backward glance, walked inside to take a nap. (Taking a nap is always my first alternate choice.) It had earned its pay, so to speak, so what did I have to complain about? Besides, I was still in the non-thinking mode. I would panic and worry about what to do later.
Which I did. So far the only thing I can come up with is, “Doesn’t the grass deserve some time to grow?”