Friday, June 25, 2004

Blade, Sweat and Jeers

I had such ambition today. It's Friday, which in itself needs little more explanation. I had a spectacular day at work, teaching a colleague every trick I know to do my job so she can fill in for me while we vacation. She came away thanking me profusely and I think much more confident that she'll be able to handle things while I'm gone.

I decide to leave work and head directly to the church to get some yard work done, but I had to replace the blade on the church lawnmower first having bent it worse than Jessica Simpson's logic several weeks ago.

Despite being admittedly inept at all forms of repair work, I am confident. I actually replaced my own lawnmower blade a few weeks back. This time I am ready, I stop by Sears to buy a blade, I have tools at the church, and I even remember to bring along a block of wood to hold the old blade in place, as well as my handy metal pipe to give me added leverage with the socket wrench. I actually look like I know what I am doing.

Within seconds I have the old blade off and the new blade on. It's a watershed moment in my life. At nearly 47 years old I have finally fixed something on the first try.

Then I pull the cord to start the mower.


Okay....maybe something is still a little loose. I tighten the blade some more. Same thing.

Okay, maybe it's too tight. I loosen the blade a little.

Bad idea. The song "Foot Loose" starts rolling through my mind.

Hmmm...I look at the blade. I examine the mower. Everything seems right, except when the blade turns one edge keeps hitting the housing. I try adjusting the blade slightly to one luck. Finally I conclude that I perhaps have purchased the wrong replacement blade.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...It's back to Sears I go.

The salesman eyes me suspiciously when I tell him the 22 inch blade doesn't fit my 22 inch mower. I try to convince him that my old bent 22 inch blade is a little smaller than the replacement I purchased. He is a man of few words. I believe they were, "22 inches is 22 inches".

I decide that it isn't worth debating and I trade down to a 21 inch blade. The salesman shakes his head and takes my money - yes, a 21 inch blade costs more than a 22 inch blade. Look for Jessica Simpson in a Sears commercial soon.

I happily drive back to the church convinced this will do the trick but as I pull into the parking lot I notice some writing etched into one side of my shiny new 21 inch blade. It reads: "Grass side".

Have I mentioned how inept I am at this type of thing?

Not once did it cross my mind that it matters which way the mower blade is attached. I assumed it was the same on both sides. Moreover I actually thought that the side with the label on it, advertising "Craftsman" would naturally face outward, presumably so everyone turning over the mower would see the ad. Admittedly, upon further reflection that does seem to be a rather limited market.

Now I am faced with the dilemma: do I go back to Sears and admit I'm a moron who never attempted to attach the blade "the other way" or do I put on a 21 inch blade that isn't designed for the machine?

Hi Ho...Hi Ho....

I manage to make the exchange for the blade I had returned only 10 minutes before with a modicum of embarrassment. Okay, they laugh at me. All the guys in the lawn and garden area laugh. They may still be laughing for all I know.

I drive back to the church, put on the new 22 inch blade taking note of the "grass side" marking this time.

Did I mention it's about 90 degrees with 102% humidity? I'm sweating like a latter day Elvis. I've been at this project now for more than an hour. Not one blade of grass has been mowed.

I yank the cord. Nothing. I yank it again...and again...and again. I prime the engine. Yank. Diddly squat. Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank!!!!

Silence...followed by a few words not normally uttered in our church parking lot.


Okay, maybe I flooded the engine. I'll take a time a minute. YANK YANK YANK!


I decide to busy myself elsewhere, and start spraying some weed killer on the crushed granite paths around the church. Ten minutes later, I go back to the mower. This time I say a few words to God which are much more pleasant than my previous utterances.

Yank. Yank Yank. Yank Yank Yank. YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK!


Taking note of my previous stupidity I double check to make sure there is gas in the engine and that the spark plug wire is attached. Both check out - which at least provides me with the satisfaction of knowing that I still have room to grow as an idiot.


I give up. It would be quicker to drive home, get my own mower and drive back than keep doing this...and certainly it would be less frustrating.

I push the mower to the storage shed thinking perhaps I damaged more than the blade but right before I stow it inside I give it one last YANK.


"Sputter? Did you just sputter?" I'm now talking to a lawn mower.

Sputter sputter.

It's talking back!



We have lift off!

I immediately start mowing away, and it's actually feeling cooler too. Hooray!

Hmmm... I'm still sweating though.

Oh, that's not sweat.

It's rain.

Big fat rain, coming down in sheets.

I keep mowing. It keeps raining.

In the back of mind I swear I hear something singing, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho...It's down the drain we go" It's the weed killer.

I ignore the thought and the rain. I mow on... determined.

Suddenly I'm feeling like Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump...

I'm atop the mast of a ship being pounded by the seas and rain and I'm railing at the Heavens, "You call this a storm??"

Sputter. Silence.

Yeah...that's what He calls it alright.

I call it quits.

"God? I'm sure I'll figure it out on my own...after I dry out a bit and I get my arm back in its socket, but I have to admit right now I'm thinking sometimes Your message gets a little lost in the translation."