Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Life: Good News and Bad News

The good news is that Migraine One left town without saying goodbye and is now safely back in Granola Land. I know this because she called me and tried to have a conversation which I cut short because Main Lady was serving me dinner. Migraine One was miffed at coming in second place to dinner and a movie - C'est la vie, as the French would say.

Today I attacked the leaves in Main Lady's front yard. Main Lady's home is surrounded by oak trees which is very nice three seasons out of four. This year we have a bumper crop of acorns and leaves. So it's out with the leaf blower and into the front yard while Main Lady is out doing something with Centenarian. Things do not go along as smoothly as planned. For one thing both rakes are broken, and these are the two I bought a few years ago. They were the real nice wide kind, light and easy to work with. The handles came off on both, and I do not have the time, materials and temperament to fix them. That leaves me with a metal broom rake with most of the metal tines gone. I suppose it's better than nothing.

I started with the rake, but after an hour I gave in and finally braved the cluttered hell of the tool shed to retrieve the leaf blower - a fancy one with all kinds of attachments. I untangled the extension cord, set everything up and started moving leaves. Then - nothing.

My first clue that something was wrong was the delicate odor of burned insulation, which I chose to ignore. Next was the wisp of smoke coming out of the motor. Probably a little dust on the rotor or something, I thought. Then the damned thing quit and would not be revived. It was dead right there (DRT).

Half Raked Yard
The sane thing to do at this point would have involved a leisurely lunch, whiskey and a nap afterward. I entertained that thought while looking at the yard. Why does a partially cleared yard look worse than one that hasn't been cleared at all? I tried calling Main Lady on her cell to explain the demise of her leaf blower and advise her on my buying a new one, but she wouldn't answer. She does this on purpose. Plus, if I go out and buy a leaf blower she is just as likely to want the thing as not want it, it being the wrong color or being poorly rated by Consumer Reports. I shrugged off my neurotic thoughts and stowed everything in the garage, although I was tempted to leave the now-defunct leaf blower outside where someone would steal it. So it's jump in the car and drive off to Wally World.

Leaves Need Raking
Say what you want about American jobs leaving for China and Walmart ruining the economy, and I do not give a tinker's damn. Thirty minutes and 45 dead presidents later I had a nice new leaf blower with the same features as the old one and I was back working on the front lawn, and the only complication I had was an old lady who tried to hold me up on my way out, asking for my receipt. I told her it was in my pocket and kept walking. I wasn't offended; she was just doing her job, trying to earn a few bucks and if I hadn't been carrying the leaf blower I'd have stopped and showed her my receipt. I mean, we're all in this together, and if this lady can turn a few extra bucks at Wally World, who am I to give her a hard time?

New Leaf Blower
I attacked the leaves again and made about two hours of progress before being interrupted again, this time by the dog sounding a call to general quarters. A (maybe) teen age boy had ridden up on his bicycle and ignored me in favor of the front door bell, which activated the dog. I shut off the leaf blower to see what was up.

It turned out that the young entrepreneur was looking for Mrs. Main Lady, he being Main Lady's regular lawn service boy, and he wanted to see if Main Lady wanted her lawn mowed. I advised him in the affirmative, but suggested that the leaves needed immediate attention. He told me he'd be back with a rake. I decided not to hold my breath on this one and continued working.

Lawn Boy Evidence
 About a half hour later the boy is back, this time with overnight supplies and a rake. Yippee, I think, time for a little R&R. I wanted to retire to the TV room, but nothing will satisfy Excellent Rachmaninoff except for a dog walk. Naturally the dog wants to eat the lawn boy, but I dissuaded him. After the dog walk, I retired to the TV room with a sandwich and two fingers of Johnnie Walker Black Label... and the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. It's the lawn boy.

"Is it okay if I come back later? My tarp has a hole in it and I have to get another tarp."

"No problem, kid." I say with the jolly good humor of someone who has a solution. "We've got a tarp in the shed you can use."

"You want me to use the tarp in the shed?" Clearly, there is some incredulity here but I don't know why.

"Sure thing. I'll get it out for you." I'm helpful if nothing else. I get the big blue plastic tarp from the shed and hand it over to Main Lady's lawn boy, who seems strangely reluctant. Then I come back and release the dog, telling him what a great dog he is and giving him a dog cookie. I'm not quite halfway through my Johnnie Walker when the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. It's the lawn boy. Again.

"Does Mrs. Main Lady want the leaves raked down to the curb?"

I reassure him that Mrs. Main Lady will be ecstatically happy to have the leaves raked down to the curb and piled on top of the leaves that are already at the curb, waiting for the city leaf pick up to come and collect them. Thus reassured, the lawn boy returns to the hell of manual labor whilst Mad Jack tries to attain Nirvana through enjoyment of nutrients and first class booze, but not before releasing the dog and reassuring the dog the he is, in fact, the smartest dog in the entire city and bolstering the praise with a dog cookie.

I sip my Johnnie Walker, reflecting on the ingenuity of mankind. Truly the perfection of such a thoroughly refreshing elixir is conclusive evidence of civilization as we should know it, and if people would only spend a little more time drinking and listening, there would be less bickering among politicians... the doorbell rings, activating the dog. I send the dog to his place and order a sit-stay. Who do you suppose this could be? It's the lawn boy. Again.

"Um, I was wondering - can I come back and finish tomorrow?" He wants to know. Why is he even asking me this? Am I his keeper or something?

"What time tomorrow?" This is an old management trick. If you don't know what to say, ask questions. The kid responds with an elaborate shrug.

"Okay, morning or afternoon?" I'm persistent.

"Afternoon!" This is a definite answer, and the implication is: not morning. Anything but morning.

"Okay... what time tomorrow afternoon?" Again with the shrug.

"One o'clock?" I expect the kid to say something on the order of four o'clock, but I'm surprised when he agrees to one.

"Good enough. See you at one." I start to close the door, but the kid isn't done yet.

"Do you want me to put the tarp back in the shed?" He asks, deadpan.

"Yes, thanks. I'd like that." I say, deadpanning right back although I think it's a waste of time. The kid strikes me as not being the sharpest knife in the drawer. But then, he's out raking leaves and earning a few bucks, so that's a real plus in his favor. Shows he has character or something. We'll see if he ever shows up again, one o'clock or not.

I release the dog and reinforce his training with praise and a dog cookie, which is important. If you don't tell the dog when he does something right, he'll stop doing it and substitute a different behavior. Knowing the dog's proclivities, I can almost guarantee I will not be happy with the substitution.

So naturally when I get settled in again the phone rings. It's Main Lady and she has some type of emergency.

"Jack, there's a bunny in my mom's front yard."

Who was that said there's no rest for the wicked?

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