Today was a perfect day to mow the lawn. Bright and sunny, the birds were singing, the bees were busy. Yes, today was the perfect day to mow the lawn. As was every day for the last three weeks. If only my lawnmower weren't down at Snuffy's Small Engine Repair and Produce.
The first week he had it, I only stopped by once to see when he'd be bringing it back. It's too easy for people to brush you off on the phone. People lie to you on the phone. I know because I do it all the time.
"Can I speak with James?" the caller will ask, and since no one of any character has ever called me James, I say, "Are you calling about his funeral service? It's tomorrow at 10. Would you like to be one of the speakers?" In person, it's hard to get away with that.
Thank goodness, I'm not one of those people who thinks his lawn should be a flawless piece of art, because it is now over my ankles. I do have a life outside my front yard, unlike some of my neighbors. The highlight of my day will not be edging my sidewalk. But I've come to find riding on the mower for a few hours a week a mini-vacation. I can put on my ear protectors and shut out the noisy world for a while.
"So," I explained to Snuffy, "it's not just for the grass, or my snooty neighbors, it's for me. It's my 'me time.'" I don't think Snuffy was familiar with the term.
"We're just waiting for a part," he said. "It should be here tomorrow." I went home a happy man. You may have noticed, as I did not, that he didn't say the lawnmower would be back tomorrow, just that the part may be here tomorrow. In my delusional fantasy, that part would be installed the very second it came in, and Snuffy would then deliver the now fully functional tractor back to my house tomorrow, which is no longer tomorrow, but last Thursday.
Last Friday, after one of the neighbors stopped by to ask if I would be selling hay this year and if so, how much per bale, I paid another visit to Snuffy. Snuffy, I should say, is a nice guy. He assured me that there was an unfortunate mix-up at Parts International and that it was now all straightened out and the part should be in tomorrow. I wasn't going to fall for that twice.
"But if the part comes in tomorrow, will you install it tomorrow?" Snuffy looked hurt. "Why wouldn't I?" Whoops! Now I was on his bad side -- I may never get the thing fixed. Next time I'll call him. This "in person" thing was not working out the way I planned. I waited four days without hearing from him. Byron, who lives two blocks away and has seven or eight small children, stopped by. He wanted to know if I would mow a maze in my front lawn for his children to play in. He thought I could actually make money on the deal by charging neighborhood kids to get in.
"Well, if I ever get my lawnmower back from Snuffy, I'll think about it." Byron told me it was Snuffy's idea to begin with. "He always seems to know who I should ask," Byron said. Gee, I wonder how? I explained the situation. After a little thought, he said, "You should pile up a few weeks' worth of newspapers on your porch so people will think you're on vacation and not just a slob."
"Good idea, but I'd rather not be in the house when the burglars come to rob me."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about it. They'd try one of the houses that look like there might be something in there worth stealing first."
I called Snuffy yesterday. He wasn't there. They said he was out mowing his lawn.
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com.