Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Need a Leaf Blower

Sure, I need a lot of things; at least I think I do anyway, but then again I always like to think that I could do without whatever it is that I need. I need a new washer, as the old one is making funny noises. On the other hand, it still fills with water, swishes around the clothes a bit and people are still able to stand next to me so it is probably working well. I guess I don’t need one then. I need a new dishwasher. This one is loud and the dishes come out sometimes with more crud on them than they went in with. However, if I do a little work before I put them in there, they come out sparkling. So, I’m assuming I really don’t need a new one right now.

Last night, just to get out of the house, I trolled the departments at Best Buy, drooling over the new flat-panel TVs that just came in, and I chatted up the appliance guy for a while, looking at what it would cost to replace all of the major appliances (stove, microwave and dishwasher: $1400. Doable, but I still wince). I didn’t include the refrigerator because ours, though about seven years old, still works without flaw (despite the occasional weird sound emanating from the recesses of its bowels).

My how things can possibly change in the course of one day.

This morning, I awoke not to an alarm clock or the splash of the morning sun cascading gently in through my bedroom window, but to Kara saying, “I think we need a new refrigerator. The freezer’s dripping.” My stomach churned. There isn’t a week that goes by where I run the contingency scenario of the day the fridge dies; I practice the eventual possibilities of the situation and I make note of the cheapest solution. In short, I dread the moment I discover that the fridge has moved on to the happy hunting ground in the sky, but not today, not today. I thought we had many frigid years left in the old gal, and I was very happy to conclude that I quite possibly left the freezer door cracked open all night (if it was dying, the fridge side would be warmer to and it wasn’t). Despite the loss of energy, I was elated.

I needed new pants, shorts specifically, as my favorite gray shorts are frayed at the hems, and most of the others I own, I’ve owned for a number of years (read: back when I was thinner). They fit, but only if I suck it up, and sometimes I worry about blowing out a seam at an inopportune moment… like bending over to pick up a penny, for instance. I neglected buying new shorts all summer. For one, I haven’t found a pair that I like; I was really holding out for ones like the gray ones. Secondly, I hate to try on clothes. I feel like I’m walking into someone’s house and rummaging through their drawers, only to slip into their bathroom and put on their clothes. I know, I’m the only one that feels that way. Oh, and usually, I hate to shop. One night the mood strikes me, I roll into Kohls, look for the shorts that were on sale (that I saw a couple of days before) and I pulled five various colors off of the shelf. I actually tried on a pair, instead of merely holding them up in front of me like so many other men in the world do. They fit, so I bought them.

Imagine my dismay and disappointment—and consider the quality of day I was about to have—when I first put on a pair of the shorts, tore off the tags, smoothed out some of the factory-applied wrinkles; realizing I had to go to the bathroom before I left for the day, I unbuttoned them, for the very first time mind you, and the button pops off right into the toilet. Kerplunk. I’m just glad they sowed an extra one on the inside of the pocket, as I would sooner use a safety pin than a “wet” button. I just let it go, and turned to look for my old gray ones.

I’ve never owned a leaf blower. At the old house, I never needed one. We only had the one big maple tree in the front that I planted and when it dumped its leaves, it seemed to do it all in one day. I just raked them up and we were good for another year. But I don’t know where all the leaves are coming from in my yard now. There are so many trees around here that we are never without leafy dunes scattering in the winds, collecting in the corners of the driveway and at the base of the walls. I get blisters sweeping them weekly. The worst place the dead leaves gather is in the planters that I’ve filled with wood chips, as they mingle in with the chips and it is impossible to eradicate them without tweezers.

My best remedy is to use the mower. I just lift it up over the planter and let the whirling blade blow out the leaves (and some of the wood chips). Simple, effective. At least it is until you hit a rock. Well, it wasn’t a rock so much as it was a small boulder. When they cleared the land a few miles from the house to build a 100 acre shopping center, they piled up all of these wonderful canyon boulders, so a dozen or so are strewn about the yard. I either didn’t notice it or did and didn’t put together that a spinning blade would stop suddenly if it came in contact with an immovable force.

And stop it did…with the sudden flare of a missile launch failure. The motor crashed to a stop. When I pulled on the ripcord to fire the engine back up to life, it jerked out of my hand, and the engine rattled with an unnerving clamor. Great, I broke the lawnmower.

I flipped it on its side to take a look at the blade. Maybe it was just out of balance. Besides a huge chunk taken out of the blade, I was able to twist off the retaining nut with my fingers. Definitely not a good sign, but the blade needed to be replace. A couple of days later—since I had to find a Sears, as it is a Craftsman—I put on the new blade and cranked it over. It rattled like an old Model T, but it ran fine… if you didn’t listen to the scraping metal sounds flurrying like a tornado on plastic wheels, and if you ignored the blustering cloud of white smoke that billowed from the exhaust when it turned over.

Oh yeah, and the blade, the new one I had just put on, fell off. Well it didn’t fall off so much as it flung itself out from underneath the mower like a boomerang and clattered across the driveway. If I was standing about six feet to the right, I might have been typing this with only five toes as it would have for sure lopped off a foot at the worst.

So, I didn’t tighten the retaining bolt enough. Okay, I’ll get a wrench this time.

Now, the grass is shorter, so it still cuts grass as it should, but I think the collision was one slap on a rock closer to an early grave for the mower. That and I leave it out in the rain from time to time.

Maybe I don’t need a leaf blower. Then I’d have to take care of it.

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