Tuesday, 7 August 2012
The sum of all fears: Me vs. the Zero Turn
If you're self-employed, unemployed or on sabbatical, the last thing you want to hear is, "So, what did you do all day?"
It's one of those questions that can be asked with the sweetest of innocence; other times it's as pointed as a knife. Regardless of the intent, those words make me want to bare my teeth and leap on the person who has said it like a feral dog. GRRRR! You still wanna know what I did all day? Well, do ya, punk??
Defensive-slash-overreactive much? Just a bit.
The thing is, I don't really know what I'm supposed to be doing all day. Change diapers, play with the kids, do the dishes, check Facecrack, wipe up pee, make supper, fingerpaint, run a load of laundry, yeah yeah yeah. But is that all? I feel like I should be renovating the house, or sewing curtains or teaching my kids French. That's the hard part of losing your job: suddenly, there's too much freedom. So when D asks me that question, sometimes with true interest, sometimes with a glint of evil in his eye, my inner Hound strains for release.
Anyway, one thing I CAN do when the kids aren't around is mow the lawn. My beloved Jean Green underwent extensive, expensive repairs last month, somehow rendering her even more unreliable than usual. Which leaves me the garden shears or D's giant, roaring zero-turn tractor, of which I am terrified.
D has been trying to convince me to use the zero-turn for three years. His father bought it, but gave it to us after he discovered that running it hurt his back, and D's mom, who can drive every piece of equipment on the farm, refuses to get on it. Yet somehow, my darling man thinks his precious wife should be fully capable of operating this nasty behemoth of a machine.
The first day he borrowed it from his Dad, just to, you know, "see what she runs like," he grinned so hard his face nearly split. As he spun around the yard in figure-eights, spewing fountains of grass all over my flowers, his tongue protruded from his mouth in what I could only guess was a childlike tractor noise. I knew right then that Jean Green and I were doomed. It was just a matter of time.
The zero-turn has a roll bar and a seatbelt. It also has scary graphics depicting stick figures in various stages of decapitation and mutilation. That alone has been enough to convince me that me and Jean Green are just fine, thanks, so don't bug us with your "fancy" mowers. Jean may plod along at the speed of a dying caterpillar, but she isn't going to chop my head off. And Jean's only graphics are of a rabbit to indicate her highest speed (aforementioned dying caterpillar) and a turtle for her slowest speed (dead caterpillar).
So until today, I've always managed to avoid zero-turn duty ("Jean will be jealous;" "I'm too tired;" "I don't wanna!"). But now that Jean needs a battery boost every time I need to start her, and my husband keeps asking me that wretched question, I decided to suck it up and risk my stupid life mowing the stupid lawn with the stupid zero turn.
I managed to get it started and back out of the barn without smashing into anything, and I even figured out how to turn on the blades. But I had to call my brother-in-law to figure out how to lower the deck. Which sucked, because I would have preferred my stupidity to have gone undiscussed between the brothers Lowry. I wanted D to come home to a splendid looking lawn and a nonchalant wife; instead, he'll ignore anything I tell him and ask Carm how it went instead.
Carm arrived with the same look on his face he has every time he has to help me with something, probably similar to the look I have when wiping my kids' butts.
When I moaned about Jean Green being out of commission, he shrugged and gestured to the beast in my driveway. "What's wrong with this one?"
"I hate it," I said. "The controls are too sensitive."
"Then it should be pefect. I thought you women were supposed to be all sensitive and stuff."
"Ha ha," I said. "Just help me figure it out."
We got the zero-turn going and I listened impatiently to Carm's instructions. I waved him off, and jerked down the lane to practise on the back lawn, which was crispy and didn't have any hills. I nearly scraped my leg off on the barn and yelped in terror at the sudden appearance of a fence post before I realized that to go right, I had to pull left, and vice versa. Who the hell designed this stupid thing? Probably some divorced guy. A grasshopper sprang down my shirt and I decided the roll-bar and seat-belt weren't such bad ideas after all. Then I realized Carm had follwed me in his truck and was observing my progress.
"GO AWAY!" I screamed, but he got out of the truck, walked over and turned up the throttle.
"Makes 'er go better!" he shouted.
"I DON'T WANT TO GO BETTER!" I screeched, careening away from him. "MOVE THE DAMN TRUCK!" I pictured myself bashing my father-in-law's beautiful new vehicle and going down in the Lowry annals as the daughter-in-law too stupid to drive a zero-turn. Carm just smiled.
I lurched off in the opposite direction in a gasoline-powered huff, praying I would get around the corner of the barn and out of sight so I could die in privacy. Carm rolled slowly down the lane in the truck to check me out. I ignored him so hard I nearly drove into the alfalfa field.
26 close-calls, two massacred solar lamps and a deep desire for a sports bra later, I've got all the flat, non-foliaged parts of the lawn cut. It hurts to turn my head to the right and my throat is raw from screams of terror. I am also covered in a fine coat of grass clippings and I think I sunburned a nipple (Note to self: never wear a tube-top on a zero-turn). But now I've got a good frigging answer when D asks me what I've done all day. And I can even make the tractor noise to prove it.