Please help me. I am being held captive by a German farmer. OK, I am not actually chained in someone’s barn, but my dilemma is every bit as serious. Let me explain.
My lawnmower broke. Yes, a First World Problem, to be sure. The difficulty, however, runs much deeper.
I have written before that I rather dislike yard work. I decided, however, that it really was good for me, so perhaps I should reclaim that oh-so-suburban task of mowing the lawn.
I had once retired from cutting grass by hiring a nice man who ran a small lawn care business. Then my then-ten year old son begged and pleaded to take that project over. For a fee, of course. The deal sounded pretty attractive until it turned out that I had to invest in a lawnmower and weedwhacker. Oh well, a youth out behind a lawnmower is a youth not behind a videogame console, right?
Each of my three children dutifully took a turn. In truth, the second two resented the first for starting this program, but life’s just not fair, right? Well, my daughter (the youngest of the three) got a break when old Dad took pity and adopted the back yard for himself due to the existence of some fairly steep hills which require a little more muscle than the flatter front. Is is still being sexist when you benefit from the sexism? Her brothers would have certainly loved that accommodation. But I digress.
Once the youngsters had flown the nest, the job was once again all mine. Which I promptly solved with a checkbook. OK, Venmo – because I am not a total Luddite, but you know what I mean. My original nice man was no longer around, but another was recommended. Hands were shaken and grass was cut while yours truly found more pleasant things to do.
But something nagged at me. I should get more exercise and walking behind a lawnmower on my nearly half-acre slice of suburbia seemed like just the thing. So when Andy emailed me about getting started for the new season, I . . . well, I don’t want to use the word “fired”. I suggested that I might be taking the job over again this year but that he would be my first call should I change my mind.
I found my trusty red Toro Super Recycler buried underneath a pile of stuff at the front of the garage. I filled it with fresh oil and gas, set the throttle and choke, and was delighted when the engine started on the very first pull of the rope.
I checked the service book I keep in the garage and was surprised to see that I had purchased it in the spring of 2002. Used, in fact. A mechanically-minded man can be awfully satisfied when his machinery is in such fine fettle after years of prolonged use. The German farmer in me was pleased.
After two mowings of the front and one of the back, it happened. The pool of oil on the garage floor was identified as coming from my lawnmower.
My spouse, who is much more sensible about these things, said “I guess it’s time to get rid of it.” But then the German farmer inside me took over. I have written previously about being Raised By Germans, and it is a real thing when it comes to being taught certain rules of life.
“Other than an oil leak, there is not a thing wrong with it. It can easily be fixed!” Yes, I could probably spend $20 in parts and a day of wrench therapy in my garage, I can have a perfectly fine . . . twenty year old lawnmower.
Or, I could just pay the mower shop about $150 and have them do it. “But that’s more than the thing is worth” said the sensible spouse. A concept that I rejected out of hand. I had this perfectly good machine, not a thing wrong with it. This one little repair makes it worth as much as a new lawnmower. A statement that makes perfect sense to the part of my brain under the control of the German farmer.
I am not a farmer, but a lawyer. My mother was German though, and was raised on a farm. I grew up surrounded by people who bought the best they could afford, were satisfied with what they had and fixed things when they broke. When done, the object (whatever it was) was pronounced “good as new.”
My grandfather, the real German farmer who died before I was born, bought a brand new 1935 Ford V8 sedan and did not replace it until 1951. All that time, it was the family’s only vehicle. It was the family car and also pulled wagons for farm work. Who needs a pickup truck when the Ford sedan and the wagon you already have does everything you need? When he finally replaced it, he gave it to his oldest daughter who drove it for another year. This, says the German farmer in my brain, is how life is supposed to work.
This is my curse. In our throwaway consumerist world of consumption and waste, I think everything I own is good for . . . forever. I bought a used lawnmower in 2002 and should never have to worry about it again. Because I bought a good one. And it’s still perfectly fine. Well, except for the oil that drools from the engine all over the deck at a rate that requires it to be parked on a thick stack of newspaper.
Perhaps this is why I tend to hang onto my cars too long. “There’s nothing wrong with this. Take care of your things and they will take care of you.” “Forever” is the unstated extra word that my German farmer-formed mind wants to append to the end of the preceding sentence.
Well, the little part of my brain that managed to escape from the German farmer’s captivity whispers that nothing lasts forever. But I listen to such things with great skepticism. “The only day you regret paying top money for a piece of equipment is the day you pay for it.” But then comes the day it starts spilling its bodily fluids all over your garage. Must. Not. Pick. Up. Those. Wrenches.
The grass that began this discussion is not getting any shorter. In fact my neighbor to the rear (whom, I suspect, may also have been raised by a German farmer) is surely ready to call the city on me for the back yard that is beginning to resemble an African veldt. So I have made a hard decision and called the nice grass-cutting man to ask if he will please, please, please take me back as a customer. He said yes.
Now, the hard question. With the time pressure relieved, do I go ahead and fix my (almost) perfectly good twenty year old lawnmower? When I ask that question at home I get the side-eye. So this is where you come in. Please help me. I need advice, encouragement, or something along those lines to help me through this dilemma.
Maybe I should just put it out at the curb with a sign that says “free” and start looking for a nice riding mower. “A top-quality used one” adds the voice of the German farmer. “It will last you forever”.