Spring brings out the beast in me
It’s that time of year again, that time when I go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and spend more money than I get in my paycheck. The fresh grass, the blooms; something about springtime that makes me go to the mega-hardware stores and buy more tools and bags of fertilizer than I really know what to do with. Part of my problem is that I end up spending more time browsing the store than I do actually working in the yard. Oh, my intentions are good ‘— I’m going to have the best looking lawn in the WORLD, baby!
Just going into one of those stores makes me feel like a man. Now, I really don’t know what to do with all those tools but I can fake it pretty good. I walk up and down the aisle checking out the circular saws, the cordless drills and chainsaws ‘— nothing like raw power to bring out the beast in a man.
‘“You need any help, buddy?’” asks the salesman.
‘“Naw, just looking around. Yep, got to get me one of them, really been needin’ one around the house. Just came to get a tape measure.’” A tape measure is a good thing to need because it’s usually located near the power tools and gives me a good excuse to browse without having to worry about being caught out of my element.
Yes, I’m a poser. But I do end up leaving with a few pine bales or something. I know how to handle that. And I can leave with my dignity, looking like a real man as I drive off, needles blowing around in the back of my truck.
There’s just something great about mowing and weed-eating the grass, fixing up the flowerbeds, getting the yard looking just perfect and then grilling out. The smell of burning charcoal mixed with fresh-cut grass in the air is rewarding and relaxing.
My father, God bless him, has always been a do-it-yourselfer. Too bad I didn’t get the handyman gene. We once had a lawnmower that my daddy was proud of. He’d gotten it really cheap and it was one of those ‘tractor kinds’ as we called it, back when the ones with the hood and headlights started getting so popular in the early ’80’s. It was quite rusty and we planned on a paint job, but it never happened (I wanted flames). Eventually the lights stopped working, the hood rattled so bad we had to take it off, the belt jumped off halfway around the yard, the tires were slick and the brakes stopped working. It was ghetto.
As I made my way up the hill I’d take a breath and brace myself for the wild ride back down. You’d better hope there was no reason to stop because when you pressed the brake the clutch would engage and (no brakes, remember) the thing would go coasting at record-breaking speeds. I flipped it a couple times, abandoning ship at the last possible moment and rolling across the yard. Still, this did not convince my father to get a new lawnmower. He would always fix it, as he said, ‘“good as new.’”
Finally, after going to college, I came home one weekend to find my daddy on what? That’s right, a new lawnmower. He claims the old one finally caught fire and he had no choice. I still wonder if he was trying to teach me some sort of life lesson by making me cut the grass with the old one.
When my wife, daughter and I moved to Greensboro this year our faithful old washer and dryer (used, of course) went out. My well-intentioned father came to help me work on the dryer one weekend. He said the heating element was probably out. We took the back off the dryer to test the heat coils (in total defiance to the appliance’s warnings) and cranked the sucker up. All of a sudden I heard: ‘“How do you turn this thing off?’” and turned around to see him banging at the large timer knob. Then, ka-BAM!, the heating coil shot sparks across the kitchen and burned a nice hole in the linoleum.
About a week later I went to Lowe’s (ahhh, Lowe’s) and bought a new washer and dryer. No more fix-it-yourself for me. I got a Fisher and Paykel washer that is sweet. No belts or pullies and the thing sounds like a quiet jet taking off when it spins. I tried to talk my wife into moving it into the living room and putting it in place of the TV. She said no, but was overjoyed with my fascination with laundry.
Now really, my father is not the klutz that I am. He’s a great welder, takes care of his own cars and is building a deck. But I didn’t inherit any of it and I wonder if I jinx him every time we work on something together.
No, I’m not too handy but at least Lowe’s helps me feel like I am. And with my spring fever I’m finding myself ignoring the voice inside my head. My daughter is four and I want to build her a swing set, a really nice one. Next week I’m getting the wood and my father is coming to help me. Look out thumbs!
To comment on this column, e-mail Lee Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.