Sunday, May 25, 2014

Epiphany #34: Last Man Standing

It wasn't too many years ago that I would try my best to be the first person in my neighborhood to get his grass cut and then I would post on Facebook that I was putting pressure on everyone else.  I did it for my own amusement, of course, a kind of ironic joke because I really could give crap about my lawn, except that I am really competitive about it.

I'll explain, but first let me say this:  I am the last man standing.

By that, I mean that, as far as I can tell, I am the last person in the neighborhood who cuts his own grass (If you are a woman reading this, please forgive the male gender pronouns throughout, but also agree with me that women cutting grass remains something of a novelty).  I am the last guy who drags his sorry ass out into the heat for the weekly ritual.  I am the last guy who keeps his front lawn trimmed up, but cuts his backyard whenever he feels like it because no one can see it.  I told you I was competitive.

What a strange situation!  If you see my neighborhood email group, the only mention of lawns that you will see is someone looking for a good "yard man."  At this point, are there even enough to go around?

Older than me or younger than me, everyone I know pays someone else to cut their grass.  Depending on who they get, it isn't necessarily a cheap proposition either.  The yards where I live are pretty good sized, and a weekly cutting is going to cost $60 or more, unless they can get some neighborhood kid to do it.

But that has mostly dried up, too.  The people who cut grass in my neighborhood arrive in trucks, pulling flat trailers loaded up with mowers, trimmers, etc.  They aren't kids; they aren't even necessarily the stereotypical Hispanics who once cut the grass of this country from top to bottom.  They are people who have lawn careers, at least during the summer.

Back to my competitiveness:  I don't care much what my lawn looks like as long as it has been cut, but I am not going to be the only uncut yard and I am going to make fun of the "house husband" up the street anytime my grass is cut and his ain't because I have a full time job too and I put meals on the table. So, yes, I enjoy those days when I'm ahead of the hood, when my lawn is level and my sidewalks and curbs have crisp edges.

What I can't quite figure out is why it bothers me that people aren't cutting their grass.  It isn't a "misery loves company" thing.  And I can kind of acknowledge that if they can afford to skip this tedious chore, why not?

But those are their lawns, and if they aren't out tending to them, is there any chance that they are missing some important connection--between owner and property, between man and earth, between civilization and nature?  Is it ridiculous to suggest that a man who does not know his land does not know the land he has?  Does that matter?

Or maybe it's the H. G. Wells in me.  In The Time Machine, the Eloi become such a leisure class that the worker class, the Morlocks, kidnap them and take them down into the Earth and eat them.  The Eloi are like carefree, innocent children.  And I'm not stoking the fear of some class warfare here;  I'm just suggesting that there is something about doing the work that keeps us whole, that keeps a part of us from atrophying.  How hard is it, really, to push a lawnmower, what special skills, exactly, are required to cut grass?  Maybe it's worth it to be able to hold onto that piece.

3 comments:

Tockstar said...

I could rant about lawn care all day, though my life on-campus means that I don't mow my own yard. In the early 90s, when I was about 12-13, the job of mowing my family's massive, hillside lot was given over to me. I loathed every moment of it, but it gave me a sense of what you discuss - a connection to that little dot of suburbia that was my family's life. And sense the responsibility was entirely mine, I had no one else to blame or turn to when the grass was high. I hate to be one of those old people who rant about "building character," but I think putting a 13-year-old in charge of the family lawn will teach him/her a heck of a lot more than yet another stint on a travel softball team. Bah!

Tockstar said...

whoa
*since the responsibility was entirely mine.

not "sense."

I'm addled.

Robert Berman said...

Billy Crockett had an 80s song, "41 Lawnmowers," about materialism. Lawnmowers are Exhibit A to support the song's complaint that, "everybody's got their own everything" rather than pooling resources on rarely used items. The potential objection to the song is that having your own "rarely used item" makes sense if everyone needs the item at the same time, just as a library for media makes more sense than a library for umbrellas. That objection loses some force if the labor too is outsourced so that times other than Saturday afternoon become viable mowing times. I do worry somewhat that by outsourcing home labor, we deprive our children of character building opportunities, however.