I know this fellow. I can’t tell you much about him, because he wishes to remain anonymous. But a couple weeks back, I was having a beer with him, wearing the tuxedo (natch), and this fellow hit on an idea.
“I’ll pay you $100 to mow my lawn in the tux,” he said.
“Done!” I replied and offered to shake on it before he could back down.
That was my first mistake. Never settle for the first offer. I’m certain I left $50 on the table. Maybe twice that amount. Because this fellow is the sort that has no idea what a lawn mowing is worth. Similarly, I am confident that he doesn’t know what a gallon of milk costs. This fellow is so far removed from the maintenance of his own property that he doesn’t even own a lawn mower. Which is why he said I’d have to bring mine.
“Fine,” I said. “But I’m not bagging, and I’m not edging.”
It was agreed.
This morning at 8:20, I showed up with my mower in the back of my Prius. (Side note: to accommodate the machine, I had to put down the back seats, which meant that when I drove my kids to school, my daughter had to ride with the mower.) I buzzed in at the fellow’s gate, and it slid back to reveal his handsome motor court. He ambled out to greet me in shorts and his bare feet, cradling an espresso, clearly pleased with himself. He was kind enough to help me hoist the mower out of the car. Then, after more discussion about mower height than I cared for, I got to work while he got his iPad and followed me around, taking pictures, giggling.
My strategy was to mow the damn place as quickly as I could, thereby giving the fellow as little fun as possible. My mower is self-propelled, but I went manual because I can push faster than it can propel. The tradeoff here is more exertion. And though it wasn’t terribly hot this morning (call it 80 degrees when I started), humidity stood at about 55 percent. In the vernacular, the expression would be “I sweated my balls off.” That doesn’t begin to describe what happened. It took me just 30 minutes to earn my money, but by the time I finished, I had sweat off not just my reproductive organs but my nipples and my backside, too. The polyester lining inside the slacks clung to my wet legs. My undershirt, the dress shirt, the tie, the purple vest — all as wet as if I’d jumped into a pool. A pool of human sweat.
When I shut off the machine and, standing in his front yard, gave the fellow a double-birds salute, he proceeded to bitch about the quality of my work. It was to be expected. Some clients aren’t happy unless they get to bitch. It had been awhile since I’d mowed a yard for money, but some lessons are never forgotten.
He invited me in for a glass of water. I quickly drained three as he handed over a crisp $100 bill. Parting with it surely didn’t pain him as much as the mowing had me. But neither, I think, did he take as much pleasure watching me work as I will from the many pints, paid for with his money, that I will quaff in the days to come.
Here’s to good, honest, hard work and the just rewards it brings. Also, thanks to Patron XO Cafe. And Al’s Formal Wear.