Neil Offen: The uneasy guide to lawn care

Apr. 28, 2013 @ 05:36 PM

Just in time for the official beginning of lawn mower season, my lawn mower died. We would’ve buried it in the yard, if we could have found the yard.
It was not unexpected. The lawn mower had been hanging on by a thread — actually, a blade of grass — for some time. In lawn mower years, it was older than dog years.
And then it died, peacefully, in its sleep, without making a sound, although a sound would have been good because that would have meant the engine might still have been working and we could have done something about jungleland in front of the house.
All was not lost, though, because I still had my weed-whacker, so I could at least whack the tallest weeds, the ones that had sprouted up and risen to the top of the lamppost and taken over most of New Jersey.   
Then I found out that my weed-whacker also had died, probably from the same serious infectious disease that was running rampant through my garage — complete and total lack of care and maintenance. And, yes, in weed-whacker years, it was older than my lawn mower or my dog.
I was reduced — and here I really wish I was completely making this up or at least partly making this up — to trying to mow my lawn, blade by blade, by using my hand-held hedge-clippers.
As I clipped, I did the calculations. I figured I would have my lawn looking great in little more than about 213 years.
So, instead, I decided to take the leap and buy a new lawn mower.
A man of simple tastes and a total absence of mechanical skills, I wanted basically plain vanilla. A lawn mower that, you know, would kind of mow the lawn. But lawn mowers do not come in only vanilla and chocolate anymore. There are flavors. There are toppings. There are questions.
Did I want riding or walking? Slow walk or kind of a jog?
Gas or electric? Self-propelled or push? All-wheel drive or valet parking?
How many volts? How many amps? How many dollars did I have in my pants?
Was I interested in a mower with a left-side lever pull and a right-side coffee maker? Did I prefer tea?
Would I prefer a mower with a mulching rear bag or an adjustable thermostat? Did I know what a mulching rear bag actually was? Had I ever mulched in my life or knew anyone who did? Was mulch actually a word?
What was my preference, side discharge or rear discharge? Adjustable height or high deductible/low premium?
How much torque did I need? And did it matter that I wasn’t sure if I was spelling torque correctly?
I went looking for my hedge-clippers.
Neil Offen can be reached at theneiloffencolumn@yahoo.com.