Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Grass Seed and Drug Cartels

My street is on a hill, which is a problem for three reasons:

1. Sliding past my driveway on icy days and having to circle the block multiple times to give it another try;

2. Losing balls that Duncan suddenly decides to set down on the ground mid-walk for reasons he refuses to explain to me;

3. The thing that happened on Saturday.

About three years ago I decided to base 100% of my self-esteem on my yard maintenance. This was a dangerous decision because a weed can send me to therapy now.

On the plus side, I can accidentally steal someone's car and get chased down by multiple employees of a car dealership and still think I'm a perfect human as long as my lawn is looking healthy that day.

And so, when two very large patches of grass on my front lawn looked like destroyed horcruxes after a long winter, I started to panic. The Suzzzzzzz recently got me to sign up for lawn services through her company by posting a comment on Stranger, making her the very first person ever to convince someone to do something in a comments section on the internet. And since I now consider The Suzzzzz to be the person to whom I should take all of my problems, I started texting her pictures of my yard with eleventy emojis that meant to communicate "FIX THIS."

She is so going to regret giving me her phone number.

The Suzzzzz sent someone to my house to check it out. They came out and looked at it and told me that it was difficult to tell what had happened and whether or not it could recover and so they suggested that I give it a little time and see what happens during the spring months.

It became apparent to me around last week that the problem was getting worse and so I finally decided to just bite the bullet and deal with it.

Skylar's dad is an agronomist, which is a real thing. I just looked it up. And so Skylar called him and got a laundry list of tasks, including digging out the grass and reseeding the area.

I had a lot of yard work to do, having done none so far this year, and so I started early Saturday morning gutting the flower beds. Skylar "helped." And by "helped," I mean "spent 5 hours weeding a very small area that was actually The Perfects' property while watching Erin Brockovich on his phone and occasionally yelling out 'you tell them, Erin!'"

He had connected his phone to some speakers, which he placed right in front of a window to a bedroom of one of The Perfects' children so that his profane film could loudly fill the child's head.

Eventually I made it to the front yard and started digging out a very large section of dead grass on a steep hill.

I had already filled my yard waste bin to capacity, and so I wandered down to Lynne's house and stole hers. Lynne was out of the country and I knew she wouldn't need her bin before trash day and we basically live in a commune together now, as half of my stuff is at her house and vice versa, so I didn't feel bad about the trespass.

When I rolled the bin up the hill from Lynne's house to mine, Skylar informed me that "the fuzz" had just come by and talked to him.

Skylar is terrified of police. He has never had a bad experience with a police officer and he has never broken the law, but he is terrified nonetheless. Thank God he is not a racial minority or he would probably have died of anxiety by now.

(Note: I am not making light of the very real problem racial minorities face in their systematic hostile treatment by law enforcement, which is pervasive and a great blight on our country. I am making fun of Skylar. So if you're going to get mad at me, just make sure you're mad at me for the right reasons.)

Skylar told me that the police officer told him he was looking for a disheveled redhead and he wondered if Skylar had seen this person walk by.

Worried sick that the officer was talking about me or Skylar, he probably-suspiciously informed the cop that no such person had ever set foot on that street and then he ran and hid on the side of the house, waiting for me to get back with Lynne's yard waste bin.

I started digging the grass out, filling Lynne's bin, remembering that I'm not meant for hard labor, etc., when suddenly a red-headed man who looked very disheveled suddenly appeared in my front yard.

He was wandering the neighborhood wearing sweats and he only had socks on his feet (no shoes). He saw me using a hose and so asked if he could have a drink of water.

I handed it over to him. He appeared to be coked out of his mind and he started rambling to me about how he had just had a brawl with someone and how the cartels were after him and he needed a place to hide and the moon landing was fake, etc.

I stood next to him, listening to this. Skylar stood 15 feet away, watching the interaction, smiling like we were at a neighborhood meet and greet.

Whenever the guy took a break from talking to put his entire mouth on the hose and drink a gallon of water, which was impressive, I would stare down Skylar with a look that meant to communicate "WHY HAVE YOU NOT CALLED 911 THE COP WAS LITERALLY JUST TELLING YOU THEY WERE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THIS GUY."

Eventually Skylar understood telepathy and left the yard to find his phone and make the call.

After 15 or 20 minutes, the guy finally departed and went across the street to a parking lot of an ugly apartment complex where he said he was going to hide behind some dumpsters because my neighborhood is classy like that.

It took over an hour for the police to drive by again, which meant that this wasn't nearly the priority we thought it was. The guy was gone by then, although he appeared multiple times throughout the day, prompting Skylar to repeatedly call 911, because we're narks and we're not ashamed.

I don't know if they ever found the guy, but the point is that 911 has probably now put Skylar's picture up next to mine on their wall of "crazy busy-bodies who over-call 911."

Somehow, despite being distracted by unwittingly starring in Law & Order SLC, I completely filled Lynne's bin.

It now weighed hundreds of pounds, and it wasn't until this moment that I realized that I was going to have some trouble rolling it down the hill back to Lynne's place.

But I was all like, "whatever. I'm a strong independent man. I can do this."

As it turns out, I couldn't. Because as soon as I used all of my weight to get it to lean back onto its wheels, it launched itself down the sidewalk with me attached, screaming like I was in a life or death situation.

I rolled all the way past Lynne's house before crashing into a fence.

My yard is a pile of mud.

And the cartels might be after me now.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. I was laughing out loud in my office as I pictured you being dragged down the street by your trashcan, and then I stopped abruptly as my own near death chasing too much yard waste down a hill experience came flooding back to me.

    Our back yard is not giant. But it has twice as much grass to mow as it should because of a very steep hill in the middle of it. If you stand on the top of the hill, you are higher than the second story of our house, which sits at the bottom of the hill. This hill is so steep that mowing it horizontally is nearly impossible because the mower keeps trying to slip down hill sideways. Usually I try to mow the bottom, more reasonably sloped, part and then just tip the mower over the top edge to get the rest, while hanging on for dear life.

    On this fateful day, I made two mistakes while executing the tipping maneuver. 1. I got greedy and tried to mow more than I could while maintaining the proper amount of leverage to stay in control. 2. I forgot to release the self-propel bar.

    The result was that the mower was pulling me down the hill, straight towards our deck. I wasn't sure which would be worse, smashing the lawnmower or damaging the deck, so I scrambled, unsuccessfully, to pull the mower back up the hill, or at least slow its descent to a safe speed.

    I did not run into the deck. By using my sizable backside as an anchor (not that we know what backsides are), and sliding down the hill behind the mower, I was able to release the self propel bar as soon as we got to the bottom of the hill, and before it careened into the deck.

    (If you want to turn down the next Ironman with the excuse that you're training to be able to slide down your street more slowly, I won't argue with you.)

  2. I think your neighborhood should have a block party, close down the street then lay down a GIANT sheet of plastic and turn your road into a big slip n slide. Just make everyone sign a liability waiver, cause it's not the 80's anymore. You should try and get copies of your 911 recordings and do a whole podcast about them.

    1. oooooh, I think you have a great podcast topic suggestion here. 911 stories! Mine - 18 years old, working as a lifeguard, had to call 911 because an iceskater had stepped backwards in skates onto a barefooted swim kid at the concession stand. Had to hold the toe together until his mother showed up.
      They train you for stuff like that when you become a lifeguard, talking to 911, but not how to fall asleep without picturing the toe over and over. They call that PTSD now-a-days

  3. I love that you live in a commune with Lynne now. You guys were meant to find each other.

  4. Do the suzzzzz or skylars dad do out of state lawn photo-text assessments? If so, how much would i have to pay you to send me their phone numbers - oh wait, i think i have the Suzzzzzz’s!!!! But actually, my main yard issue is voles. Any fixes for those? (Aside from the neighbors cat who occasionally catches and eats them-but not enough, as there is still a commune of voles out there. )

    1. Amy, go to your local farm supply or hardware store and see if they carry zinc phosphide oat bait. If they do buy some and follow the label which will probably tell you to put about a teaspoon of it down every hole you find in the lawn. Do that once a week for about a month, then fill in the holes. If new holes appear just repeat the process.

    2. I LOVE YOU. if this works. But also, even if it doesn’t, because you tried. Thanks!

    3. If that doesn't work try buying bait stations and a high quality soft bait like First Strike or Resolv. Change out the bait once a month. Don't get the little crappy Tomcat brand stations that they sell at places like Lowe's or Home Depot. And avoid DCon, it doesn't work.

    4. The Suzzzz, Any tips for raccoons digging out big patches of the lawn looking for bugs? They are making a mess of our lawn but I don’t know how to deter them. I don’t want to hurt them,maybe just encourage them to move on to someone else’s lawn!

    5. Damn trash pandas. Here's what you do. Every night after your neighbors fall asleep, tiptoe over to their house and quietly tip their trash bins over. Problem solved! Just kidding, sort of. Sometimes your local animal control department can help you or at least refer you to a professional service. Raccoons and smart...and they're jerks...they're smart jerks. If you don't want to hire someone you can usually buy live catch traps at a farm supply store or a hardware store and set them in areas that the raccoons frequent. If you catch one just drive it far away and release it. Bait it with tuna fish or cat food, anything smelly usually works.

    6. I would let them enjoy the lawn. Keeps them out of your house. Our neighbors have literally walked into their kitchen to find raccoons sitting there, munching away. They came in through the cat door. Which makes it sound like I live in the sticks--nope, headquarters of Intel are just down the street. And raccoons up close are NOT cute.

  5. My brain turned "agronomist" into "agnostic" and I was very confused as to the relevance. Hash tag close reading.

  6. How have I lived 57 years without ever calling 911? My son called by mistake when he was 3 and they called me back to find out if he really was sick, but I don't think that counts. I have nightmares occasionally that I'm trying to call 911 but the phone won't dial/they won't answer/I can't talk when they do answer/basically anything that would prevent the actual calling of 911. Maybe if I just did it and got it over with I'd stop having the dreams. But I'm not one of those people who call 911 when McDonald's gives them cold french fries. I may live in Florida, but we're not all lunatics like that. Just most of us. Actually, I really hope I never, ever do have to call 911, so I guess I'll just put up with the weird dreams.

    1. I have the same dream where I can't dial or I don't have enough cell signal to be able to call. I've called 911 before so that isn't a quick fix.


  8. I can relate! We used to live in the Midwest and had a giant soccer field of a backyard. My husband is way too manly to sit while mowing, so we absolutely did NOT have a riding lawn mower. Instead we had this giant push lawnmower that was industrial grade with a wide swath and actual gears. It weighed more than me, even during pregnancy. The thing was fickle, and had to be warmed up for a while before you actually mowed with it. At the time, my husband's job involved a lot of travel, and in the Midwest grass grows fast, so sometimes I took a turn mowing the lawn. One hot, humid morning I put the kids on the school bus and started the mower. While it was warming up in the backyard, I went around the side of the house to move some hoses out of the way. When I walked into the backyard....silence. And no lawnmower. It was GONE. I panicked, because none of the homes to the south of us, in the direction the lawn mower had been pointed, had fences. It could have traveled quite a ways independently. But then I channeled my scoutmaster's daughter tracking skills and remembered the lawn mower would leave a path of cut grass in its wake. I followed a convoluted path of short grass several times around my back yard, found a couple of attempts to mow down the neighbor's fence on the north side, and eventually discovered the lawn mower upside down in a heavily damaged patch of bamboo at the rear of our property. Right next to the neighborhood bike path. The mower was so hefty that I couldn't get it upright by myself and had to leave it hanging upside down by the bike path until later evening when my husband arrived home from a business trip. I was too mad about the lawn mower's escape to be worried about what my husband would think. He initially thought that I had not had the mower in park while it was warming up, but further inspection revealed that some type of gear belt had snapped, which would have caused the lawn mower to go into drive and travel independently across the backyard. No clue about why it made multiple turns on our lawn and managed to stay on the property--I guess it had learned the boundaries. But I will never forget the looks that lawn mower hanging upside down in the bamboo got from people on the bike trail--to this day it makes me laugh! That was the last summer I ever had to mow a lawn, because by the next one we'd moved to California where we have a tiny patch of lawn instead of a golf course, and we show our support for immigration by hiring out the lawn care. It's cheaper than getting sued by our neighbors for runaway mowers.