I’m trapped in my home.
Winter has finally given way to spring. The world is alive in color. The grass is green and growing again. Flowers are in bloom. After months of shoveling the driveway, gingerly navigating ice-covered parking lots, and trudging through slush, spring has sprung. The sun is warm. The birds are chirping.
I’ve been waiting for these glorious spring days for months. Finally, I can drag my bike from the garage, throw a ball to my son, and play golf exceptionally poorly again.
Yet I am trapped indoors.
Sitting in the shed in my backyard is my lawn mower. It’s a hulking, green mass of metal and machinery on wheels. It’s a good lawnmower. The right kind of lawnmower. Years ago, when we bought it, my wife suggested that we consider a mower with self-propulsion. Depress the handle and all you need to do is follow the mower and steer.
Water skiing on grass. The engine does all the work. Practically drags you around the lawn.
“Nonsense,” I told my wife. If I’m going to mow the lawn, I’m going to get a workout in the process. It’s got wheels. It’s not that hard to push.
I’m not going to let some engine on wheels drag me around the lawn. I’m going to push the damn thing myself. Cut the grass. Listen to a podcast. Exercise.
Growing up, I mowed many, many lawns. I never owned, nor did I ever operate, a self-propelled mower. As a kid, I had wished I had one, but because I never did, the adult-sized version of me now believes that self-propelled mowers are for lazy, good-for-nothing sloths.
It’s not often that the 10-year-old version of yourself was decidedly wiser than the adult version of yourself.
The first problem came with the realization that my wife is afraid of the lawn mower, which meant that all mowing duties would be left to me. Why she is afraid of a machine that spins a sharpened blade fast enough to lop off your foot is beyond me. In the many years I have spent mowing, I’ve only been injured a handful of times, mostly from rocks and other debris firing out of the mower, ricocheting off a house or tree, and coming back at me.
That’s it. A couple of small stones in the eye. A shard of glass in the shin. I haven’t lost a limb or even come close to permanent injury in more than four decades.
Still, my wife wants nothing to do with the machine, and by proxy, she wants our children to stay clear of it too, meaning that when they are old enough to operate this machine (I was 8 years old when I began mowing lawns, but my wife claims that this was insane) they won’t be taking over for dear old Dad.
Why have children if I can’t foist my household duties upon them?
But that’s fine. Exercise, I say. An opportunity to commune with nature. A chance to get the lay of the land by walking over every square foot of it again and again and again in endless succession. I know the location of every groundhog hole on my lawn. Every dandelion sprout. Every sandy patch and tree root.
And when it’s 100 degrees in August and the lawn still needs to be mowed, I get to battle heat stroke too, which is fine. I like a challenge. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Right?
Except that last year, my wife suggested that we hire a lawn service to cut the grass. Instead of spending two hours walking back and forth across the lawn on a hot, summer day, she argued, why not spend the time playing with the kids? Writing a book? Hitting golf balls?
“Summer is too short to be spent cutting grass,” she pointed out.
I rejected the idea initially, but only out of pride. I knew that she was right. We have the money, and I can probably make more money writing while someone else mows my lawn. So, after four decades of mowing lawns, I handed the job over to professionals, which is why I’m now trapped inside my home.
My son wants me to go out and play. I would like to ride my bike. Hitting golf balls into the net in the backyard would be fun. But I can’t do any of these things because the thought of me playing catch on a lawn or hitting golf balls while other adults mow my lawn is a shame too great to bear.
What is wrong with me?
I’m willing pay these people to care for my lawn. They are willing to be paid to provide the service. But while they do so, I hide indoors, unable to face them. Unable to watch them do the things that somewhere, deep down, I still feel like I should be doing myself.
So here I sit, behind closed shades, waiting patiently for a job to be done so I can enjoy this beautiful spring day.
Honestly, I think I’d rather be outside, pushing a lawn mower, enjoying the spring air.
But returning to lawn mowing would mean terminating a contract. Ending our agreement. Saying goodbye to the lawn service. A man who must hide in his home while others willingly cut his lawn in exchange for monetary compensation is hardly in a position to terminate a contract.
So, I sit and wait. Quietly, in a puddle of my own shame.
Matthew Dicks is an elementary school teacher, bestselling novelist, and 50-time Moth Story SLAM champion.
Sean Wang, an MIT architecture graduate, is author of the sci-fi graphic novel series, Runners. Learn more at seanwang.com.