Lawnmower Follies

May 4, 2009

Yesterday I cursed an engineer up and down the driveway and round the yard. Since I'm an engineer myself, this is a biggish deal. It's like ratting out a family member.

See, I wanted to mow the lawn. But because last fall and very early this spring I'd overseeded it with a new drought-tolerant clover/chamomile/wildflower mix, I needed to raise the lawnmower blades a bit. Apparently a lawn isn't very drought-tolerant if it's got a putting-green buzzcut. It needs to be somewhat shaggy to resist the searing rays of the sun.

Guy was back in Vancouver shortening his lifespan on fiberglass fumes in the boat locker. But when I called him to find out how to perform this mysterious blade-raising action, I learned this: you don't adjust the blades themselves. You jack up the mower on its wheels, and most mowers have handy-dandy tabs next to each wheel to do just this. Really? In over thirty years of admittedly not very closely observing lawnmowers, I'd never noticed this feature.

So I heaved the mower out of the shed, and sure enough: handy-dandy tabs! After puzzling over them briefly I determined that the tabs need to go down for the mower to get jacked up. And here's where I started cursing.

Because the engineer who designed these things obviously made some assumptions about the kind of user who would be working these tabs. That user would have finger strength. And perhaps wrist strength. That user wouldn't be the kind of person who would have to get her whole body weight involved in the process to move these tabs. And who to do that would need to get a full palm grip on the tabs. Because there's no way anyone but a two-year-old child could get their entire hand wrapped around one of those things, they're set so close to the *#&% wheels!

So I cursed. And cursed. And cursed some more. And invoked heaps of humiliation upon the engineer who designed these things. And wished upon them 10,000 jars with lids too tight for them to open by hand. Because what should have been a 60 second job turned into 15 minutes of muttering torture. All to raise my mower up by 2 inches.

But it's done. And now my lawn has a 1970s haircut.

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