We all know three types of people in the world. There’s the kind you see from a distance in the grocery store, at which point you immediately abandon your shopping cart, run to your car and go to bed hungry.
There’s the kind you see in the grocery store that you make small talk with, but ever mindful of your melting ice cream, the visit is brief.
Finally, there’s the kind you see in the grocery store and you’re glad you came, whom you hurry over to greet and whom inevitably brings a smile to your face and a laugh to your day. By the time you part, your ice cream is a milk shake and you couldn’t care less. I have a friend named Dan. He was the last type. He died last week. He was 56.
I tell a lot of stories in this column, but there’s one I never have. I didn’t have to, Dan always told it. In fact, he’d told it so often, that he didn’t have to anymore, he’d just mention something about me mowing his grass and the laughter was a lock. Lots of it. I hated the story as much as Dan loved telling it, but there was something about Dan that made me laugh as well. Dan was just that way.
I’m not sure how old I was when the story took place, but I know it was at a time that, had a pickpocket lifted my wallet, his score would be long on coupons, short on cash. Dan and I were about to play a round of golf, but needed to establish the wager first. I was a better golfer than Dan. He knew it and I knew it. Dan was a better negotiator than me. He knew it.
By the time we finished, had there been a FBI office on the course, Dan would have been investigated for sports fixing. I had no chance, but Dan was safe from prosecution for one simple reason. Lawn mowing is not a recognized currency in this country. If I won, he paid cash. And since he cared not for my coupons, I would mow his grass if I lost. I was the poster child for “Youth is stupid.” What our slogan lacked in eloquence, it made up for in accuracy.
While youth was stupid, it wasn’t brain dead, so, before I agreed to mow Dan’s yard, I made certain he hadn’t inherited the Ponderosa or started a sod farm. He assured me he was a simple man of small acreage. We played. I lost. Cue the mower.
You didn’t want to be indebted to Dan. Such was the art form that was Dan gloating that it has its own wing in the Louvre. I had to get this over with, so I rode home with Dan. I didn’t know which house was his, but as we turned onto his street, Dan’s growing laughter and the approaching house with the Amazon-inspired landscaping, long on St. Augustine grass (pun intended), supplied ample context clues. I could not have been a bigger sucker if you shoved a stick up my butt and wrapped me in plastic.
I asked him who mowed it last, but he couldn’t remember the previous homeowner’s name. We parked. He brought out a lawnmower that he’d either picked up cheap at June and Ward Cleaver’s garage sale or he’d been first in line to the throne when Opie upgraded to a rider. The Goliath that was Dan’s yard quivered not at the sight of Sampson’s rusty butter knife. I gave serious thought to scissors. His yard didn’t need me, it needed a crop duster filled with Agent Orange.
With Dan’s words of encouragement (“You should probably start, it will be dark soon”), I began mowing. I was living the dream that was “one step forward, two steps back.” Each attempt to decapitate just a handful of blades triggered an asthma attack from a mower that would never be Facebook friends with the little engine that could.
After about an hour and half, Dan came out with a glass of water. And to point out a couple of spots I’d missed. It was a nice surprise since he had made it a point to show me where the garden hose was before I started. The boss man then allowed me a short break, all of which I spent researching indentured servitude and child labor laws.
I had to get back to the grass. At the rate I was going, I feared it would grow in behind me before I could finish, but eventually, I did. The next day, Dan started telling the story. He never stopped. Until last Wednesday.
When I heard about Dan, I had a dream that night. Through some type of error in accounting, I found myself in line at the Pearly Gates. As I neared the front, I saw St. Peter looking at me and smiling. Only when I got closer did I see Dan standing beside him and pointing at me. Just before they both burst into laughter, St. Peter turns to Dan and says, “Is this the guy that mowed your grass?”
I know Dan will never stop telling this story. Shoot, he’s got a whole new crowd that’s never heard it. Many were the times I hoped to never hear it again. And now, if I could just hear it once more, with a smile, I would gladly mow his grass many times over.
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Kevin can be reached at LIFEisHEALD.blogspot.com or LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.