Tag Archives: lifestyle

Hooked on a feeling

Hooked on a feelingIt was summer, and the company was getting a lot more business.

As a result, the owner, Benito, started hiring people at a frantic pace. Every morning, an unfamiliar guy would arrive at the shop while we were loading the truck, to wait for an interview.

One morning, we were in the shop sharpening lawnmower blades when a car pulled up and a man stepped out. The sunlight glinted off his arms, making me squint.

I peered at him, and I saw that instead of hands, the guy had hooks protruding from his wrists.

Crew Leader Carl appeared behind me. I glanced over and saw that he was staring at the man.

“Dude,” Carl said, as the guy walked into Benito’s office. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m wondering if we have the facilities, vehicles and tools to accommodate his disability.”

“Actually,” Carl said, “I was wondering how the guy uses the bathroom. You know what I mean? How could be possibly wipe with those things without tearing out his O-ring?”

I looked at him. “You know, Boss,” I said, shaking my head, “I don’t think you and I will ever be on the same page.”

The path of least resistance has weeds

The path of least resistance has weedsAll of us on the crew tensed as we pulled to a stop in front of our next account.

It was an otherwise normal-looking house on a nice street. The issue was that it belonged to the company’s owner, Benito. We knew that if the lawn was cut too short or if a single weed was missed, Benito would chew each of us out in Italian.

To make matters worse, Benito’s wife was a homemaker, so she was always there to glower at us through the window as we worked, and also to make sure that we didn’t tromp on her flowers or kick gravel onto the lawn.

With anxiety gripping my heart, I knelt and started deadheading flowers in the front planter. I glanced up and saw Benito’s wife standing at the window, staring me down. I shivered and focused intently on my work.

Juan ambled by with a weed eater slung over his shoulder. As he trudged along the gravel path woven through the front yard, he accidentally kicked gravel onto the lawn.

The window immediately flew open, and Benito’s wife started screaming.

“That no-good bastard no watch where he step!” she yelled, pointing at Juan. “He kick rock all over!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Watch where you’re going!”

Later, Juan and I were kneeling in the path, pulling minuscule clover-looking weeds that grew in the moss woven between the stepping stones.

Juan paused for a moment to pull a sticker from his finger.

The window flew open again. “He no pulling enough weeds!” Benito’s wife screamed, pointing at Juan. “He lazy! He just sit and stare!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Work harder!”

As we loaded the truck, Carl appeared behind me.

“Wow,” he said, his voice low. “For whatever reason, Benito’s wife does not like Juan. And when Benito’s wife doesn’t like someone, she tells Benito, and then Benito fires them.”

My eyes widened. “He’s actually fired people because she complained?”

“Of course,” Carl said. “And why not? I’m sure it’s easier to find new people than it is to argue with her!”

Don’t put all your eggs in one Dumpster

Don_t put all your eggs in one DumpsterIt was late Thursday morning, and it was already sweltering. We were working at our largest account — a shopping center anchored by a supermarket.

There were no lawns to mow or weeds to pull here. Instead, the job consisted of each of us combing the property and picking up trash.

And man, was there always a ton of trash.

We’d each lug a plastic container behind us, and by the time we’d return to the truck, it’d be overflowing with shopping bags, soda cans, beer bottles, cigarette butts, soiled diapers, used needles.

“I really need to get paid more,” I mumbled, dropping a flat, run-over cat into my container.

I was walking the perimeter of the supermarket and approaching my least-favorite area: the overflowing Dumpsters in the back alley. They always reeked of rotting food, and garbage blew everywhere in an endless whirlpool.

As I approached the nearest Dumpster, I saw a pair of legs poking out, wiggling. As I grew closer, warily clutching my trash container, I saw that they belonged to Crew Leader Carl.

“Hey!” he said, wrenching himself out of the Dumpster. He was holding a carton of eggs. “Look what I found! They must be throwing out food today. I found a whole dozen eggs, and they’ve only been expired for a week!”

My stomach turned. “Boss, it’s ninety degrees out here!”

“So what?” Carl said. “It’s not like they’re refrigerated when they pop out of the chicken. You need to learn where your food comes from, pal.”

“Well, I know where it doesn’t come from,” I said. “The supermarket Dumpster.”

A company-required radioactive shirt

A company-required radioactive shirtWhen we arrived at work the other morning, the shop superintendent, Shoemaker, was standing near the punch clock handing out shirts to all the guys.

“What are these?” asked Slim, as Shoemaker handed him a shirt.

“Benito just ordered them,” Shoemaker said. “They’re the new company uniform. He wants all employees to wear them while they’re working.”

“I’ll take a medium,” I said.

“Once size fits all,” Shoemaker said, thrusting an extra-large shirt at me.

I frowned, holding the shirt to my chest. “This is a dressing gown.”

Shoemaker snorted. “That’s because you’re a runt. They’re designed for men who’ve actually filled out.”

“Filled out how?” I asked. “With their beer guts? Because that describes most of the men at this company. Particularly you.”

Shoemaker glared at me, clenching his goatee.

Slim unfolded his shirt and scowled. “Why are they such a bright, neon green? They look radioactive.”

“Don’t complain,” Shoemaker said. “You’re getting a free shirt. Besides, they’re lightweight, and the neon color reflects the sunlight instead of absorbing it. Benito wants his employees to be cool and comfortable as they work.”

“Benito’s putting our comfort first and foremost?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “That doesn’t sound right. There’s got to be more to the story.”

“There is,” Shoemaker said. “The bright neon also helps him to spy on his crews from several hundred yards away, so he can make sure they’re actually working.”

“OK,” I said, nodding. “Now that makes sense. That’s the Benito I know.”

If you want to eat my bread, you got to make some bread

If you want to eat my bread, you got to make some breadIt was Saturday afternoon, and I was spending the day with my girlfriend, Katrina. I had just come in from mowing the lawn and was in the kitchen making myself some lunch.

Katrina walked into the room. “I appreciate your mowing the lawn,” she said, “but we need to talk about all the food you’ve been eating here lately. It’s getting to where I can’t afford it.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked, as I slathered mayonnaise on a ham, turkey, chicken, beef, pastrami, salami, meatball and bacon sandwich.

“Don’t get me wrong; I want you to come over,” Katrina said. “It’s just that you’re eating me out of house and home. I feel like I’m buying groceries every few days.”

“I have a physically demanding job now,” I said, lettuce spewing from my full mouth. “I have to consume more calories. My muscles are growing.”

Katrina glanced at my gut. “I’m not sure it’s your muscles that are growing.”

“Well, what do you want me to do?” I asked. “I can’t starve!”

“As gravely concerned as I am about your wasting away,” Katrina said, “I can’t continue to pay so much for groceries. Is there a way you could, you know, chip in a little?”

“I’m sure you’ve noticed the finely mowed lawn out back,” I said, taking another gargantuan bite from my sandwich.

“OK — I’ll spot you the sandwich. It’s true that you paid for it with sweat equity. But what about the box of Tuna Helper you prepared for yourself last night?”

I gave her a mischievous grin. “I imagine I can pay for that with sweat equity, too. What do you say I spend the night tonight?”

“Eh,” Katrina said, shrugging. “If that’s your proposal, I think I’d prefer the money.”

I’m like a doctor — always on call

I_m like a doctor — always on callIt was early Saturday afternoon. I was lying on the living-room floor at my girlfriend’s house, watching a movie.

Or at least that’s what I was trying to do. But a few moments earlier, my girlfriend, Katrina, had appeared in the doorway and asked me to mow the backyard lawn.

“I don’t want to mow the lawn,” I said, whining like a little kid. It was a weak play, but it was my last resort. I was running out of believable excuses not to help out with the housework.

“It shouldn’t be a big deal for you!” Katrina exclaimed. “You mow lawns for a living!”

“That’s the point,” I said. “I mow lawns all week long, and today is my day off. I need a break from yard work once in a while.”

“So you’ll mow lawns for a bunch of strangers, but you won’t mow mine?” Katrina asked.

“Mowing lawns is what I do professionally,” I said. “This is my off-time.”

“I don’t get it,” Katrina said. “What difference does it make to mow one more lawn?”

“OK,” I said. I took a deep breath to make what I knew would be a profound point. “Think about it like this: Me mowing the lawn would be like a gynecologist giving his wife a pap smear on his day off. Right? That just doesn’t happen. Gynecologists spend their weekends golfing. They don’t stay at home performing complimentary pelvic exams.”

Katrina glowered. “That’s really the argument you’re going to use? You’re going to compare yourself to a medical professional?”

I shrugged. “If it gets me out of mowing the lawn, then yeah.”

Katrina’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Peter, go mow the lawn,” she said, her voice eerily quiet. “Right now.”

I leapt to my feet. “You keep the mower in the shed, right?”

This is a job for a professional

This is a job for a professionalIt was early Saturday afternoon, and I was at my girlfriend’s house, watching a movie on TV.

Or I was trying to, anyway. But Katrina, my girlfriend, seemed intent on assigning me household chores.

“Peter, I need you to mow the backyard lawn,” she said, standing in the living-room doorway, holding a laundry basket.

I moaned and kept my eyes on the TV, even though there was nothing on but commercials.

“C’mon Peter,” Katrina said. “You hang out here all the time, and you eat all my food. It’s the least you can do.”

“I told you I’d pay you back for that box of Tuna Helper I foraged from your pantry,” I said.

“That’s not the point. My parents own the home, and they expect me to keep up the yard. And now that you’re a landscape-maintenance professional, mowing the lawn should be right up your alley.”

“I’m not a landscape-maintenance professional,” I said. “I have a journalism degree.”

“Right,” Katrina said, “but that’s the only job you can get with a journalism degree. So by all definitions, you’re a landscape-maintenance professional.”

I frowned, staring into space. “I guess you have a point.”

Grueling labor can wait until the commercial break

Grueling labor can wait until the commercial breakIt was a warm, lazy Saturday afternoon. I was lying on the living-room floor at my girlfriend’s house, watching a movie on TV.

Katrina, my girlfriend, lived in a manufactured home that she rented from her parents. Even though it was cramped inside and out — with tiny rooms and minuscule front and back yards — it was nicer to hang out there than at my one-bedroom hovel of an apartment. (She had a wider variety of food in the pantry, too.)

Katrina walked into the living room, holding a laundry basket. “Peter, can you do me a favor?”

I mumbled incoherently, trying to sound as noncommittal as possible. She had a businesslike tone, which I was sure meant she wanted to put me to work.

“The neighbor’s dog pooped on the gravel outside, and I’m afraid one of us is going to step in it,” Katrina said. “Would you mind going out and shoveling it into the ditch?”

“But I’m in the middle of a movie,” I said, motioning to the television. “Can’t it wait until the commercials?”

Katrina frowned. “These are the commercials.”

“Right, but they’re halfway through. I don’t want to be walking out when the movie comes back on.”

“How long’s the movie?”

“With the commercials, probably another two hours.”

“What if I taped it for you?” Katrina asked. “Then you’d be guaranteed not to miss anything.”

“Would you edit out the commercials for me?” I asked.

“Go shovel the poop!” Katrina screamed.

Teamwork gets the job done

Teamwork gets the job doneBryce and I drove to the job site together. It was an older house with a dirt yard in front and an aged paver patio in back.

We hopped out of the truck. I grabbed both a pick and a shovel.

“OK,” Bryce said, “I want you to dig a three-foot-deep trench from here—” he walked the entire length of the front yard — “to here.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for spray paint,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I started to dig. An hour later, he returned with the paint.

“OK,” Bryce said, “now that you’re done with the trench, I want you to tear out all those old pavers in the backyard. Put them in a pile by the sidewalk.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a couple of bags of sand,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I ripped out all the pavers. I hauled them in several wheelbarrow loads to the front yard and stacked them in a pretty pile by the sidewalk.

An hour later, Bryce returned with the sand.

“OK,” he said, “now that you’re done with the pavers, I want you to dig a four-foot-deep hole by the front of the house. Make sure it intersects with the trench.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a valve box,” he said. “I forgot to grab one at the shop.”

So he left, and I dug a four-foot-deep hole. An hour later, he returned with the valve box.

Just then, Benito pulled up in his small truck. He climbed out and inspected the site.

“Good job!” he said, walking toward us. “You guys get a lot done!”

“It’s all about teamwork,” Bryce said. “Together, Peter and I kick some serious butt.”

He looked at me. “Isn’t that right?”

I glared.

Adding beauty to the world

Adding beauty to the worldThe crew was loading up the truck after finishing a yard. As the other guys climbed into the cab, Crew Leader Carl and I stood on the sidewalk in front of the house, admiring our work.

“You know,” Carl said, taking a deep drag from his cigarette, “I love this job. I really do. I always get such a tremendous sense of accomplishment after sprucing up a yard. We showed up to find the lawn overgrown, with weeds choking the planters and garbage caught in the shrubs. By working together as a cohesive team, we transformed the place from an untidy scrapheap into a verdant paradise.”

He waved his arm. “I mean, look at it. Thanks to us, the homeowners now have this pristine sanctuary in which to seek refuge from the stress of daily life. Tonight after dinner, they can sit outside with a cup of coffee and admire the twilight sky. The wind will rustle through the tree branches above, and off in the distance the crickets will chorus, providing a relaxing atmosphere lit only by the moon and stars.”

He took another long drag from his cigarette and let it out slowly. “Humans are meant to be in nature,” he said, his eyes misting as he gazed into the distance. “We’re meant to be free and roaming; not caged in cubicles like corporate prisoners. And you and I, we’re advocates of nature. We not only beautify people’s yards; we purify their spirits. By enhancing the yards that surround their homes, we’re helping people to find peace and tranquility. We’re not only giving them a space to meditate – we’re giving them a refuge in which to rediscover their souls.”

He wiped a tear from his eye. “We create beauty – that’s what we do. We create beauty.”

As I climbed into the truck, Carl remained outside. I noticed him wipe a tear as he looked at the yard, savoring all the beauty that we’d helped sculpt from the once-messy landscape.

Then he climbed into the cab, sliding behind the wheel. Starting the engine, he took one final drag from his cigarette before flicking it out the window.

It landed on the front lawn just as we were pulling away.