Tux Challenge Day 28: Cutting Up

Around the fancy yard art in back, I found many dog turds and made it clear that I would not mow over them.
Around the fancy yard art in back, I found many dog turds and made it clear that I would not mow over them.

I know this fellow. I can’t tell you much about him, because he wishes to remain anonymous. But a couple weeks back, I was having a beer with him, wearing the tuxedo (natch), and this fellow hit on an idea.

“I’ll pay you $100 to mow my lawn in the tux,” he said.

“Done!” I replied and offered to shake on it before he could back down.

That was my first mistake. Never settle for the first offer. I’m certain I left $50 on the table. Maybe twice that amount. Because this fellow is the sort that has no idea what a lawn mowing is worth. Similarly, I am confident that he doesn’t know what a gallon of milk costs. This fellow is so far removed from the maintenance of his own property that he doesn’t even own a lawn mower. Which is why he said I’d have to bring mine.

“Fine,” I said. “But I’m not bagging, and I’m not edging.”

It was agreed.

This morning at 8:20, I showed up with my mower in the back of my Prius. (Side note: to accommodate the machine, I had to put down the back seats, which meant that when I drove my kids to school, my daughter had to ride with the mower.) I buzzed in at the fellow’s gate, and it slid back to reveal his handsome motor court. He ambled out to greet me in shorts and his bare feet, cradling an espresso, clearly pleased with himself. He was kind enough to help me hoist the mower out of the car. Then, after more discussion about mower height than I cared for, I got to work while he got his iPad and followed me around, taking pictures, giggling.

While mowing the parkway, I drew several honks from passing motorists.
While mowing the parkway, I drew several honks from passing motorists.

My strategy was to mow the damn place as quickly as I could, thereby giving the fellow as little fun as possible. My mower is self-propelled, but I went manual because I can push faster than it can propel. The tradeoff here is more exertion. And though it wasn’t terribly hot this morning (call it 80 degrees when I started), humidity stood at about 55 percent. In the vernacular, the expression would be “I sweated my balls off.” That doesn’t begin to describe what happened. It took me just 30 minutes to earn my money, but by the time I finished, I had sweat off not just my reproductive organs but my nipples and my backside, too. The polyester lining inside the slacks clung to my wet legs. My undershirt, the dress shirt, the tie, the purple vest — all as wet as if I’d jumped into a pool. A pool of human sweat.

When I shut off the machine and, standing in his front yard, gave the fellow a double-birds salute, he proceeded to bitch about the quality of my work. It was to be expected. Some clients aren’t happy unless they get to bitch. It had been awhile since I’d mowed a yard for money, but some lessons are never forgotten.

He invited me in for a glass of water. I quickly drained three as he handed over a crisp $100 bill. Parting with it surely didn’t pain him as much as the mowing had me. But neither, I think, did he take as much pleasure watching me work as I will from the many pints, paid for with his money, that I will quaff in the days to come.

Here’s to good, honest, hard work and the just rewards it brings. Also, thanks to Patron XO Cafe. And Al’s Formal Wear.


  • RangerGirl

    Tim – I just asked him and you’re right. He has no idea how much a gallon milk costs!

    • @RangerGirl: Amazing. But not surprising. What did he guess?

  • This fellow

    I just Googled the price of a gallon of milk. Seems to be all over the board. I’ll say $2.39.

    P.S. I took a LOT of pleasure watching you work (especially knowing that you were sweating your balls off).

    P.P.S. You did a really crappy job.

    • @This fellow: You aren’t the fellow. I’m sure he’ll be along shortly, though, to detail exactly how shoddy my work was and to try to explain why it’s a virtue to not know what a gallon of milk costs.

  • RangerGirl

    Didn’t even guess. He just said “I have no idea” to my roar of laughter!

  • This fellow

    I am This Fellow — I’m just not using my normal initials.

    So you missed a huge row along the parkway between the oaks, which I had to point out to you (proving I am This Fellow). You didn’t overlap your rows very well, also which I had to point out and make you re-do. (We agreed that the clumping was not your fault, but still.) In short, a very half-assed attitude prevailed.

    To your other point, in what conceivable world would I need to know the price of a gallon of milk?

    • @This fellow: Indeed, tis you. Hi, friend! Your comment and sour mood lend credence to my suspicion that in this exchange I came out on top. Nice doing business with you.

  • Leah

    Won’t the dry cleaning bill use up the entire $100?

  • MK

    @this fellow: you have kids, you should know what milk costs. Tell Landry we need to play cards again. @tim: glad you took him for a $100 and yes, you left some money on the table… Your friend in pink.

  • This fellow

    Dear friend in pink:

    I don’t believe for a minute that you’ve shopped for milk in the past 20 years — or know what it costs.

    But you’re right about cards.

  • Christine Rogers

    I’m curious about the chronological order of the photos posted. Was the sombrero donned in a vain attempt later to cool off, or shed later in the same vain attempt? Also, I’ll leave a change of clothes for you outside the back door.

  • @Christine Rogers: It’s not a sombrero. It’s a large cowboy hat. I wore it for comic effect.

  • Brent D.

    That’s one rickety lawn mower.

  • DLP

    I had been waiting this entire month for the image that I knew was coming. Mowing the yard in the tux. I can now get back to work.
    Well done and an early congratulations on making it through the challenge.

  • Daniel

    Does Marty Cortland’s sadism toward the hired help know no limits?

    Next he’ll demand that his retinue of Pygmies dress in matching tuxedos — “for comic effect,” he’ll explain, expansive as always, before throwing in with just a hint of apology, “The job creator class gets bored.”

  • Dear Daniel:

    There you go again with the pygmies. (http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2009/02/24/marty-cortlands-financial-advice/). I should have you know that here at Cortland Global Holdings, Personal Residence Division, we are clearly more politically sensitive than you: they’re “Little People” — and we pay them scale. Ba-da-ta-dum! (Deep into the Remy Louis XIII’s at this hour; couldn’t help myself.)

    And we wouldn’t think to force our 13% tax rate culture on them and insist on “matching tuxedos.” No, sir!, we invite them to wear tasteful elf uniforms, in muted motley. And the scrolled elf shoes that we strongly encourage them to wear — and advance the cost against their first and second paychecks, I might add! — make it much easier for them to tread their way through the lawn of the sculpture garden to collect the canine leavings that Mr. Rogers clearly exaggerated were present.

    No “sadism” here, my friend.

    Of, and for, the People,

  • towski

    I once asked Tim Rogers if he could recommend a lawn guy. He told me that he had a male child, hence no need of a lawn guy. I will admit to taking a certain enjoyment from seeing Tim serve as someone’s teenage offspring.

  • Auntie K in Lowell

    You are one unbelievable guy! Your mama has kept me posted (esp. since my Adobe is too ancient for me to download; Kevin will be here this weekend and I’ll get him to fix it.) One more day to go??? Cannot believe your endurance (then again…….) How very proud Christine, Burke and the Little Mermaid Stella must be (proud is the right word, nest-ce pas? I mean, they don’t think you’re crazed or anything, right??? I just have to wonder where those genes came from……