Friday, February 18, 2005

My Landscaping Adventure

All of my neighbors have landscaping contractors.

For a few years I did my own yard work, purely for the exercise and sense of personal accomplishment. But last Spring I decided to move up. This decision was prompted by the breakdown of my lawnmower and the concerted refusal of all landscaping companies to do my spring clean-up without a "season long commitment." I considered filing a complaint with the Justice Department's Anti-trust Division, but calculated that paying a class action lawyer would be more expensive than getting my lawn mowed.

So, after many days of leaving repeated messages on telephone messages machines, I found a landscape company willing to do my "spring clean-up" and season-long maintenance.

As I soon despairingly discovered, the spring clean-up amounted to two guys raking and blowing everything into my woods for $450.

Then in mid-April, two guys in their 20's (my new "landscape contractors") showed up to mow my lawn. The problem was that, being April in New England, the grass hadn't begun to grow yet. I told them to go away and come back when they weren't wasting gas.

The next day the owner called. He explained that his clients (not customers, clients) must accept a weekly mowing schedule throughout the growing season, which runs from April 15th to October 15th, so he can "afford to keep a full staff busy" throughout the year. If I could not agree to this, he would have to "decline to service me." He assured me that, just as with the spring clean-up conspiracy, all of his competitors do the same.


Well, I said, how about he spread the cost of the next three weeks (at $55 each) over the growing season on top of the quoted price, because I was not confident that I could stand the sight and sound of his landscape associates riding around on my property for no useful reason.

That would be "a book keeping issue," he said.

So I asked him to charge me for the visits, but not to show up for three weeks.

He could do that, he said.

Soon enough the grass grew and my two expensive consultants arrived. One guy on a Big Riding Machine went so fast that he tore up turf at every sharp turn, and the weed whacker guy did his trimming like he was a contestant in Amazing Race. I tried once to get his attention so I could explain that I did not want the carefully cultivated moss adorning my rock outcroppings to be destroyed. These, I patiently hollered to my ear-muffed friend, were not "WEEDS TO BE WHACKED!!!!"

I think I hurt his feelings. Or maybe he just didn't hear me. Anyway, he seemed to frown, adjusted his headphones, gave me a "thumbs up" and moved on.

The job was done in fifteen minutes. One-half man-hour, fifty-five dollars.

I did some math. and decided to get a new self-propelling, mulching mower of my own. Each weekend, I dutifully mowed my lawn in a nice neat geometric pattern, while listening to the Red Sox game on these new headphones I got for the occasion ($43.75 from Sharper Image). And my houseguests told me the moss looked great.

In the fall, I found that the conspiracy against fall clean-up was for real. So, for $22 a day, I rented this mondo 2 cycle engine blower with shoulder straps that blows the leaves just as far into the woods as my expensive landscaper's model. It was kind of loud, so I had to go with the professional grade industrial ear mufflers with AM/FM bands ($122.99 from Dominic's Supply) so I could make out the Patriots football games. Also, it blew most of the rock moss into the next town.

That's okay, because I think the rocks look better without the moss. And all my new tools fit beautifully into the new utility shed that I got on special for $1399. Sure, it took me a weekend to assemble, so I missed a mowing. I'm saving so much money, I'm going to buy a snow blower.

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