The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
–George Bernard Shaw
I was fourteen when I mowed my first lawn for someone else, I mean. I didn’t like it, but it was a way to earn spending money, and I knew how to operate a lawnmower since by that time I had inherited the inauspicious duty of mowing our family’s lawn.
Florida summers are cruel, in case you didn’t know. 90+ degrees on most days and 100% humidity. You sweat just thinking about stepping outside. I had lived in Florida all my life. Being out in the sun never bothered me much. That certainly wasn’t my downfall when it came to trying to earn a buck or two cutting grass. (Though, I did try to blame the sweat in my eyes for the poor job that I had done on more than one occasion.)
No, if I am being honest, it was hardly the heat or the perspiration that took me down as a professional landscaping teen. It was the technique or lack thereof.
Now most sane folks, when they cut a lawn, either push the mower north and then south repeatedly in straight lines, or they head east and then west continually in the same manner until the entire area has been cleanly and neatly mowed.
There are those, of course, who cut a lawn diagonally. You know the type. They like to show the fancy stripes across their lawn.
That’s not me either.
I have, er had, my own system. I can’t say that it worked, nor can I say that it didn’t look terribly funny or that it saved me any time. In fact, it usually added a good fifteen to twenty minutes to most lawns. But it was mine. And that’s all that mattered.
To call my system unorthodox or unconventional would not really be fair to either one of those words. Maybe the best word for it would simply be half-witted.
So, here it is. I would start heading north, let’s say, but then I would usually turn and head west or east, depending on any number of things (location of house, sidewalk, canal, alligator, etc.). Within a moment or two, bored of that direction, I would veer off and start cutting at an angle so as to slice off a significant portion of un-mowed grass. Next, I would proceed to go in circles around the edges of that un-mowed part until it had been sufficiently eaten up by the mower I was tirelessly pushing.
I called it the Pacman! You know, after the video game. It had only been out a year or so, but I was hooked. Spent every quarter I made mowing lawns on that dang game up at the nearby 7-Eleven the one all my friends and I walked to on a daily basis.
My lawnmowing practices didn’t start that way. At first, I just went any and all directions for a time, but for no good reason. I had no explanation. All I knew was that it took me nearly twice as long as my friends to mow a lawn that was mostly because the homeowner would come out and lecture me on how to mow a lawn properly each time.
Anyway, it didn’t take long to conclude that I was never going to make enough money to get in a lot of practice time on the game that I loved and wanted to master. Each play cost a quarter. So, if I was ever going to get good at Pac-Man, I had to find other ways to practice.
And practice I did.
On my neighbor’s lawns.
Needless to say, word spread around the neighborhood, and by the middle of the summer, I was officially blackballed. No more lawn mowing for pay. Not for me.
To this day, however, I am absolutely certain that those three lawns that I did manage to cut were the reason I hit High Score twice that year.