Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A Manly Day

If you saw some crazy guy walking a push lawnmower down the street yesterday, that was me.

I had a very manly day yesterday. In the morning, I took my lawnmower to get the blades sharpened. There's a guy in the neighborhood who does lawnmower repair out of his backyard. (And it was easier to walk the mower six blocks to his house than to load it into my car.)

So I got to hang out in his very swanky shed while he banged on my mower with a hammer (it needed a bit of an adjustment) and then sharpened the blades with a power sander. Somehow, I thought there would be some kind of sophisticated tool to sharpen them, but he just leaned over the mower and carefully touched up each blade while sparks went flying off.

(The mower is now awesome, a grass-cutting juggernaut. I might take it out today, but I'd better do it early since it's going to get up to 90 degrees today.)

I thought a lot about my days as a machinist, back before I discovered the nonprofit world. I worked for two years making machined parts - screws, bolts, bearings - for a shop that mostly supplied to Boeing. I had my own toolbox - two of them, actually. I perpetually came home with grease on my hands, not to mention nicks and cuts that I usually didn't remember getting. I had to shake the metal shavings out of my shirts before I put them in the wash.

There's a part of me that romanticizes that period, my hard work phase, the blue collar phase. But it wasn't romantic. It was hard work, detailed work. High demand, high pressure, long hours, less-than-thrilling pay. Because I had to program the CNC lathes, I usually had to use my brain as much as my hands. It was a great learning experience, but I didn't see it then as a learning experience. I saw it as the only job I could hold down, even though deep down I always knew that it wasn't going to be a career for me.

In the afternoon, I had to go to Home Depot to replace the propane for my grill. It's amazing the effect that walking into Home Depot has on most men. You become less verbal, start answering questions with one-word answers or grunts. You start looking at tools that you'd never use in a million years, just because they look cool. You begin speculating what you could get done if you just had a radial saw and a router.

When I got back, I hooked up the propane tank and tested the connections carefully, making sure that I didn't blow up the yard accidentally. Then I grilled dinner, making sure I had all the essential tools of grilling wth me - tongs, heatproof mitts, and a bottle of beer. I made chicken and veggies grilled in a shaker basket. Pretty tasty stuff.

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