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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Newcomer indulges in turf wars

We were on a steep learning curve when we moved into our first home in Canada. Unlike back home where we had househelp, here we had to do everything. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, shovel...and to do so, we had to equip ourselves as we had neither the experience nor the tools.

We thought it best to do so in stages, season by season. As we had moved in summer, we’d start by purchasing things to maintain the yard with. It was exciting and a little daunting. We drew up a list. Lawn mower, sprinkler, hose, spade, small tools to dig up weeds and trim branches.

At the hardware store, we were presented with a mind-boggling choice in lawn mowers. Everything from wired and wireless to gas powered. The prices, too, ranged from the low to the very high. Not wanting to commit too much money, we opted for a wired electric mower. No mulching tool, no fancy attachments, just your average, basic model.

Proudly, we bore it home and inaugurated it the very next day.

A couple of weekends later, we were feeling like old hands as we worked around the yard one sunny weekend. Then I noticed our elderly neighbour was cutting her grass, too. She seemed to be struggling to push her mower. As unobtrusively as I could, I strolled in her direction for a closer look and discovered that she was using a really old-fashioned mower. The kind they had at my grandparents’ bungalow in India.

Poor thing, I thought, these things can be expensive and she probably hasn’t been able to replace her ancient mower. I wanted to offer help, but I remembered a friend of ours had warned against being too familiar. When he had sent his son across to help a senior neighbour, the neighbour had assumed the kid was asking for a job for which he would be paid.

I couldn’t have the lady thinking I wanted money to cut her grass! My wife suggested I offer her the use of our brand new mower. That way, there’d be no room for misunderstanding.
So that’s what I did. Walked up to her and told her she could borrow our mower. She stopped pushing her rickety-looking mower, smiled and said, “Thank you, dear, but I like this one.”

“But it must be hard,” I said, unable to stop myself. “Please use our mower, it’s much easier.”

If I had stopped there, there might not have been need for damage control. But in my eagerness to be helpful, I continued.

“They used to use this kind at my grandmother’s place in India, but even they don’t use it any longer.”

“Your grandmother’s place?” she asked. “Oh, you mean because this is a reel mower? But this is a brand new one! My daughter gave it to me for my birthday. I have the electric one in the garage, but much prefer this one. It is environmentally friendly. Good for the planet, good for me!”

I backtracked my way out of that mess as best as I could.

On our next visit to the hardware store, I made it a point to check out the reel mowers that we hadn’t even noticed when we were looking for one.

My neighbour’s model cost approximately twice what we had paid for ours!

– Vinod Pandey

Posted: Jul 4, 2012

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