Tuesday, August 16, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Lawn Mowers Anonymous


My name is Joe, and I’m a recovering mower.

Just drive around on any evening or weekend in Des Moines. Go ahead. Notice what’s going on this time of year. People aren’t at the theater. People aren’t drinking at the bar. People aren’t hanging out with their friends. Nope. They’re mowing their lawns. The No. 1 activity for a significant segment of the population is mowing. Sure, there are those who are too young to mow. They go party in East Village or dance on Court Avenue or eat out at fun food trucks. But you want to be an adult? Go push a Lawn-Boy for a couple of hours.joes1

And, as you travel farther away from the concrete of downtown, the mowing takes on a bit of a moralistic tone as your lawn becomes a clear measure of your self worth. How long is it? How green is it? How trimmed is it? Listen, your cut grass is not the same as world peace, but what are you going to do? A slight break in the rainy weather, and the sound of Des Moines is the roar of small engines striving mightily against nature. The battle only ends when you are either “Yard of the Month” or you are found wanting. This isn’t complicated.

On top of all this competition, the very act of mowing carries certain risks. The rhythmic push of the mower, back and forth and up and down, causes rumination. Upon what are you ruminating?  Your life, of course — and, if there is any yard left — your wife’s life, your kids’ lives, your friends’ lives, your fellow workers lives, and even your dog’s life. This is not a good thing because you inevitably start to compare yourself to others who are all more creative, smarter, happier, wealthier and, certainly, more good-looking. As you mow your dandelions and creeping charlie, you realize that they all even have better lawns. Before you know it, you start to think it may be time to move to the Himalayas. Or at least Boone. Yup, your life has sunk into a mire of gas fumes, grass clippings and despondency.

And then your mower breaks down.

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“Thank you for coming.”

The smiling man can’t stop himself.

Thank you for coming? Really? My lawnmower has broken down. My grass is growing. The neighbors are all mowing. I’m falling behind. Ahhhhh!!!

Scott Dawson is the owner of Beaver Mower. He understands that you are in pain. He wants to help. And he’s going to do everything he can to get you back out there.

“This is a business where people want things now. I have to deal with people very delicately.” Scott sighs just thinking about trying to get his customers to understand what must be done.

“People think mowers must be done immediately. We try to do the best we can. Everybody is busy. But we try to please everyone, and, at the same time, realize that’s not going to happen.”

Today, Scott is averaging 100 to 150 mowers in his shop. This, of course, creates delays. Because of this spring rush, he is running two to three weeks to get your mower fixed.

What?  Did he say two to three weeks?

Scott was a professional musician for 32 years. Plays the drums. Being on tour got to be a little too much. So, for the last 13 years he has owned Beaver Mower. With five employees and a large shop, he is hustling to take care of the many customers.joes2

“We are here all year long. We are steady busy. But as soon as the grass starts growing, everyone figures out that they need something done. And everybody is in the same boat, and everybody comes in all at once.”

I politely explain to Scott that I am not just anybody.

Scott picks up the phone to answer another call. His front desk man comes into the office with a question. A customer pops around the corner to see about a trade-in for a new mower. All within five minutes.

Scott sighs.

“Here’s the truth. If you’re not rude, I’m going to do everything I can to help you. If someone says, ‘Look dude, I know you’re doing your best,’ I’ll do everything I can to get you back to mowing.”

Without shame, I look Scott in the eye and tell him he is doing his best.

Scott is grateful for the customers. This same rush occurs in snowblower season also. Scott patiently understands that’s the nature of a seasonal business. And he tries to help. He knows that he’s just the messenger of bad news for people who want things done immediately.

“We try to be sympathetic to emergencies. ‘Hey, I’m trying to sell my house, I have to mow my yard.’ We will try to take care of those people and try not to take advantage of our regular customers. It’s a balancing act some people don’t understand.”I tell Scott that I just remembered I’m trying to sell my house.

“Some people think they’re owed something. It is what it is. I’m not purposely trying to single you out and keep your mower just to anger you.” Scott laughs and gives me a therapeutic pat on the back. “Everyone’s mower will be done as soon as humanly possible.”

Feeling singled out, I stumble outside the shop.

I stand alone among the machines that need repair. Adrift in a sea of mowers.

“Thank you for coming,” Scott shouts to me with a thumbs up.

My name is Joe and I’m a recovering mower. CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, he writes about the frequently overlooked people, places and events in Des Moines on his blog: www.joesneighborhood.com.


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