I had been battling the need to do yard maintenance for days … the lawn was too long and, while the leaves did not quite a carpet make, there were enough of them to make several huge throw rugs.
I had long since made peace with the need to do this fall work. Other legitimate needs had kept me out of the yard until that Friday. Fortunately, I owned a mulching lawn-mower. It would not make "short work" of my project, but it would mow and mulch. Having actually gotten outside, I was eager to begin.
I pulled the mower onto the garage apron. In my eagerness, as I filled the mower's gas tank, I spilled gasoline on the mower deck. I cleaned that, pushed the mower into the back yard, and pushed the priming pump's rubber button several times. Well, OK, four or five times, more times than recommended but a number experience told me I needed. I pulled the starting cord, and nothing. I tried again; nothing. Once more, and the engine coughed. I pushed the priming pump button a few more times. I tried the starting cord. Nothing. I pushed the button another time or two, a little harder this time, and the engine coughed in response but did not run.
"Crap, I've probably flooded it now," I swore. "I'll have to wait."
I feared returning to the house, feared I'd be unable to decide to come out again. Fortunately, ( fortunately? ) the parking slab next to the garage was carpeted with leaves. Thinking the mower would dry while I cleaned that up, I set about that. But I couldn't do that without intermittently going to the mower and trying it; I pushed the priming pump button several times.
"You're playing cards with Vern tonight; ask for help." The thought was an inspiration.
Asking him for help was perfect. Vern and I had never done anything together, just the two guys. This provided a bonding opportunity. Vern loves gasoline engines; he goes to shows and buys them for fun. This task is something he can likely do unconscious. He'll love it. So I thought. Incorrectly.
My plan began unraveling when he seemed not to hear me when we met up. "I'm good, but I've got a problem that I would like your help with tomorrow."
When I felt comfortable bringing it up again, my plan quickly went further south. "How old is the gas you put in today? How big is the engine?"
"He doesn't want to do it," my wife whispered.
"How old is the gas that was left from last time? Did you pull the plug? I have left plugs in engines for years, but had to clean them now and again. Pull the spark plug and look … that'll give you a lot of information about the state of the engine."
As I trudged to the garage the next morning, I don't know which chagrined me more: I was alone with this suddenly stubborn lawnmower or I had not made a clear request to come and help. Once more I pulled the mower onto the apron; mechanically I grabbed the starting chord and pulled. Once. The engine roared to life … and lived.
Very quickly I realized that he knew that it would happen like this. He knew his coming was unnecessary and superfluous. "Vern, you're a genius!" I screamed to myself. "And thanks."
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