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Age of Convenience
by Kent Fletcher

In today's world it's a wonder most of us aren't flabby in body and mind/spirit, just sitting around whiling away the days-on-end, wondering how we survived our younger years. Technology has spoiled us all.

Today there are riding lawnmowers, cars that park themselves, coffee makers that have timers so we don't have to bound out of bed in the mornings and manually turn them on, computers that can run entire homes once programmed, digital cameras that have taken the excitement of developing our own pictures away.

We have cell phones that are taking the old landline notions to the outer limits, traffic control lights that spot when a vehicle is approaching an intersection while watching the other approaches so the first vehicle can go through safely (hopefully), teeny tiny televisions that can be fitted under a cabinet in the kitchen so we can prepare a meal and never miss a thing from the news or the favorite soap opera. I heard somewhere that in just a little under two years, the old-style television will be a museum item, that the high definition television (HDTV) is going to be in total control of our lives. All the stations around the country will be converted to high definition, and the consumer really won't have a choice in the matter, unless, of course, the consumer simply quits watching the boob tube. I wouldn't miss it, and that'll probably be my future.

About the only true mechanics anymore are the old-timers who can simply listen to an engine, or a drive shaft, or a rear-end and correctly diagnose the problem. The mechanics today are required to be up-to-date on technology galore, required to be able to "read" some digital equipment and able to take a simple switch and replace it by unplugging the old one, plugging in the new one. The charges for these "mechanics" of today are simply outrageous; I've seen as high as $95 per hour. I guess they have to pay for their tools of the trade, but with the new vehicles the mechanic can't even get in the engine compartment anymore. That's why all my vehicles (1 truck, 2 cars) are vintage; I can actually see the entire motors.

So the can-openers, traffic lights, HDTVs, digital cameras, cell phones, etc., are fine and dandy, but what happens when [gasp!] something breaks during the time the stores are not open or when the bucks ain't flowin' to fix or replace that something? We usually pine and lament because we have to do manual labor, something we deem is beneath our dignity, being righteous, upstanding citizens of the community.

Back in the spring, I fired up my riding lawnmower from a deep winter's sleep, having checked the earl and the gas, pumped up the tires. Made it just about one turn around the yard and the motor quit, not immediately, but started running "funny," like it was flooding. So I stopped the forward speed, kicked the blades out of gear, and then the motor did quit. BAM!

This was happening a lot last summer. I'd be running along, then all of a sudden I'd be sitting out in the yard like one of the actors on "The Reivers," (a Faulkner story, by the way; the movie starred Steve McQueen and Sharon Farrell). Nowhere to go, no way to get there.

I tried the ignition; all I could get was click, click, click. Cussed it a little, left it alone a little while. Well, maybe the battery was run down, so I charged the battery overnight.

Next day, click, click, click. Nothing, nada, nil. And the grass was still growing, mind you, now well over ankle-high. Got a feller to come by, take a look-see at it. Heh, the motor is frozen up, locked down, seized. Wonderful. In the meantime, that dang grass was still growing, thanks in part to all the rain we'd had and the abundant sunshine. Typical for spring, donchaknow?

Feller said he'd stop by on another day, see if he could get the engine freed up, but in the meantime I was kinda in a quandary.

A couple of years ago, when I first moved into my present abode, I was without a mower of any kind. Thinking I was still a young man, I bought a gen-u-wine, old-fashioned, push-type reel lawnmower. I've always said a push mower cuts the grass better, but hooo-weeee, that's some kind of hard work! So with my riding mower out of commission, I decided I really needed to do something, anything, to get the grass down before the city nanny patrol came by.

Woof! I pushed and backed up, pushed and backed up, pushed and backed up . . .

Lawsymussy! Took about three hours to cut half the yard, and afterwards I was sore as could be. Well, what can I say but that I ain't gonna let the grass get that high again.

So next time you feel like you've really worked at something, using a motor or a computer or just hiring the job out, go get yourself a reel-type mower and mow that yard. It'll really let you appreciate all these conveniences we have today.


Kent Fletcher, native Mississippian and retired military, now lives in Texas.
Contact Kent at this e-mail address.

Read more of Kent’s “meanderings”:

Speaking of Tunica
Hotrods and high school
Raisin’ Delta cain
Roguing beans and a ‘39 Plymouth
A Sea Story
Ghosts of Christmas Past

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