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The Dude With the Mower

Being the recipient of an ego-boosting compliment was not something I anticipated when I took my mower to the hardware store to get the blade sharpened. That's just not the kind of place you tend to get compliments of any kind. Sure, if you're feeling blue you can always buck yourself up by making a trip to the hardware store to check out the power tools and the paint brushes and the herbicides and whatnot, and if you're really, really down in the dumps you will probably want to spend at least 20 minutes rifling through the screws and washers. The smaller the item, the more it feels like a friend.

Trust me, there's not a man in America who hasn't, at some point, picked up a 3/16ths drill bit and said, "How's my little buddy?"

I think I didn't realize until afterward -- after the event I'm about to relate -- when finished with the preparatory material -- how psychically ready I had been for some kind of verbal chuck under the chin. Did I have a spiritual hole into which a compliment, if dropped, would flourish? More like a crater. That canyon on Mars. But the odds of anything like that happening seemed remote. I was just trying to get a mower blade sharpened! The mower didn't mean much to me, other than as an object of mild resentment. I used to have a gas mower that, while nasty and loud, left no doubt of its agenda. It was violent. It was a satisfying machine for whacking the fescue. But it had to be put to sleep earlier this year. That left me with my relatively new backup mower, an electric number given to me by a friend. It is a mild, modest device. As I've noted here before, it's like something a lady would use to shave her legs.

And it was literally dull in every way. Hence the trip to the hardware store.

So I'm waiting around. I can hear the blade being sharpened in the back of the shop. A grating sound, a high frequency industrial whine. Then the guy comes out of the back of the shop, and he's pushing my mower, and he tells me there was a lot of grass jammed underneath, and that the blade had certainly been dull, and then -- out of the blue -- he says, "That's a nice mower."

"Really?" I said.

"Yeah," he said. "That's a nice mower. They don't make those anymore."

And then another guy agrees with him. A nice mower, and you can't find that model anymore.

I'm like: Yo.

I got me a hot mower!

This is like a new identity. I'd needed one. Now I'll be that guy: The dude with the mower.

Mr. Mower Man.

With this new identity comes the responsibility to share the magic. I'm going to have to spend more time letting the people out there, the citizenry, check out my mower. I'll have to take it for a stroll down the sidewalk, maybe through the business district. Strut my stuff. People might wonder why this man is pushing a mower through a pedestrian mall, or the food court at Tyson's, or whatever, but mostly what they will ask themselves is, "How can I get a mower like him?"

The important thing is to avoid the temptation to gloat. If people think you think that they're envying you for your cool mower, they'll get resentful. So you have to pretend you don't notice that they're covetous. Basically you have to left your cool mower speak for itself. Which means sometimes, right there on the sidewalk, turning it on, so everyone can hear that lovely hum.

By Joel Achenbach  |  September 25, 2007; 2:20 PM ET
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