'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SUBURBIA’S DIRTY SECRET: WEED WACKER STRESS DISORDER
Tranquil suburbia. Lovely neighborhoods, peaceful, quiet, and serene. Wooded cul-de-sacs, with plenty of space between each home. Gas grilles, redwood decks, bird feeders, flower gardens, manicured lawns, and an abundance of privacy and peace. The perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Or is it?
Unfortunately, this All-American, apple pie image is a mere façade covering up an undercurrent of frustration and angst. The seemingly idyllic lives of millions of suburbanites are being torn asunder by a dreadful condition known as Weed Wacker Stress Disorder (W.W.S.D.).
Many readers know exactly what I mean, and reflexively wince. To be an accepted member of suburbia nowadays requires—absolutely requires—the ownership of a weed wacker. (Referred to in other parts of the country as a “line trimmer,” “motorized edging tool,” or simply the “spinning string of death.”)
In suburbia it is unacceptable just to mow one’s lawn and then NOT trim the edges. “Honey, look at the Henderson’s shabby lawn,” begins a common lament. “Were they raised by wolves?!”
No, trimming the edges is no longer an option. It is as necessary in suburban America as adorning one’s minivan with a “My Child Is An Honor Student at Sacco & Vanzetti Middle School” bumper sticker.
When the weed wacker was first invented, it was considered a miracle. Just think, a device that could trim all lawn edges in mere minutes, rather than the back-breaking task of trimming the edges by hand with an archaic spring-loaded scissors-like clipping tool.
But the miracle was too good to be true. The weed wacker is an amazing device, yes, but a mechanically fragile amazing device. First, the engine often will not start. After yanking the cord a thousand times or so, many suburbanites come to the exhausted realization that they’ve already expended more energy in a futile attempt to start the thing than they would have expended trimming the entire yard with a toenail clipper. And in our world of specialization, do you know how many suburbanites are able to fix internal combustion engines (at least those who do not charge $85 per hour for labor, plus parts)? The answer is zero. Which is why millions of suburban garages have inoperable weed wackers propped up in the corner collecting dust and cobwebs.
On those rare occasions when the motor actually starts, the real mechanical nightmare begins. The bottom part of the wacker, which contains the spinning monofilament line, is as fragile as Aunt Penelope’s surgically repaired hip. When the string spins in the air, it looks so powerful and makes such an impressive whirring noise. But the moment it comes in contact with anything hard—such as a rock, a concrete lawn gnome, or a blade of grass—it instantly becomes as tangled as Woody Allen’s love life.
If the weed wacker’s mechanical fragility were it’s only fault, it still might offer a net positive impact on suburban life. But the truth is, the weed wacker is an Emergency Room visit waiting to happen. Sliced toes, cut fingers, and scourged ankles are commonplace. And yet, this is not the worst. I have it on good authority that a certain mild-mannered features editor—who shall remain nameless, to protect her from the wrath of P.E.T.A.—once accidentally weed-wacked a fledgling bird. Moments after being pushed from the nest by its momma, sitting in some tall grass and trying to figure out how to use its wings, the poor little creature was suddenly turned into shredded tweet. Yuck.
Suburbia may appear tranquil, but as long as the “spinning string of death” exists, there will be no peace.
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