If you want to impress my mom’s side of the family, you have to work at it.
Being polite and ingratiating yourself by bringing flowers to dinner and knowing the difference between a soup spoon and a salad fork helps. But observing the social niceties aren’t what’s at play here.
I mean you really have to work. Whether it be in the yard or up on the roof, you have to work.
And, you better be breaking a sweat.
If you’re lucky, you might overhear the highest compliment that Mom and her relatives can pay to anyone — “Oh, he’s a worker. A real worker.”
My aunt is usually the arbiter but Mom has been known to pass judgement, too. But don’t expect them to say it in front of you. If they slip up, though and you hear them utter those words while you’ve excused yourself to go to the bathroom, it means they like you and you’ve been accepted (just be sure to wash your hands).
That’s how I knew that a former neighbor of mine in Charleston didn’t think much of the fellow who previously owned the house my wife and I bought after we got married.
I was taking a break from wrestling with my lawnmower when he said, “That guy who was here before you? He was nice enough. But he wasn’t much of an outside worker.”
You can’t get lower than that, which is why I’m in something of a pickle.
My problem dates back to the last time we actually got any real snow. There’s still a six-foot-tall tree stump in our yard – all that remains of two of our Bradford Pear trees that couldn’t stand up to October’s freakish storm. The only use we’ve had for it since was when we outfitted it with a witch’s pointy, black hat and cape to give pause to Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Frankly, until now I haven’t given much thought to bringing it down, even after my wife gave me a pretty clear message. She got me a new chainsaw for Christmas. But with all the branches and logs we mulched and hauled away last fall, dealing with another dead tree just wasn’t going to happen right away.
Last week, though, I finally decided it was time. I just should have known it would turn out to be one of those half-hour jobs that stretch into days through incompetence and equipment malfunctions.
First, I had to take a trip to the hardware store because I didn’t have the right oil to keep the chain lubricated. Then, I wasted the rest of the morning trying to get the chainsaw started. It even stumped one of my more handier neighbors until we figured out the trick.
Once we got it fired up, I failed to notice that a key bolt was not properly tightened. So predictably, when I started making my first cut, the loose bolt popped off and took the saw’s bar and chain with it.
I still haven’t figured out how to put it back together. I even took it to the guy we generally acknowledge as the handiest of the handy guys in our neighborhood. Even he couldn’t puzzle it out. My only hope is to take it to the chainsaw store and admit failure in front of guys who will probably get a big chuckle over the guy who is still trying to impress his mom’s family.
The way things are going, I doubt her relatives will give me a thumbs up.
After all, you’re only as good as your last successful job.