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This past year I began cutting back on substitute teaching.
Subbing in the junior or senior high schools is easy enough: take attendance and play the video. Subbing in the elementary grades, however, can be as enjoyable as nicking yourself while shaving and then going for a swim in piranha-infested waters.
In a first grade setting I found myself in, for example, one of the first items on the lesson plan was to have the students come to the front of the room and gather around while I sat in a rocking chair to read a book. This is something I normally enjoy as I feel I am good at it, putting lots of inflection into a clear and loud voice. And, normally, the kids enjoy it. On this particular day I sat down, opened the book and set the bookmark on a shelf to my right. Instantly, one of the sweet little six-year-olds piped up with “that’s not where Miss G puts the bookmark.” Before I had a chance to respond with the standard “well, I’m not Miss G,” another one of the mini-beings chimed in with “is too.” In an instant the crowd of innocent, criss-crossed applesauce sitting darlings turned into two increasingly militant camps: one ready to fight to their grave that the bookmark does not go on my right; the other absolutely positively sure that it does.
Thus begins the basis for our two-party system of government.
Not that all jobs are bad; some are actually enjoyable. For an entire week this past year, for example, I got to teach algebra at the high school level and felt the satisfaction of a job well done. There are also a few fifth and sixth grade classes I really enjoy, but for the most part subbing has become about as much fun as scheduling a root canal.
So I’ve backed off the number of jobs.
To make up for the lost income, I jumped at the chance to do some mowing this summer at a couple of apartment buildings in the area.
The first thing I needed to do was buy a mower, no easy task as there are quite a few brands and styles. So I called brother Bob, who is a mechanic at a landscaping company in the Chicago area. He strongly recommended a Scag walk behind, the belt drive model. As I enjoy walking I was leaning towards a walk behind model to begin with and his advice tipped the scale. A quick search on the internet turned up a local dealer, and I was soon the proud owner of an orange mower with a 48-inch maw.
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to figure out that it wasn’t the mower for me.
For one thing it didn’t have a reverse, and I found myself yanking it out of tight dead ends more often than I wanted. For another, I couldn’t get the hang of making the u-turns without flinging myself about like a rag in the wind. But to be fair, I should admit that the biggest problem was that it was difficult to get the machine onto the boat-turned-mower trailer I tried making do with. If I had a trailer designed to haul mowers, I may have stuck it out.
So I went back to the business that sold it to me and they agreed to let me trade it in at 100 percent value towards a new zero-turn rider made by a company called Wright. Back on the Internet I found that a Wright is an American-made mower getting good reviews. And with a top speed of near 15 mph, I was sold. There was one problem, however, it strained my trailer to the limit so I broke down and bought a new one, something I should have done from the start. I expect to have the equipment paid off sometime during the next decade. So now I’m a happy camper zipping around on my ZTR. If you see an orange-hatted blur, it’s probably me. One small tradeoff from the Scag is that the new mower is yellow and doesn’t match my hat but I guess you can’t have everything. If I stay on the job for about five years I expect to break even on the cost of the equipment.
I called Bob back and questioned why he recommended the Scag in the first place, telling him about my difficulties with it.
“Hmm,” my genius brother replied, “I guess I’ve never operated one of them but they are easy to service and repair.”