Monday, October 26, 2009

Another life lesson

Yesterday was a beautiful, early fall day and the afternoon hours were simply perfect for raking leaves.  I had already finished the back yard.  Considering that I have no trees in that part of my yard, one may not consider the labor required to accomplish such a feat as anything to brag about.  Such is not the case…Trust me!  My neighbor has five trees in his yard.  The prevailing wind direction is such that when his leaves begin to drop off, said leave float on the exiting winds and end up in my yard.  Complaining about it to him or anyone else would gain me nothing at all, so I complain to myself while I’m raking and picking them up.  There was little wind to speak of so my efforts could be appreciated for at least a day or until the next weather front approaches our area.

Maureen and Gail were busy downstairs, pulling storage containers out from under the crawlspace below the living room and kitchen; going through them, sorting the contents into what would be kept and what would be given to the Veteran’s for pick-up on Tuesday, the day after my Birthday on the 26th of October.  See how I worked that hint into this composition? I don’t expect any gifts from anyone as a result but I will not refuse any that are offered.

It was a little after the noon hour when these two young lads, approximately eleven or twelve years of age in my estimation, came up the driveway and then to the front door to ring the doorbell.  I was sitting on one of the couches in the living room going through several plastic tubs of old, family snapshots, choosing ones I wanted to scan into this computer for digital safe keeping and use as blog fodder later.  I called out to them through the open front window, asking what they wanted.  The bolder of the two came to the window and asked if I wanted my leaves raked and bagged.  “How much do you charge”  I asked?  With a shrug of the shoulders and a thoughtful expression on his face, the lad said “Oh! A couple of bucks.”

“A couple of bucks each”  I asked?  “Yes Sir” he replied.  I liked that.  A respectful young fellow trying to make a few dollars on a weekend afternoon for something he wanted to purchase. They even brought their own leaf bags………But only one rake.  The other boy had a Pogo stick in his hand.  That confused me a little……and then, after I agreed to the deal, that boy started raking my leaves with his pogo stick.  I chuckled to myself.  “Kids….these days….what will they think of next.?” 

I went out to the shed, got one of my old rakes and took it around front for them to use.  They politely thanked me for it and went about raking again, only twice as fast now.  The bigger of the two lads had this awkward style of raking.  He didn’t hold the rake like he was sweeping with a broom, which in my opinion was the best way to do it.   The other boy was holding and using his rake that way.  I told that novice raker that I normally charge for giving instructions about how to use a rake and proceeded with my practical demonstration. I’m not saying he was dense or anything but he didn’t seem to be able to grasp the concept and continued doing it his way.  I watched them a few minutes and noticed that they spent equal time talking about the job and actually doing it.  That’s alright with me….I wasn’t paying them by the hour. I also noticed that they were raking leaves from all over the yard into one large pile.  I suggested to them that it might be easier to make smaller piles, for instance, using as a gauge, the distance they could reach out with the rakes from one spot, then turning in a circle until the area was clean and a smaller pile of leaves was at their feet. It suddenly occurred to one of the boys that they used that technique recently while doing another yard.

I left them to it and went back inside to the picture task.  It wasn’t long before one of them came to the window and suggested that he needed to go home for more bags.  I told him I had some bags they could use.  He said “Thanks” and went back to work.  A half hour later, I looked out to check their progress.  They had two large piles and several smaller ones here and there and none of the areas connected or joined one another to form a large clean area of the yard. I suggested that they might consider starting to bag some of the leaves and place the bags along side of the garage, behind the large trash container that was there. 

Checking again later, I noticed they were chatting with two of their friends that happened by with skateboards and when they saw me watching them, the boys with the skateboards excused themselves and left so the fellows could get on with their work.  I took them both a bottle of cold, carbonated, flavored, zero calorie water.  They thanked me and started trying to open them.  One could and one couldn’t.  Finally, with the help of his friend, even his bottle was opened and both tried a taste.  One liked it….the other one didn’t.  They sat their drinks on the front step and went back to work, thanking me as they went.  I came back later and noticed that one had finished his drink and the other had hardly touched his.  I asked him if he wasn’t thirsty or just didn’t like it enough to keep drinking it.  His friend confessed that he didn’t drink it because he was afraid that I had put something in it. 

I could only look at them in a confused way and then asked….”Didn’t you have a difficult time opening your drink?  He nodded “Yes”  “Wasn’t that because the drink had not been opened beforehand and the protective seal was still intact?”  “Do I look like the kind of person that would try to poison young boys who were only trying to make a couple bucks raking my leaves?”  “Do you perceive me as some kind of sick-o or maniacal killer?”  “Has that been your experience with Seniors…..That they are out to get you?”  “OH PLEASE!”  I went back inside.

Later, the bolder one came to the window and informed me that his father had “TEXTED” him on his cell phone and told him to come home right away.  I took six dollars out, a five and a one dollar bill and told them they would need to split it.  I made sure I got my rake back and picked up the unappreciated drink from the front step and bid them good-bye and good luck.

I spent the next few minutes watching them argue about how they would manage to split the loot and fade away down the sidewalk.  It was a good while before I finished pondering all that I had learned from the experience.  The boy who didn't learn to hold the rake the right way from my effort to teach him, was flexing his wrist a lot too.  See what happens when you don't listen to your elders?

You know what?  I don’t think much of today’s young people’s work ethic or their idea of a contract. 

To make things worse, one of the boys returned to inform me that they “MIGHT” come back later or even tomorrow to finish the job.  I’m not going to hold my breath till then.

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