How I Think I Broke My Toe After All

It’s been about three weeks since the rain stopped and the grass started to grow again. The lawn service that we hired has not come back, probably because they weren’t paid, which was because they didn’t sent me an invoice even after I asked for one. So the lawn is looking pretty shaggy and I want to have it look nice again.

So, The Wife and I went to Wal-Mart and got a lawn mower. A big concern was getting the thing to fit in the Ninja — there’s only so much room in the back of the car; it’s not a pickup truck. Happily, we found an affordable lawn mower which just fit into the trunk. Then, we went to go see The Other Boleyn Girl (see movie review below), which was The Wife’s pick of movies since I picked the last one.

We got home, and it was starting to get late in the day, so I let the lawn mower alone for the night, planning on getting to it the next day. Which I did.

Assembling the lawn mower was actually pretty easy; I just had to take it out of the box and secure the handle at the length and angle I wanted. From there, I had to find where to add the engine oil, which took some searching. And then I had to go get gas.

Well, that was an inconvenience. The Arco station near Soffit House was suffering some kind of technical difficulty and could not take my ATM card. So the nearest gas station from there was a few miles away. I combined that with another errand and got home much later than I said I would, but at least some things got done. So then, all that was left would be to pour the gas in, and start ‘er up. So in goes the gas, closed goes the safety handle, as TL reaches down to pull the starter cord and…

Nothing. I pull on the cord and it barely even moves. I know I’m stronger than that, so I pull again. I figure, maybe the oil hasn’t got all the way around the gears and the driveshaft yet. So I really heave.

This time, the cord moves back. The engine stays absolutely silent. And the cord goes slack.

I confess — I said a bad word.

So I search around for a manual retractor or some kind of crank to retract the cord. No luck. I try turning the spindle with my fingertips, reaching underneath the housing to manually turn it. After fifteen minutes of puzzling over the damn thing, I finally turn it on its side and try to turn the blade by hand. I do this, and hear a *cough* from the engine.

Oh, that’s not a good idea. Unless, that is, I didn’t really need those fingers.

But the thing is, now I’ve got a lawn mower that won’t start and no way to get it started, and I don’t know how to fix it. So, I call my dad in Tennessee. He figures there’s a spring on the retractor that’s busted. That sounds about right to me. Which means, take the thing back to Wally World and get a new one.

That’s when I realize that I probably threw the receipt away at the movie theater watching that not-very-good movie. So, that means exchanges only at the Wally World, no refunds to get a better product from elsewhere. So, I pack up the fifty-pound lawn mower back in the box and drive it back to the store.

There, I wait in line at the customer service counter for about fifteen minutes while the lone clerk working the counter looks panicked and distressed at the twelve people in line ahead of me, who are returning things like bras, faucets, some unidentifiable bottle of cleaning product, and I-kid-you-not, a mango. Eventually, I get to the front of the line and by now the supervisor has returned from (I guess) her break. The clerk says to me, “That thing still have gas in it?”


“We can’t take it back if it has gas in it. Next?”

So I haul the thing out to the car, heave it into the trunk again (it’s now been heaved in and out of my trunk six times already) and go back into Wally World to buy a portable gas container. I get back out into the parking lot and realize I need a funnel, too. Easy enough — I have a two-month old copy of The Atlantic in my back seat and the front cover with its slick-paper cover of the stylized photo of Barack Obama will work just fine. I didn’t think Barack would mind his photo being used in this fashion.

The real problem is how to get the gas out of the mower. A look around the thing (now heaved out one more time and taken out of the box to rest on the tarmac) revealed no bottom-mounted drain for the gas reservoir. So that means to get the gas out, I need to invert the entire engine and pour the gas out the same hole I poured it in. So, I bend down, pick up the mower and turn it upside down.

Standing there all alone holding a lawn mower upside down in the parking lot of Wal-Mart out in thirty-mile-an-hour winds in Lancaster, my hand slipped while draining gasoline into my Barack Obama 2008 slick paper funnel, and I dropped it. Right onto my left big toe.

Once again, I said a bad word. Loudly. My toe hurt. A lot.

I picked up the mower and finished the job. I actually think I did a pretty good job, considering the astonishingly clumsy circumstances under which I’d drained the gas — I recovered more than half the tank. Once more, I put the mower — which seemed by then to have gained something like twenty-five pounds in weight — back in the carton again and again took it back into the store. Same as before, only now everything smelled like 87-octane, including me.

Once again with the line, this time with every Wal-Mart employee walking in an out of the break room walking by me, crinkling their noses, and saying, “It smells like there’s a gas leak!” Eventually the customer service representative shouted at me, “Did you drain out all the gas?” (In her defense, it was pretty loud, what with the infants screaming and playing and the parents spanking their children and forty-six clerks simultaneously ringing up orders of chewing gum, deodorant, and breakfast cereal.)

“Yes,” I shouted back. “That’s what you smell. Sorry!”

When I got up to the front of the line, the clerk said, “Okay. Replacement? Go on back and get another one.” Which I did, and waited in line another fifteen minutes to fill out a form. “So what was wrong with the one you returned?”

“The retractor spring on the engine’s vertical driveshaft isn’t working properly so I think the entire starter needs replacement and that means the manufacturer has to fix it.”

The clerk looked back at me with the same dull incomprehension that cows exhibit while watching trains pass through the prairie at night. I tried again: “You pull on the cord and it doesn’t start.”

“Oh. Okay. Sign here, please!” And with that, I had a replacement lawn mower to take home.

Well, by now it was getting dark and my toe was throbbing and I was thoroughly disgusted. So much so that I haven’t tried to assemble the new lawn mower yet. The Wife found a video offering hints for how to tell if you’ve actually broken your toe. The first tip was “Does your toe hurt?” As it turned out, I had about half the symptoms of a broken toe, so we concluded that I’d just bruised it.

But all day today, my toe has hurt. After court this morning, I walked around the office in my socks, because it hurt to wear my wingtips. It doesn’t hurt so bad to stand on it, but it hurts when I wiggle it and it’s swollen up pretty good. I don’t have a fever but it sure still hurts.

So that’s how I broke my toe trying to mow my lawn. Why must mowing my lawn be such a struggle?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


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