As a teenager, I was hardly an invaluable help around the house. Though I improved as an adult, I am ashamed to admit that I was once an inept pack rat that could barely make a bed, couldn’t do laundry or cook anything more ambitious than canned corn.
So why would I spontaneously decide to mow the grass at the age of 16?
Simple I wanted to go out that night, but my mother told me that she wanted my help with the yard work. (Read: I stood there and held the bag for the grass clippings.) I reasoned that if I mowed before she got home, she would be proud of my initiative and have no reason to keep me in for the night. It was a classic win-win situation.
I went to the shed and extracted the mower, taking care to check the gas tank prior to starting it. The dipstick read that it was full, but there was so little fuel on the metal that I thought I was reading it wrong. I squinted down the dark, narrow hole, but I couldn’t see anything so I got the gas can from the garage and began to “fill ‘er up.”
That’s when I noticed another screw cap on the other side of the engine. When I loosened it I saw that it was full of what was obviously gasoline and that I had just put fuel in the oil tank.
Now the way I saw it, I had two options. I could a.) Put it back and say nothing. It was unlikely my parents would suspect me in the first place, but they might think that someone broke in, vandalized our equipment and file a police report. Who needed that on their conscience? Or I could b.) Get it fixed before my mother came home.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that my neighbor did. He was the father of a friend and (even better) a teddy bear of a guy. I raced over to his driveway in gales of tears, threw myself on his mercy and told him what had happened.
“OK, why don’t you push it over here and I will drain the oil and get you set up before your mom gets home,” he smiled, understandingly
Thirty minutes later I was back in business and just as I suspected, my mother was so proud to see me working hard that she readily agreed to my plans for the evening. I could have gotten away with it, but a few weeks later, I confessed to what happened. My father seemed amused and after hearing my tale, he went to ask my friend’s father how much he owed him for the gas and the oil.
“No charge,” he told him. “One of these days my own daughter will end up in a mess and will need you to bail her out. We’ll call it even then.”
“Deal,” my dad told him with a handshake.