Mow Money, Mow Problems

Mow Money, Mow Problems

I’m an inbound specialist at my day job. (A comedy writer on nights and weekends. Justin Timberlake’s personal masseuse in my dreams.)

When people ask me what an inbound specialist does, I say: “I work with search engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns to drive lead generation.”

When they give me blank stares, I say: “Mostly, I try to get my lawn care and pest control clients to show up on the first page of Google search results.”

THEN I usually have to explain what Google is to my grandmother.

As I come up on my one-year anniversary in this job, it’s cool to look back at how much I’ve learned and how far I’ve come; ESPECIALLY since, as I was recently reminded, I’ve kind of been preparing for this job since middle school.


 

Throughout my childhood, I’ve shown glimpses of my entrepreneurial spirit. There’s the time I conned my neighbors into buying Kleenex decorated with scented markers. I sold Christmas tree trimmings to the kids on my cul-de-sac. I almost started a side gig as a party clown.

At the age of 13, my mother had deemed me “too young to babysit.” Even though I’d been watching my brother for free since I’d turned 9, I wasn’t responsible enough to watch other people’s children - apparently. But I was hungry for cash to spend on glittery body sprays and Aeropostale sweatshirts, so I did what every suburban middle schooler does:
I started my own lawn mowing business before I even knew how to mow a lawn.

85 flyers, lovingly crafted in Microsoft Word and cut out by hand, were placed in 85 mailboxes. My dad showed me how to turn the lawn mower on and agreed to let me use his mower and gas if I paid him $5 each time I used it.

My first gig came a week later. I got dressed up in my best oversized t-shirt and athletic shorts - used primarily for lounging on the floor watching Disney movies instead of any form of athletic activity. I slicked my hair back into a ponytail, slapped on some sunscreen, and rolled myself and my push mower up a hill. Twenty minutes later, I ran back down that hill to get my mom, because I couldn’t figure out how to start the mower.

The woman who had hired me watched from her garage as my mother and I struggled with the pull cord on the mower for ten minutes before the motor sputtered to life. She was still watching when I gently sideswiped her car with the mower. She also probably saw me get hung up on a corner of her garden planters, shaving the tops off of her pansies. She did not request my services again.

My second gig was for a woman who wanted me to mow her lawn while she was at work. Instead of calling me, she got my e-mail address from a neighbor. We never had to interact in person. She was my dream customer. I was given instructions to mow the grass, take the key from under the terra cotta Buddha in her garden, go in through the back door and grab the money she left for me next to her zen garden.

I’m a nosy person (if I’ve been to your home, I have 100% looked through your medicine cabinets), so I spent almost as much time poking around in her kitchen and living room as I did actually mowing her grass.

I’m sure I left fingerprints on a majority of her possessions and I probably looked in her pantry - but the only discovery that I recall is that she had significantly fewer framed photos of her children than she did of her chihuahua. It was truly the highlight of my short-lived lawn mowing career.

My third gig is what broke me.

I was thrilled when an older couple in my neighborhood gave me a call and requested I mow their lawn every weekend for a month. As it turns out, this sweet elderly couple was getting the bargain of their lifetime. When I arrived for duty on the first weekend, I was horrified to discover that their backyard extended a full acre. I was making $20 to mow a football field.

I zig-zagged back and forth in the 98-degree heat for two and a half hours, stopping every 15 minutes for a “water and whine” break. By the time I finally finished, I was soaked, itchy, and gasping for air. (Did I mention I’m very allergic to grass?)

Limping home, dragging my mower behind me, I decided to end my career as soon as I’d begun it. Two and a half hours of hard physical labor was all it took to reinforce that I was destined for more air-conditioned pursuits.



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