ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By
Joseph Walker

CURSES! OPERATOR ERROR AGAIN!

To the people responsible for making my Weed Whacker 2000, I’d like to say I’m sorry.

I wasn’t myself when I verbally consigned you and your posterity to the fiery, steamy, cockroach-infested regions of the afterlife.  And that part about personally plaguing you with boils, shingles, leprosy and cavities in your teeth?  I really regret that.

Oh, and if you suddenly find yourself in dire need of . . . well, you know . . . Preparation H or some similar treatment, drop me a line.  I may have to figure out how to lift a curse or two.

Please try to understand.  I had been home from Scout camp for five days, and everyone knows there’s a two-week cool-down period for Post-Scout Camp Stress Syndrome.  Then there was the new Harry Potter book, and the pressure of getting it and reading it before they make a movie out of it.  And Beth turned 16, which means we’re having Driver’s Education Trauma (“Daddy, can I please, please, please drive the car?  Please, Daddy, PUH-LEEEAAASSSEEE?”).

And did I mention the heat?

So what was I supposed to do when my Weed Whacker went whacko?  Ignore it?

It wasn’t that my Weed Whacker wouldn’t whack weeds.  When it was whacking, my Weed Whacker whacked weeds wonderfully well (trying saying that three times fast).  It was just the plastic string thingies with which the Weed Whacker whacks weeds (and yes, “plastic string thingies” IS the precise technical term – you can look it up).  The Weed Whacker worked so well that it kept whacking its plastic string thingies right off.

Which is exactly what it’s supposed to do.  The Weed Whacker whacks weeds until the plastic string thingies wear out, at which point you’re supposed to be able to gently tap the bottom of the Weed Whacker on the ground, and more plastic string thingy will pop out.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work: whack, tap, pop.  Hopefully, in that order.

But although the plastic string thingies on my Weed Whacker were wearing out, they weren’t popping out – tap or no tap.  So I had to take the Weed Whacker apart and manually pull out more plastic string thingies each time they wore away, which was about every 10 feet or so.

Hence my frustration.

As time went on my attempts to tap out more string thingies became increasingly violent, resulting in divots in my yard that I’m sure are visible from Mars.  I finally gave up, deciding that an untrimmed lawn would be easier to explain to Anita than a Weed Whacker wrapped around our apple tree (for the record, this is the same rationale I used when I gave up golf).

Later that night I vented my weed-whacking frustration to my brother-in-law, Mike.

“I don’t know why it would do that,” he mused.  “Are you sure you’ve got the strings wound in the direction of the little arrows on the bottom?”

I paused.  “There are arrows on the bottom?” I asked.

“Yes,” Mike said, trying hard not to roll his eyes.

“One for each direction?” I asked.

Mike laughed.  “Yeah, right,” he said, chortling.  “Like the Weed Whacker people have figured a way around the laws of physics!”  He laughed harder.  “Like you could actually unwind strings in two different directions at the same time!  You’d really have to be an idiot to think . . .”

It was at about this time that Mike noticed I wasn’t laughing.  He worked hard to get himself under control, eventually, croaking out a muffled: “I think I know what the problem is.”

Yeah.  Me too.  The problem is the most dangerous man on earth: the guy who thinks he knows when he really doesn’t.  Like Mike said, “You’d really have to be an idiot . . .”

Which sort of lets you Weed Whacker makers off the hook.

Even if we’re too late to cancel the curses and plagues.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.