We recently downsized from ten acres in the country to a little green patch in town, which meant that I had to trade in my big orange industrial lawn mower for a little black backyard hockey puck.
Otherwise known as a lawn Roomba.
We affectionately named it, Ralphie.
For those of you unfamiliar with the beasts, they are exactly what the name implies, a little robot who ricochets about the yard cutting grass rather than doing household chores likes his inside brothers.
At first all went well.
The little guy whirled aimlessly about nipping off a quarter inch of grass on each pass. The result was a perfectly mowed carpet of luxurious lawn.
That was in spring.
But with the summer heat, I though it best that Ralphie be less diligent and allow the grass to grow a bit, so I made a few adjustments to his programming.
It’s when everything went to hell.
Ralphie continued to cut grass alright, but not the weeds.
These he let grow.
He was less tolerant of the garden, tearing into the tomatoes, ripping up the rutabagas and bulldozing the broccoli. The flowers, thank goodness, he left alone.
He developed a taste for the black plastic we use to trim the shrubbery and as for the decorative gravel, this he flung wildly about.
If he had simply limited his misbehavior to our yard, it would not be so bad, but being that he works around the clock, the little guy waited until after dark to jump his barrier wire and spread havoc across the neighborhood night after night.
Then he totally went berserk.
Last week we watched in wonder as he hopped the curb to chase a SUV down the street.
Not knowing what to do, I called my old buddy Stan, a man best described as a machine whisperer.
“There is nothing wrong with Ralphie,” Stan pronounced.
I usually trust Stan on all matters mechanical – but at least in my humble opinion, a SUV chasing Roomba is wrong on a cosmic scale.
“The problem,” he said, “is you.”
“Stan, is this about not letting you store things in my shed?”
Here I need to backtrack a little.
When residing in the country I had a 40′ X 80′ pole barn where Stan could stash all kinds of things, many of which he neither owned nor procured by the normal means. Whereas in town, my shed measures 4′ X 8′ and everything inside got there legally.
It was a sore point with us.
“No,” he insisted, “the problem is that you followed the manual.”
“Never consult a manual.”
Stan never does because he has an innate ability to understand what machines want and need.
Me, not so much.
“And never, ever, trust a manual written after 2015.”
“Start with the preface,” Stan said, opening Ralphie’s manual to the first page.
It began as follows:
Why are you mowing grass? Think about it. A lawn is nothing but an ecological dessert, requiring earth killing fertilizers and toxic herbicides.
It went on like that for pages.
“I kinda skipped over that stuff,” I confessed.
“All manuals are like that these days,” Stan said.
“You’re kidding me.”
“Not at all,” he said “The publishing model is broken. No one does non-fiction any more. Post-modernism has killed the concept of facts, leaving nothing but narrative. Whether it’s magazines, newspapers or the evening news everybody has a freak’n opinion.”
I couldn’t believe it.
“But technical manuals?”
“Especially technical manuals. Where do you think writers go to get a paying job? Everything you get in the media is written by some 23 year old living on daddy’s money in Brooklyn while everybody else has to bang out whatever work they can find to pay off their student loans.”
“That doesn’t explain wokeness in technical manuals.”
“Sure it does, because it is all they know. They deconstruct what the engineers tell them and shazam, what you got is a woke advocacy lawn mower manual.”
“But what about Ralphie?”
“Not a problem, he’s an easy fix.”
And so he was.
Now our lawn is clean as it is green and Ralphie is exceptionally well-behaved, except for one minor glitch.
The little guy has a tendency to snitch things that are not ours and stash them in the backyard shed.