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Roger Davis: There’s no vocabulary test like a gas-powered trimmer

Roger Davis • May 6, 2013 at 11:24 PM

If you’ve ever been curious about the scope of your vocabulary, forget the monthly quiz in Reader’s Digest. If you want a far more accurate inventory of the words you know, you’ll get the best results by trying to crank a weedeater.

For accuracy’s sake, I should call the infernal machines gas-powered string trimmers since Weed Eater is actually a brand name. Like a lot of folks, I have a habit of calling any such device a weedeater, every plastic bandage a band-aid and every big, metal garbage receptacle a dumpster. No doubt their respective companies take a dim view of the names of their treasured properties being used generically, but that’s what tends to happen when products become wildly successful.

Anyway, to return to the topic at hand, you know how frustrating it is when your, ahem, gas-powered string trimmer fails to cooperate. You’ve just finished mowing, and the lawn looks great. Well, most of it looks great. But there’s that little patch where the maple roots make mowing impossible as well as the corners and edges of the fence where the mower can’t reach. And the weeds stand six inches tall against the landscape timbers and the edge of the sidewalk.

No worries, though. As the robins gather to hunt on your freshly shorn grass, you head to the garage for the GPST, which will make short work of all the areas that need a touch-up.

At this point, both your confidence and enthusiasm are running high. You flip the switch to “on,” give the little fuel bulb a push or two, set the choke and pull. Then — nothing.

“Well that’s to be expected,” you tell yourself. “It hasn’t been cranked in a while.” So you pull. And pull. And pull. And pull some more.

You adjust the choke and pull again. You follow the helpful instructions, which tell you to give a maximum of five pulls on setting A, followed by a maximum of three pulls on setting B. If the trimmer fails to start, you are to “repeat the previous steps.”

They don’t say how many times to repeat these steps, although I suspect it’s until Gabriel blows his horn or you’re involved in a killing, whichever comes first.

Of course, repeating the previous steps works about as well as hitting control alt delete, but you keep at it anyway and begin trying to scold the wretched thing by using words you normally reserve for football season or Kingsport motorists. By the time your shoulder feels like it’s separated and your fingers are skinned and raw, you’ve gone through every word and colorful phrase you’ve acquired since infancy. If you know a language other than English, you’ve dipped into it liberally. Every time my trimmer fails to start, my decision to take Latin instead of calculus in college is vindicated. Calculus may be great for physics, but it’s useless for swearing.

At last, just when you’re thinking that there must be a demigod named Two Cyclus who wields power over GPST ignition and you’re wondering how to curry his favor, the machine roars to life with a belching snarl and a cloud of smoke. By this time, your arms are falling off and your enthusiasm for weed trimming is only slightly greater than your desire to take up venomous snake-milking. Nevertheless, you must strike while the iron is hot — or while the temperamental trimmer is running.

After my latest bout of trimmer misery, I’m ready to break the cycle. I’m thinking of buying an electric one — or learning Welsh.

Roger Davis is a Kingsport Times-News columnist. E-mail him at rdavis@timesnews.net.

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