Help Wanted: Contestant #1

Sporobolus airiodes and paspalum notatum...hmmmm.

Sporobolus airiodes and paspalum notatum…hmmmm.

HELP WANTED…that has been my mantra this summer. My lawn business is growing by leaps and bounds. By late June it becomes clear to my achy-breaky body that the time has come for a part time helper. Turning to the ever-handy Craigslist, I place an ad for a part time lawn technician. But the term “lawn technician” makes me think of some geeky guy holed up in a sterile lab, experimenting with all sorts of different sods, getting really technical about grass. So I change it to “part time lawn maintenance position.” I then make it very very very clear that only those with experience should apply. I refuse to train anyone when the busy season is in full swing. I also make it crystal clear that this is a part time position—2-3 days a week for 6-8 hours/day. And lastly, I make it emphatically clear that a clean license and reliable transportation are necessary, and I’ll only consider people who live locally…like Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach or Merritt Island.

Contestant #1: This guy arrives on time, but climbs over several people as he exits the back seat of a beat up Dodge Caravan.

The quintessential compact van.

The quintessential compact van.

Not driving, I note, which leads me to believe he has no license, and the car is not his car, which means the reliable transportation my ad insists upon is most likely nonexistent. I show him my stick equipment and he immediately grabs an edger and fires it up. Okay, at least he knows what the machine does and how it starts. And he’s off and running and he’s really great! He has past experience, for sure.

As we drive to our next account he mentions how he has the same mowers as I. I ask, “Why work for me then? Why not start your own business?” That’s when I learn about his recent release from jail, and his stick equipment that was apparently stolen by some

Yo bitches. Zup?

Yo bitches. Zup?

mobsters that are currently after him. He expresses an uncomfortably urgent desire to kill the offensive mobsters, but laments the fact that the police confiscated his weapons (note the plural usage of weapon…).

When the day is done I pay him, as promised, not wishing to create any animosity between us, trying to stay on his good side and off the mobster list. But then I’m faced with a tormenting dilemma. He’s a great worker—experienced, efficient and physically fit. And I really need the additional help. The business is thriving and my partner and I can’t work any harder or longer than we already are. But the whole jail thing and possible intent to kill thing sort of bother me. I shudder when he asks, “What time do we start tomorrow?” Fearing for my life (and my stick equipment) I blurt, “Seven o’clock! Meet at the parking yard!”

I later learn that Contestant #1 lives in Port Orange. That’s over 60 miles away! I curse myself for being wimpy, for failing to follow my instincts and for not asking enough

You're gonna pay for this Mowgirl!

You’re gonna pay for this Mowgirl!

questions. What happens on the day he gets a ride all the way to Cocoa Beach only to get rained out after an hour? Does he go postal on us? Does he hold my stick equipment hostage unless I pay him for a full day’s work? Does he sacrifice me to the mobsters???

I wake up the next morning full of apprehension. I have to tell this guy it’s just not going to work out. Several other calls came in from the Craigslist ad and I plan to look into them. There’s got to be a better contestant out there. With shaky hands I reach for my cell phone. I turn it on and to my amazement (and relief) there’s a text message from Contestant #1. It reads: “My son is sick. Must stay with him. Sorry.” I’m unsure if this is secret code for “I can’t get a ride the 70 stinkin miles to Cocoa Beach because my mother’s boyfriend’s son’s girlfriend’s crappy Dodge Caravan broke down.” But it’s a perfect opportunity to text back: “No worries. I’m going to try out a few other applicants and get back to you. I hope your son feels better soon.” And with that, I never hear from Contestant #1 again. Whew. That was a close one.

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