While home from college one afternoon, I plowed away behind a 1990s era John Deere lawn mower. As I mowed, I watched a young man and woman meander down my childhood street while I ran over gopher holes, doing my best to keep the machine from pelting me with dirt clods. I paid the couple little attention, as I was more intent on ensuring my lines were straight, and yard free of gopher massacres. The heat being what it was, I’d abandoned my shirt while bits of green and brown clung to my chest creating the iconic smell of my youth — grass and sweat.
Once the young man and woman neared the curb where my parents set out trash, they stopped to marvel at my meticulous detail. Curious, I let the mower expire and wiped my brow, dribbling beads of water onto the nearby sidewalk where I stood. Between us, the thin strip of manicured lawn might as well have been an ocean. Few people stop to admire a lawn without alternative intentions. Skeptical, I eyed the couple and waited, wiping the sweat once more.
Pleasantries are always superficial, yet we all do them. What do you do for a living? Wow, this weather sucks! How do you know so-and-so? In my case, we talked about where we went to school. They thought they might have recognized me, which appeared to be the reason they stopped. We struck common ground, each being college students, and talked about courses, teachers, and our career goals. They hadn’t recognized me, however. I’d spent the last year fighting overseas in Afghanistan and already dropped out of school twice. Realistically, I was a ghost that haunted my campus on occasion. They didn’t know this, but I didn’t care to offer. Nevertheless, I still mentally lashed their carefree attitudes.
Once our pleasantries subsided, the real question a stranger asks when stopping someone emerged. Do you have the time? Where is the nearest store? How did you get the lines in your lawn so straight? But this pair posed no such question. Instead, they wound up for the pitch, and threw me a…