I volunteered to cut the grass at church again this week. Its a good excuse to get outside, and after the mental gymnastics of German class I enjoy accomplishing something that won't end up covered in red pen.
The last time I did this job I split it with another lady, and we spent a good two hours on a quiet Saturday morning. This time I thought it easier to come in on Friday, when the church is already unlocked for the "Laib und Seele" group that distributes food to needy people.
We have only a rickety old electric mower whose cord must be transferred around the church. As I finished the first 1/3 I moved toward the front of the church and began hunting a suitable outlet. As I scavenged the Narthex a volunteer woman approached me and offered to help. Her accent sounded like some sort of Cockney crossed with a cleft palate. She took one end of the extension cord and found an outlet. It didn't work. We tried a second outlet, and that didn't work. Now a group of elderly volunteer men began to gather and confer what the problem with the mower could be. I was pretty sure it was the extension cord, but the group decided to fuss with the mower.
I explained that I would get another cord, but then one man piped up "You're mowing the lawn, alone?!" I responded yes. He asked why I was mowing the lawn and I tried to explain that I was working for the church and we had a rotation set up, blah blah blah. The woman jabbed him in the ribs and told him "Speak English- she don't know no German" which was weird because we had been speaking German. The man asked me what my first name was (very odd in German culture) and I stared at him for a moment. The woman snapped at me "Name, what's your name?" I told them, and now they wanted my email address, I asked why. I told them I wasn't aware that me mowing the lawn on that day was a problem. The woman replied, "Well you can't be out here mowing by yourself, its too dangerous."
I tried to assure her that I had received training and had permission from the church to mow. She said "Our insurance doesn't cover you out here, not if you're alone or a woman." I found this very odd and reassured her that the Pastor had said it was ok. I thanked her for her concern, but she blocked my way.
"I won't have you out here alone. What if something happens? It doesn't look right, a woman mowing by'erself!" I made the mistake of playing into her illogical argument "Its really ok. In America even children cut the grass."
"But we're not in America, darling!"
Luckily, at that moment Angie arrived, who'd been scheduled to mow with me. "Look, I'm not alone, I have a helper." Angie apologized for being 90 minutes late by hugging me and offering rolls. She also brought her daughter who squealed "Katy!!!!!" and handed me a small flower. They gleefully picked up rubbish as I mowed. I was just getting into a rhythm when the mower suddenly stopped working. I tinkered with the power supply, emptied the grass clippings, and fussed about. No luck. I was considering getting out the screw driver and taking it apart when I heard a thunder crackle. A downpour ensued, and so I put the mower and cords away and left, lawn half-mowed. The old woman fussed at me for putting the mower away by myself and for not bringing a jacket or umbrella. At this point I wanted to sock her, but instead said "thank you." Its important to say thank you to people, especially if they are really unhelpful.
This morning I was embarrassed to show my face at church, having left the lawn 1/2 mowed and unable to get through to anybody else on our rotation about lawn mower repair. But the Pastor's wife, Margit, approached and thanked me for mowing. I blushed and tried to explain but she just laughed "This volunteer called me up Friday and said 'There's some woman mowing the lawn!'" Margit found it hilarious. I should follow her example. What's that famous quote? "Comedy is tragedy that happens to other people."-Angela Carter