Lawn Free: Whipper Snippers for Beginners

Finally.  After decades of fitful perseverance and multiple failed attempts, I am happy to confirm that I have now, officially, completed my evolutionary journey.  Whereas a short time ago I was still struggling to grow a pair of metaphorical back legs, I am now up and running.  I am whole.  I am complete.  I am evolved.  More to the point, I am now the owner of a whipper snipper.

 This achievement requires context.  To fully appreciate the Himalayan scale of this accomplishment, you need to know that my family have previously forbidden me from owning a whipper snipper (and, for that matter, a robot vacuum and a chainsaw – honestly, you threaten to juggle a chainsaw once and, suddenly, you’re banned for life).  This is both an outrage because it impinges on my absolute right to own the whipper snipper of my choice; as well as being best for all concerned for health and safety reasons.  It’s not as though I don’t have form.

I blame my father.  Not just on this particular issue, but generally.  But amongst the menagerie of tools that are stuffed inside his shed, there’s not a whipper snipper to be seen.  In that sense, he was both whipperless and snipperless.  Not that we allowed the grass to do as it pleased.  Instead, it was kept under control by the type of ride-on lawnmower that Mad Max would be proud to call his own.  The yard was enormous – it took several days of mowing around the clock to get the job done, by which point the idea of moving on to the whipper snipper probably seemed intensely unappealing.  When you’re dealing with that kind of acreage, that level of precision seems kind of redundant.

So whilst I’m a dab-hand with a ride on lawnmower, I’ve never ever laid so much as a finger on a whipper snipper.  Until now.  With a change of circumstances and a new address, it quickly became clear that it was time to launch myself into, if not the abyss, then my local Bunnings.

Let me make this clear – I have a lawn mower.  It’s battery powered and – there’s no easy way to say this – I absolutely love it.  I adore the fact that there’s no need to carry a little petrol can to the service station.  I am relieved that it doesn’t require a spark plug, grease or anything else you might associate with an internal combustion engine.  It’s one of my all-time favourite appliances, right up there with the microwave and the silicon oven gloves I bought at Spotlight (mock me if you will, but until you’ve known the security and comfort of a silicon oven glove, you best keep your thoughts to yourself).

It was because I love my lawnmower so much that I decided to get a matching whipper snipper.  It was good idea.  Or, at least, it was a good idea in theory.

The first thing I learned about whipper snippers is that they’re not called whipper snippers anymore.  Rather, they’re called ‘line-trimmers’.  This is a sad turn of events.  A ‘whipper snipper’ sounds like something that sorts out your garden before giving you a soft serve ice-cream.  Whereas a ‘line trimmer’ sounds like a grooming device you deploy before a trip to the beach.  Or, worse still, like a pair of scissors you take to a line-dancing event. 

In a practical sense, it meant I had to stand around for ages with my phone trying to figure out if I was buying the right thing.  After several hours of research whilst in aisle seventeen, I eventually concluded that the terms ‘whipper snipper’ and ‘line trimmer’ were interchangeable.  What was somewhat less interchangeable, however, was the battery.

I had determined to buy the same brand as my mower.  Not only would the colours match, it’d also be more efficient as I could use the same battery.  Or so I thought.  Having brought my new ‘line trimmer’ home, I unpacked the box and assembled the contents after only thirty-seven hours of continuous labour.  This, for me, constituted a new record.  Then I attempted to connect the battery, before discovering that it was the wrong size.

Batteries, as it turns out, come in different sizes.  As the owner of no fewer than sixty-eight remote controls, I’m acutely aware of this generally, but it never occurred to me these rules applied to lawn care.  It is impossible to describe the level of frustration I felt at that moment.  Had I owned a small tin of petrol I would, doubtless, have splashed the contents over the line trimmer and set it on fire.  Just to teach it a lesson.  Instead, I had to slink back to the hardware store and ask for a battery.  I suspect they felt sorry for me.

In possession of the right-sized battery, I charged it before attaching it to the line trimmer / whipper snipper.  As I pulled the trigger, the thin nylon line began to whir as the engine roared to life.  I was then asked by girlfriend, Katrina, whether I would mind taking it outside.  Being a cooperative person, I reluctantly obliged.

Nothing can describe the pure exhilaration I felt as I wielded the line trimmer like Arthur’s Excalibur, subduing the unruly edges of my front lawn.  I may well add ‘whipper snippering’ to my resume.   Right under ‘fully evolved’.

A Hardware’s Day’s Night

In the past fortnight, I’ve been to the local hardware store four times.  As someone for whom such a trip is, at best, an annual excursion, this is quite the turn of events. But despite the vastly increased frequency of my visits, I remain none the wiser.  The whole experience is as mystical and as unfathomably mysterious as ever.  I appreciate that terms like ‘mystical’ and ‘mysterious’ are seldom used in reference to a store that sells lug-nuts but there is a simple reason for this: I am not a handy man.

By ‘handy man’, I don’t mean someone with a Mario-style tool belt who’s available to perform odd jobs around the house or, alternatively, leap over barrels maliciously hurled across a building site by a gigantic monkey.  Not at all.  Rather, I mean I missed out on whatever genetic makeup is necessary to be able to distinguish between a left-handed hammer and a right-handed hammer.  If I’m being honest, they all look the same to me.

For me, going to a hardware store is like going to another country; one where everyone else speaks a language I don’t.  I live in fear that, at any moment, someone will say something to me I won’t comprehend and I’ll be left to simply shrug my shoulders, grunt in reply and point. At best, I feel like an imposter even for being there, which is why I tried to dress the part for my first visit and purchased a checkered shirt, gumboots and chewing tobacco in the hope that I’d fit in seamlessly.  I also bought a pair of denim overalls to add, so I hoped, to the overall effect.  (Incidentally, I may well start a band called ‘The Overall Effect’ where all the members wear denim overalls.  I might even write a song called ‘Overall’ to the tune of ‘Wonderwall’.  I’ll keep you posted.)   

Turns out, people who frequent hardware stores do not chew tobacco.  Instead of making me fit in, it made me stick out like a sore thumb that, presumably, had found itself on the business end of a left-handed hammer.  Spurting tobacco juice through the gaps in your front teeth like some kind of hillbilly whale is frowned upon if not outright prohibited by the proprietors.  Indeed, it was after one such nicotine-laden liquid expulsion that I was encouraged to buy a mop.

Before making my second trip, I decided to do a little research.  By looking at websites, I discovered that people who visit hardware stores are, without exception, delighted to be there, as nothing else could account for the wall-to-wall smiles on the faces of those present.  Also, I learned that when members of the generally public interact with staff members, one of them is always holding something whilst the other is always pointing.  But as I continued my research into the products themselves, I was left more confused than ever.

Even objects that I consider to be relatively basic come in a near-infinite number of varieties.  Much as in nature, you can refer to a ‘bird’ or, if you prefer to be super-precise, a ‘Slender-billed Flufftail Gruiforme’, so it goes with almost everything at a hardware store.  I’ve no idea what a ‘Fernuggin Nut’ is, much less the heightened circumstances that might necessitate it being pressed into service.  How a ‘Shaka-shaka Wing Wang Doodle Cordless Drill Bit’ is used is, I feel, best left unanswered.  The less said about the ‘Lolly Gobble Bliss Bomb Two-inch Adapter’, the better.

There were some objects I recognized, even though they appeared in a different context.  I, for one, was unaware that a ‘Dutch-oven’ was something you could purchase for the very reasonable price of one hundred and seven dollars and fifty cents.  Who’d have thought? I feel misled.

On my third trip, I took my brother.  In the genetic lottery, my brother scooped the pool when it came to being handy.  If you were to give me a set of instructions and ask me to construct an infant’s cradle, I’d fail on every level.  There’d be nothing to show for my efforts other than a pile of splintered wood and smoldering wreckage.  My brother, on the other hand, built his own crib as a newborn using a cordless power drill.  He also added a small gazebo and a feature wall.  Show off.

If hardware stores were a principality, my brother would be King.  As it is, he walked into that place like he owned it and other patrons doffed their hats and referred to him as ‘your Majesty’. With confidence and great certainty, he navigated through the aisles like someone who knew exactly how and when to use a Fernuggin Nut.  Within minutes, he had retrieved me from the small base camp I had established over near the outdoor furniture settings and we were on our way. 

The fourth trip was showing off on my part.  Having received a royal pardon from my brother, I returned to get a Shaka-shaka Wing Wang Doodle Cordless Drill Bit before surrendering my inhibitions completely and splurging on a Dutch Oven.  As I write, I am surrounded by a sea of instructions and bits and pieces of everything and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that I’ll never figure out how to put them all together, despite my left-handed hammer.  After all, I am not a handy man.