The walls have ears

By Mir
April 12, 2006

Wow, what a lot of good suggestions for my bit of “play” money in the previous post! I can tell that my readers are of an impeccable breed who really just want to help others. Help others get facials, massages, and pretty shoes, that is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I had to chuckle over all of the iTunes suggestions. I don’t own an iPod. That was actually one of the things I was considering, although I worried about where I could set it down in my horse-drawn buggy. Anyway, it’s sort of a moot point, now.

[Here you must picture me sighing heavily, tossing a meaning-laden and sorrowful look in your general direction.]

What? Oh, right. I suppose you want to know why. Well, if you insist.

The day started out well enough. After weeks of clashing schedules, bad weather and general illness, I was finally slated to go on a nice long training walk with my walk buddy. I was pumped and ready to go.

You know, when I was younger, if I wanted to go for a walk? I went for a walk.

Now, if I want to go for a walk, I have to find the right shoes, get inserts for those shoes, locate proper socks, invest in a knee brace, remember where I put the knee brace, apply anti-chafing substances to my tempermental feet, fill up the water bottles, don hat and sunglasses, and stretch first or risk hurting myself in a way that will reveal that truly, I am old and decrepit before my time.

So I did everything I was supposed to do and we headed out and had a marvelous time. On our way out of my neighborhood, we passed a landscaping crew doing “spring clean-up” over at a house around the corner.

I don’t know if this is true in all areas of the country–in fact, I grew up not all that far from here, and I don’t remember this being a facet of life at my childhood home, but maybe it was and I was oblivious–but here in New England, “spring clean-up” is A Big Hairy Deal. I live in a very, um, tree-intensive area. Basically I live in a pine forest, with the occasional oak or maple for some variety.

If a person were to stay right on top of grounds maintenance throughout the fall, that would help, but spring would still reveal all of the pine needles and leaves that fell after the first snow, as well as all the tree branches that fell down during storms.

If a person were me, they would watch the yard fill up with debris in the fall and say, “You know, I bet it will snow soon, and then I won’t even be able to see all of that!” And then, in the spring, when the snow finally melted, they would say, “Oh. Shit.” Ahem.

Anyway, we tromped around for an hour and a half and when we looped back towards my house, the landscapers were still there, and they had one of those big yard vacuum thingies that was sucking up all the debris. And I saw that big hunk of machinery and went weak in the knees. I crossed the road and walked right up to the man who appeared to be the ringleader and turned on the charm.

Me: HEY!
Him: *still working with loud machine*
Him: *turning machine off* Yeah?
Me: Hi! Um, do you think you could maybe come down to my house and give me an estimate on my yard when you’re done here?
Him: Ayup. Where d’ya live?
Me: Just down around the corner there.
Him: Close enough for me to zip over on the tractor?
Me: Sure, it’s only about a block.
Him: K. Whatcha looking for?
Me: Just clean-up. Basically if you can suck up the debris with that thing that’d be great.
Him: Gimme the house number and I’ll come over in half an hour.

As we traversed the last block, I reminded myself that I had built this into the budget already. It’s okay, I told myself, in the face of mental calculations… this was money already marked for this. (There’s a part of me that knows I should suck it up and spend a week getting the yard back into shape and save the money, but it is generally overpowered by the part of me that knows I would set out to clear the entire acre and end up sobbing in a pile of pine needles after the first hour. And did I mention I’m allergic to pine? Because I am.)

Back home, we stretched out our screaming legs (yes, they screamed), and in no time at all, Yard Guy pulled up on his tractor. (Sex-ay!) He circled the property and gave me an estimate. I made sad eyes and he knocked 20% off. I asked him when he could do it. He said his crew could be over in an hour. I said great.

My friend left and I took a shower and then started some laundry before sitting down to work. Before I knew it, my yard was filled with sweaty men! They had the yard vac, they had rakes, they had a rider mower. It was like watching ants demolish a pizza crust. They gathered and carried and vacuumed and it was a thing of beauty. I could barely tear my eyes away from the window and get back to my work, but I did–content in the knowledge that I needn’t feel guilty for spending this money.

And then the doorbell rang.

I opened to the door to find Yard Guy, looking very uncomfortable.

Him: Yeah, um, do you know you’ve got some water bubbling up in the yard?
Me: I… what?
Him: Do you have an irrigation system?
Me: No…?
Him: Oh, GOOD. Phew. I thought maybe we busted a line or something.
Me: Wait, water WHERE?
Him: In back there?
Me: That would be… the septic tank.
Him: Do you know why it’s bubbling up?
Me: Well, I’m going to take a wild guess and say BECAUSE SOMETHING’S BROKEN. Generally I frown upon bubbling water in the yard.
Him: Heh. Yeah. Well. You should probably come take a look.

We walked around back together, where his crew was all standing around my soggy septic area, admiring the small spring that now gurgled there.

Him: See? It’s all soggy here.
Me: I see. I’m doing laundry, that’s where it’s coming from. I guess I should turn the machine off.
Him: Probably.
Me: On the bright side, at least it’s laundry water and not raw sewage!
Him: Heh.
Me: *suddenly acutely aware of four pairs of eyes on me* Yeah, well. You guys broke my yard! Jesus, be more careful!

Smooth is my middle name.

Now my yard is beautiful and ready for spring, if you’re willing to overlook the mud pit.

I wrote the landscapers a check and called the septic people and remembered that I had violated the cardinal rule of tax refunds: I came into some money and I ANGERED THE RESPONSIBILITY GODS by considering spending some of it on something non-essential. My ex pointed out that as soon as he filed his taxes his boiler broke, and then as soon as his refund arrived, the dishwasher died. One of my friends got her refund and immediately had to buy four new tires for her car.

And so yes, I understand that this is just how it goes, but it still sucks that my “frivolous expenditure” ends up being “having the septic filter unclogged.” Not that I’m complaining. At all. Nice appliances. Good appliances.


  1. Mary

    I need me a sexy yard guy. To do my yard. Ahem. Nevermind.

    I love the posts of Spring — they’re blooming all over the Internet!

  2. ben

    I read somewhere that the grass is always greener over the septic tank.


    Nice, pretty appliances. And tires. Lovely tires, so round and full of air.

  3. Cele

    Yeah a chunk of mine is going towards tires – and I’m married to a tire guy – but there goes $400. Drats.

    Atleast get an ice cream come and some nail polish out of it, okay?

  4. mama speak

    I wouldn’t consider yard clean up frivolous at all. If you don’t do it, you can run into all kinds of other issues (not just your yard looking like crap). I do think I would’ve pushed for the yard guys to kick in on the fix of your tank or at least comp you the cost of the yard clean up since they broke your yard. But that’s just me.

  5. sweatpantsmom

    Oh, I feel your pain. All it took was a phone call from our accountant telling us how much our refund would be and the garbage disposal stopped working immediately.

    (I posted earlier this week about ‘accessorizing up’ for exercising. You might relate.)

  6. hollygee

    I used to live in an alder woods and I’m allergic to? Yep, alder.

    It’s usually the cats who sense that a tax refund is coming into the house and, thereby, develop a need to see the vet.

  7. EverydaySuperGoddess

    Two years in a row it was the distributor cap and a bunch of mysterious electrical car stuff. The second year it happened the very day that my refund was direct deposited into my bank account.

    This year? The brakes. I’m seriously starting to think my car is psychic.

    And I went and angered the responsibility gods by spending some money trying to fix up my kitchen. I should know better than to indulge in such frivolities.

  8. liz

    A couple of weeks ago, the day AFTER we closed on a condo that we had been trying to sell for a couple of years, my husband hit a UPS truck. Yes, a UPS truck. We’re using part of the condo proceeds to get a new car. And I love my new tires. My nice, pretty, rubbery Michelins that were purchased with the other part of the condo proceeds.

  9. Melanie Lynne Hauser

    I’m confused – did the yard guy break the tank? Or was the tank broken and he just found it?

    Either way, it sucks.

  10. Kris

    WHOOT to hot sweaty guys in your backyard! (See, I told you if you waved up some money you’d find a hot, sweaty guy! LOL!)

    I hope my truck doesn’t find out that the tax money is going to help replace her. (As in life, when I hit 40, the hubsand will surely replace me with two 20 year olds. It’s time to upgrade the old truck as she’s pushing 200,000 miles and will cost more to fix than to upgrade. :sigh:)

  11. DebR

    Damn. Do we dare hope that there might be enough left over from the septic tank debacle to at least splurge on a pedicure or something? The Tax Refund Gods need to let you have SOMETHING fun, dammit!

  12. Sabrina

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t have an Ipod!

    Our septic went out 2 years ago. Nothing I want to experience ever again. We had to put in a $6K system to replace the old one. It was after we got our tax return too because we replaced it in May!

  13. Aimee

    Oh man…well, yeah, I’m with Cele. At least go to CVS and buy some little goodies for yourself.

  14. bad penguin

    Oh, that’s awful. So unfair. Am now slowly backing away from the video camera I was considering buying with my refund. If I wait long enough, will the curse of the refund pass me by?

  15. Nothing But Bonfires

    This is what you do next year! As soon as the refund comes, TRANSFER IT IMMEDIATELY TO SAVINGS. Don’t look at it, don’t think about it, JUST DO IT. Then the money is safe. And then two or three months AFTER that, maybe start thinking about the massages and the facials, when the Responsibility Gods have forgotten all about it. I have learned the hard way. Well, one year I spent it all on a ticket to LA and that was fabulous, but apart from that, I’ve learned the hard way — unexpected medical bills and new car parts mostly.

  16. Theresa

    ARGHH! That always happens, doesn’t it? Mike’s car needs to go into the shop. Figures.

  17. laura

    I have a septic system, and I think you should be thanking God it was just a clogged filter. Because liquid poop underground, with all those pipes and receptables and whatnot where you can’t see it – it’s a recipe for financial disaster. Of course, yes, it’s tax return karma, but dude, I was seriously sweating, wondering what was wrong with your septic, and scared it’s going to happen to me next.

  18. Vaguely Urban

    Do you really have an acre of land? My eyes goggled when I read that. (So attractive!)

    I’m muy jealous! Even if it is a bitch to maintain.

  19. David

    Ah, now MY tax refund karma is TRULY psychic. My finacial funnel thingie happened BEFORE I found out IF I was even GETTING a refund.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest