BAFF – Checkmate! There he had me, I hadn’t expected that
We once spent 5 or 6 days at a campsite in the mountains of Colorado. Since we didn’t have a car at that time, we spent our days loafing around. There was a square dance floor in the main house of the campsite. If you got out of your sleeping bag early enough, you could watch the wild bison roam around. They were so close to us, and they looked very impressive.
There were also a handful of employees. An older one who reminded me of Clint Eastwood spent his days’ bricklaying at the laundry hut, and there was another one who was always mowing the lawn somewhere in the vast grounds. He was about our age, mid/late twenties, and he loved the attention. Whenever anyone came near him, they were met with “Hey – whistle, whistle – hey!” And if you turned towards him, you’d get the latest gossip or what events were being planned in the main house.
Sometimes he would stand still for about 2 or 3 minutes, turning his head from right to left in a wide arc as if he was looking for the bears, he constantly warned us about. Or maybe he was worried about his boss catching him talking instead of working, as chatting was one of his favourite activities.
And so, I strolled the 300 metres to the main house and heard the rattle of the lawnmower nearby. “Hey – whistle, whistle – hey!” Well, he had seen me and was already excitedly turning his head from the far right to the far left to get an overview.
Hey, I said, and walked towards him, to be polite and curious about what he had to tell me. When I was about two metres in front of him, the lawnmower rattling away to his left, he took another step towards me. He looked around again, very slowly, to make sure that no one was listening and leaned towards me a bit more, and he whispered in my face, about 50 centimetres from the tip of my nose:
Hey, did I ever tell you I worked for the FBI?
So now it was out: the whole game, turning his head always, his importance and his whispering – he’s fooling the people! Ok – I’m all in – I’ll join in the fun! “WOW, unbelievable!” I said, astonished, trying to look like I was just now realising what an impressive person was standing in front of me. “And what were you doing there?” I asked him, tilting my head slightly to the side.
I was counting on an answer along the lines of “he would have saved the life of a Siamese princess, protected the President in a wild shootout, or jumped out of a helicopter with nothing more than James Bond’s pants as a flight aid!” I expected anything fantastic, standing here in Colorado, in the middle of nowhere, on a freshly mown lawn, thousands of miles away from Washington or Langley or wherever the FBI headquarters were. He whispered:
I mowed the lawn!
BAFF – Checkmate! There he had me. I hadn’t expected that. It actually took a second or two for me to answer him with a degree of praise: “You had a responsible task there!” With wide eyes, he slowly and repeatedly tilted his head back and forth to agree with me. His raised forefinger came between us as he said in a whisper, “But please don’t tell anyone about this.” He looked right and left again, but this time with his head down, and grabbed his lawnmower and chugged away.
Honestly, “please don’t tell anyone” only lasted as far as the evening campfire in front of our small tent. My two friends and I fabulated about his stories. We imagined he was in a lawnmower protection programme and that he occasionally, very bravely, mowed the lawn for the government, somewhere in this vast country. In the meantime, he must hide out here for the rest of his life, waiting for his next job to mow the lawn. We all agreed: this guy was also quite nice.
A few days later, our car has arrived, we moved on to this enormous adventure called life! But still, today, if ever the conversation in a group turns to what I do as a profession – I simply fib and claim: I mow the lawn! Because you never know how exciting that can be!