I had always assumed Labor Day meant a day in which laborers are celebrated by being told they don’t have to do any labor.
It turns out I was wrong.
Labor Day is a day upon which we give up doing labor we are paid for, and do the kind of labor we have to pay for ourselves.
At least, that’s what happened to me.
It all began three or four weeks ago when I stripped all of the unkempt ground covering out of the front flower beds. The Japanese ivy and monkey grass had long since choked out all of the hydrangea, mums, impatiens, and four-o’clocks. When that was done, the flower beds were just flat, lifeless dirt … much like me after doing all that in hundred-degree heat.
Then, about two weeks ago, I had fifty-some-odd bags of mulch delivered to the house. Those bags immediately began the important work of occupying space until Labor Day weekend could roll around and I would have time to do some laboring.
For those of you not familiar with bags of mulch, they are large plastic bags containing 2 cubic feet of mulched tree bark and wood.
It is what I would imagine a tree would look like if you bought it from Ikea. It would come in a bag just like this in its constituent parts, with a tiny little screwdriver, a little metal wrench, a little bag of alien hardware, and some indecipherable hieroglyphs laughably called “instructions”.
Anyway, the day before Labor Day, I lugged about 35 of these deconstructed trees around to my front flower beds, spread out some landscaping fabric, and then covered it semi-uniformly with the aforementioned mulch.
Thus endeth the Day Before Labor Day.
The problem with sprucing up a flower bed, is that it suddenly seems quite barren with no actual flowers in it. Therefore, on Labor Day proper, a trip to the nursery was in order.
Several nurseries, in fact.
Perhaps ALL of them in a 10-mile radius.
The object was not so much plants, but planters. Something was needed to get the heads of flowers up above the remaining front border of monkey grass. This also has the advantage of allowing the flowers to be swapped out easily with fresh ones simply by trading out the little plastic pots they come in.
However, the right planters could not seem to be had for love nor money.
Persistence (of others) will eventually win out over lethargy and disinterest (mine), and so a planter was found that was acceptable. It was a nice, tall planter with a sort of classical Roman look to it. It also had a weathered appearance (possibly due to having set out in the weather for several generations). I’m sure the elderly gentleman who owned the nursery was quite happy to be shut of it and may still be laughing at the doofus who bought that white elephant of a planter.
Anyway, finding the planter was the good news.
The bad news is that the thing had been cast in solid concrete.
I watched as the burly, Sasquatch-esque chappie loaded it into the back of my SUV. He strained and grunted and sweated something fierce, which caused me to think, “Poor chap must have some sort of ailment that makes him feeble in spite of his great size.” I have heard that gigantism can cause a certain amount of feebleness. At any rate, after he finally managed to get it loaded, and I airily handed him a very generous tip.
What I apparently did not notice was how the back of the vehicle settled substantially when he loaded it in. I just drove home merrily, unaware of what weighty matters awaited me.
When I got home and attempted to unload the thing out of the back of the vehicle, I realized why Hercules had had so much trouble loading it in the SUV. I am not a good judge of how heavy things are, but I don’t think it a stretch to say that this thing was approximately the weight of an elephant compressed into about a 0.4m x 0.4m x 1.0m space. I’m pretty sure I could have tossed a tennis ball at it, and the ball would have gone into orbit around the dense mass that was this planter.
With the help of gravity and a dolly, I managed to get the thing out of the SUV and up the walkway and into the flower bed. There is a slight incline to my walkway, so I had to spend ten minutes doing my impersonation of Sisyphus. In the process, both tires of my dolly were flattened and the axle bent.
After this ten-minute ordeal, and thanks to the aqueous 50% humidity and 96 F temperatures, I was soaked to the core and was dripping wet as if I’d just ran through a water sprinkler.
And, to add insult to injury, the mulch that was put down yesterday seems to be wildly attractive to mosquitoes. Great clouds of them arose every step I took in the mulch.
So, all I had really accomplished through all of this was establishing a very attractive and bountiful mosquito farm. Riches cannot be far behind. Or at least, a nasty case of West Nile Virus.
The take-away from all of this is that DIY home improvements are a fool’s errand. The DIY gods will smite anyone who has enough hubris to try and tackle a home improvement project on one’s own without a properly licensed contractor standing by to siphon off one’s life’s savings.
Happy Labor Day indeed!