Yesterday morning was a heart-swelling, people-loving morning. I awoke to some sort of scraping, grinding motorized sound just a bit up the hill from my driveway. It wasn’t totally obnoxious and it was time to hit brew on the coffeepot. I looked outside and there was a man operating this digging contraption that woke me from a happy new year Colin Firth dream.
Later in the morning after I was sufficiently cleaned and coiffed and ready to begin my chores I walked outside to say hello to this man. The property next door has new owners and apparently Mrs. New Owner needs the back yard backhoed before she can grace the threshhold.
“Well my goodness you are beautiful!”
Ok, so any man that says that to me before he knows how much work goes into looking this beautiful at eight in the morning is ok in my book. Ok, I can’t be that vain- I’ll admit, my beauty is effortless.
It was on the tip of my tongue to reply with a “Well you can just say that to me every morning!” when I felt like that offer would be miscontrued. Rapidly.
So Mike the backhoe guy looked like Andy Sipowicz feom NYPD Blue, but with overalls, a big country accent and no teeth.
He was precious.
“Well baby you can’t be more than 18 or 19.”
Ok now he’s pushing it, but if you want to throw me back to my teens I can be okay with that. I mean- my 19 was a pretty rockin’ psychedelic year.
“Oh baby you need to go dancing with us.”
I wasn’t sure who this us was, but I bet not one of them looked like Jimmy Smits from NYPD Blue.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
Now I was wondering if he was astute enough to look at my unringed left hand. Did he just assume I was not married, hence the boyfriend inquiry?
“Yes, I have a boyfriend.”
I can lie like a fucking rug when necessity presents itself.
So I had a grand conversation with Mike. I think I have a tattoo on my forehead-invisible only to me- that says please tell me all the details of your life story and leave nothing out including your age, past marriages, and questionable relatives.
Ok, my forehead is not that big. It could be on one of my giant Ukrainian calves, but they are usually covered. I don’t know where people get this notion that I have all the time in the world to listen to their lengthy biographies. But I do have the time and I love every second.
I learned that he was 56, divorced, had a bunch of grown kids who want his car. Now, if I was one of his kids I would want his car too because it is a ’69 Chevelle with a totally souped up engine. I bet it hauls ass.
Now, my favorite part of this conversation was Mike warning me that churning up all this land was going to drive out a lot of snakes.
“Oh, no worries. Snakes don’t bother me. I had to shoo a couple out of the house last year.”
He was gazing at me with renewed ardor.
“I have a cousin who works for the carnival…”
Oh dear god in heaven I have struck gold! He said the carnival, not a carnival. A cousin who is a carny. This is going to be pure awesome.
“He has 2000 snakes. All kinds. He has one that’s 120 feet long. He has king cobras. He even has some African snake that if it bit you (he proceeds to poke me in the arm) you would be dead in twenty minutes.”
He then told me about the carny cousin carrying a baby rattlesnake in his pocket and that tidbit reinforces for me why this guy is working in the carnival and is probably not a college graduate with a degree in herpetology.
Mike then offered to let the Kid ride in the backhoe.
“I’ll be right back.”
My adorable slug of a teenager popped out bed as if I said Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were downstairs having tea.
We had a blast. Mike let the Kid move the backhoe and lift up the shovel and it all looked perfectly unsafe- sort of- but the Kid was having so much fun.
“Now it’s your mama’s turn boy.”
I envisioned my obituary reading “crushed by a backhoe” so I sat with the Kid and allowed a few pictures (I don’t know nuthin ’bout no camera! Jesus Mike you run a backhoe- you can push a button on a camera) rather than barrel-assing down the unearthed hill of the new neighbor. My tragic death under the treads of a backhoe might be a distasteful homecoming.
I offered Mike coffee and he was glad to accept.
“You are so nice. Your other neighbor already called the police on me about the noise.”
Really? The guy is just doing his job. I just shook my head and once again struggled with why people just can’t be nice. Nice is so easy. And often so fun. People are glorious and we loved Mike.
So Mike began to fascinate the Kid with tales of the snake-handling carny cousin.
“He even has some African snake that if it bit you (he proceeds to poke the Kid in the arm) you would be dead in two seconds.”
From twenty to two in one short conversation. Not bad Backhoe Mike. Not bad at all.
“Uh huh. Snakes from Africa will keeeeel you. You know Africa is a whole different country.”
The Kid just looked at me and smiled an angelic smile that said I know Africa is a continent and not a country and there aren’t snakes one hundred and twenty feet long, but I am going along with this because I am a polite child and he let me drive the backhoe.
“Mom, is there any bacon?”
“Yes love. After driving a backhoe on a Saturday morning I think you deserve a little bacon.”