Adventures in machine rental

Me and my mini-ex

Okay, so I rented a mini excavator two weekends ago.

Well, really, I rented it in October and it just became available. We live on a very wooded lot on Grassy Key — less wooded after Irma, but still — that suffers from a serious infection of Sansevieria. It’s also known as “mother-in-law tongue” for good reason: it’s mean and it won’t quit.

Over the years, I’ve pulled out cans and cans of that stuff but the carrot-like root is tenacious. In 18 years, I’ve cleared our yard of about two living room-size areas of the plant, but there’s still a modest McMansion left. And so, one day, suffering from storm stress, I reserved a mini excavator for my own use as a combined birthday and Christmas present to me, from me.

And by my own use, I mean somebody else who would work for free and knew who to operate the machine.

That person never materialized.

On Friday, I had the machine but no operator and plenty of husbandly doubts to overcome regarding household fiscal responsibility. I did what any normal, middle-aged woman with no operator experience would do. After newspapering all day, I changed into work clothes, cracked a beer and started it down the long driveway to the street with no clear idea of what the hell I was doing beyond the two-minute tutorial offered to me at the rental place, which I played down with appropriate nonchalance — “Sure, it couldn’t hurt.”

But here’s the thing. It was slow. Super slow. It forced me to stop the machine mid-driveway, turn it off, climb down and walk to the house for a second beverage before resuming the turtle crawl to the street. (I would find out about the red-tipped throttle handle later.) I whacked around in the bushes for a couple of minutes before darkness fell and I quit.

Before setting off to his work on Saturday, my husband alerted me to the danger areas — something about the importance of avoiding existing utilities or squirrels, I’m not sure which. I had only a sketchy plan — outfit, music, beverage supply. And so to a playlist featuring mostly AC/DC blaring over the earbuds, I made an awkward beginning until I learned that the “back and forth-y thingy” was the best technique.

In two days, I cleared about half the square footage of the aforementioned McMansion. I had to remove two or three small bushes and in at least two cases those were intentional. Also, I got very “wobbly” at one point and had to take a deep breath, pull up my big girl undies and power through. By the way, “wobbly” and “back and forth-y thingy” is established operator language. I know, I looked at the manual before I started. I’m not stupid.

By the end of my three-day rental (you only pay for Friday), I was quite adept at the machine. It requires, I learned, a woman’s soft touch. And if my neighbors Jim and Mary out walking their dog were a big surprised when I yelled, “Look at me! I am the coolest @##$% person on the planet!” … they took it in stride. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with the incredible rush that comes from renting your own machine, and learning how to use it.

Alas, my approach to renting machinery was much the same as getting eyeglasses for the first time. I expected a new pair of specs to be a magic bullet, resulting in good-as-new eyesight. With the mini ex what happened was I created enough work for a team of laborers for several days. Remember that non-existent operator? Well, the crew was non-existent, too. I will spend the rest of my natural-born life carting the displaced mother-in-law tongue to the street and filling garbage cans as prescribed by the amount of “free” time I currently enjoy, and the number of garbage cans that I currently possess.

Unless I rent a Bobcat to push everything to the street. Huh. Well, okay then.

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