Dr-Fix-It! Notebook Archive:
Lessons Learned While Mowing
We had not renewed our contract with our former grounds-keeping company and were accepting competing bids, just as a standard price check. With no grounds-keeping service on contract and no firm decisions pending, the front lawns of the Hotel were getting a little shaggy. So, I took it upon myself to go out and try and clean up as much as I could.
It caused a little stir that the Chief Engineer was out front mowing the lawn. Even the General Manager strolled by to chat and to ask me why he was paying me to do the yard work.
I replied, "Hey, I am learning a lot".
"In that case", He said, "I'll expect a full report in the morning."
It had been only ten days since the last mowing but some of the grass in the front lawn was seven inches long and had the tassels of a mature plant. How could that be? The only explanation was that our former grounds-keepers were setting the mower deck heights up a few notches. Not only would this save effort and gasoline, it also would mean that they would have to mow more often to maintain appearances. Since the previous contract paid according to days worked; the more often they mowed, the more they could bill us. Recommendation: Rewrite the next grounds-keeping contract to specify permissible mower deck heights.
I saw a lot of marks around the bases of most of the shrubs in the front lawn. The former grounds-keepers would trim the grass near the shrubs with string trimmers. The proper way to use a string trimmer near a shrub is to use the protective guard as a guide to prevent string damage to the bark. Shrubs can tolerate only so much of this damage before the bark is smashed to the point where it is unable to convey moisture from the roots to the leaves. I have heard that "Weed-Wacker-Wilt" is the leading killer of ornamentals and shrubs. Our former grounds-keepers were quickly encircling the base of the shrubs with their string trimmers, occasionally hitting and causing damage to the bark. Recommendation: Immediately dress the cuts , Install protective wraps, Have a little talk with new Grounds-Keeping Company".
I made notes of a broken sidewalk I hadn't noticed before, some curbs that would soon need painting and a few sprinkler heads in need of repair. But, the most important lesson I learned while mowing is that I could make none of these observations from the vantage point of my desk.
The General Manager returned the report to me a few days later with a handwritten reply, "Thanks, Doc! A real eye-opener! "
The next day, I found him on the seventh floor cleaning a guest room alongside the housekeepers. I stuck my head in the room and asked, "How much are we paying you to make a bed?"
He looked up at me and grinned, "Hey, I am learning a lot!"