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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Taking A Break From A Break

I'm still trying to catch up with house and yard work.  It's not going well.  But it's Friday night and there isn't much I can do right now and I just can't stay out of communication forever.  And not much I will be doing outside Saturday or Sunday.  It is going to reach 100F or close both days.

1.  My initial efforts to lever the broken cinderblock wall back into place failed.  Levers are great, but I can't seem to get enough pressure to move either side of the broken wall.  I have a scissor-jack on order to arrive tomorrow. 
your orders

I'll put it on its side and place a 4"x4" post against the post at the house foundation and see if that works.  It only cost $80 and it might save me several thousand.  If I am able to push the broken cinderblock wall back toward straight, I will cover all the broken edges with construction adhesive and make the final push to press the edges together.

If THAT works, I will drill holes in the top to secure a board on the top to help hold the wall straight and cement and bolt a brick on the bottom.  The one masonry repair person who visited said it wouldn't work.  But he wanted to rebuild the entire patio and walls for $15,000 (saying "I ONLY do quality work").  Well, congratulations to him for having enough work to be fussy, but I don't need a whole new patio.  I just need a repair job.

If my attempt doesn't work, I will hire a less-fussy repair mason.  I called 5 repair companies (through a centralized repair website) asking for email contact.   I had to provide a phone number to so.  I got 2 responses by phone.  Unfortunately, I could not understand what they were saying (which I expected and why I asked for email contact).  I do not have a good ear for foreign accents (and I blame myself).

So, if my own efforts fail, I have to start again with contractors.

2.  The 1/4 of the backyard that became a wild blackberry thicket after I removed a couple trees and that I cleared last Fall is driv8ng me crazy.  All Spring, I went around weekly spraying the blackberries that regrew.  It was a pleasure seeing them bend over and die a day later.  And I had some piles of tree saplings to remove.

But I also had gardening and flower-planting to do and poison ivy to fight.  And I did plant 4 specimen trees that would shade the area but not cast shade on my garden.  So one day, I noticed that the entire cleared area wasn't clear anymore!

Not many wild blackberries, but lots of OTHER stuff.  Some large plant with purple berries I can never remember the name of.  Wild grape vines.  Virginia Creeper vines.  So it was time to use the brush mower again.  Except I had to find the piles of sapling trunks and the garden hose buried under all the junk growth before I could use the brush mower.

I spent 3 days (30 minutes a day - it was HOT outside) using the cordless hedge trimmer to cut the junk down searching for the piles of saplings.  I knew approximately where they were, but it took a lot of cutting.  The hedge trimmer worked better than I expected.  I pulled 2 of the 4 piles out to the lawn.  Those are worth cutting into kindling for the fireplace.

The rest is too small to be worth burning and I started filling the 5'x8' trailer.  Its piled higher than the top.  The County has a site to deliver stuff like that and I can get free mulch (from mine and other residents' deliveries).  I can use the processed mulch on flowerbeds, my compost bins, and garden paths.  But I'm sure not going to attack the entire new overgrowth with a couple 100F days coming up.  So I'll be working in the house.

3.  My basement has become a clutterred mess!  Well, I've seen worse where people just used the basement for storage, but mine is supposed to be a functional work area.  Partly, I have stuff I need to get rid of.  Not junk, stuff that has some value.  Like an air compressor I haven't used in 10 years, the bicycle, the old shop vac I replaced with a better one, the boxes of newspapers I planned to use to smother weeds in the garden paths (more than I would ever need), an old refrigerator, etc, etc, etc.

There are also things down there for projects I've never gotten around to actually doing.  Things like metal shelf that fit around and above a bathroom toilet,  bolts for hanging heavy cast iron pans on a wall, shelves to install to hold seldom used kitchen appliances in the cat room (they won't mind), additional to-assemble bookcases for the computer room, etc.

The older I get, the harder these things are to do.  I think I will leave the car out of the garage for a few days and collect all the stuff to sell in the garage.  Craig's List works well for that.  But I need it all in one space to make a list for posting.

We used to be able to donate that kind of stuff to charities, but the new tax laws don't count donations unless the get to many thousands of dollars, so it just makes sense to sell them for "something".  I don't have enough for a yard sale, so individual sales are the only way I can get anything for them.

4.  The house needs work.  The computer room and cat room have cheap carpet from 32 years ago.  I want linoleum for ease of rolling my office chair around and cleaning the cat fur.  But to do that, I have to empty the rooms.  So I've been saving wine boxes to put my books in (about as heavy as I want to lift and they are all the same size so stacking them is easy).  Other boxes will hold original software disks and computer books.  Others will hold random stuff.

The kitchen light fixture has got to go.  It is tight to the ceiling and the heat from the attic makes it not work after a week of 90F.  The TV room ceiling fan stopped working a few years ago.  The Living room 2-bulb ceiling light is too dim and I have a nice stained glass replacement 3-bulb light.  But the last time I messed with a ceiling light I almost electrocuted myself (only felt "pulses" as I was sitting on a wooden ladder, fortunately).  And the kitchen faucet is leaking...

I want to tile the kitchen walls.  And I'm not going to do that myself.  20 years ago, I would have.  Not today.  There are things I CAN'T do (plumbing).  There are things I CAN do (most other things).  And there are things I can do but just don't want do anymore (anything electrical).

I'm spending time trying to create a detailed list of things that need to be done.  Some will be things I could do myself, but most are things I can't or don't want to do myself.  I would be very happy if all the things on my list were done.  I would like my home better and be happier here for another decade at least.

5.  The drainage easement...  In past years, the drainage easement (the water drainage from upper properties to the swamp below me) have brought tree debris and odd yard junk.  This is usually clearable though sometimes the County has come out for serious intertwined branches and silt.

But Monday last week, we got something new.  The storm drain was covered with gravel and clay and debris and the entire easement filled with gravel 40' up.  Essentially, it no longer flows much and is almost at yar level.  A future strorm would leave me with standing water in the front yard.  And that is after having soil added to my front yard several years ago to raise it 1'.

The easement is a shared responsibility of my neighbor and I (8-12' not sure) from the storm drain.  We need to have the easement dredged, but we can't tell what area until the County comes and does whatever they will around the storm drain (some crews do more than others).  And I can't get them to tell me when they will come and do their part first.

So I'm frozen in place waiting for them to do their part.  I've emailed them asking A) Are we currently on your schedule?  B)  If so, what is the scheduled date?  C)  If not, when will we be on your schedule?  D)  When our repair is scheduled, will we be advised of the scheduled date?

So I'm mostly doing inside stuff for a couple days but also outside stuff and I feel exhausted sometimes...

I'm letting the Mews outside at times in this hot weather (briefly), but calling them back inside after about 15 minutes and making sure they get water.  The next couple days at 100F, they aren't going out at all.  They'll hate that, but it is too hot for furries.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Surprises, And Not Good Ones

This is becoming a really difficult few weeks.  Some of which I have mentioned, but it is worth listing all of  it (and positively noting that none are matters of life and death)...

First, I got the riding mower back from the repair shop after a month with only half the work I THOUGHT I was getting done.  Granted, they didn't try to charge me for what they didn't do, but they wanted another 3 weeks to get to get at it, so I passed.  I CAN actually change the oil and filter and sharpen the blades (the undone work) myself but its a pain and they could have done it so easily while they had it.  I had even called them later in the day I brought it to them to confirm it was on the repair list (they said yes).

Second, the monsoon damage (6"+ of sudden rain) Monday flooding the drainage easement.  When I moved here almost 33 years ago, I knew my new street was at the bottom of a large sloped neighborhood, but it seemed that the drainage was well-managed with drainage easements and storm drains.  I was wrong.  Also, I was not aware that property owners were responsible for the drainage easement further than 6' from the storm drains.

Storms usually bring tree debris down that covers the storm drain grate.  That can be removed easily sometimes, and the County willingly does it when stuff is all wedged together and called about it.  This time was different.  For reasons I do not know, cubic yards/meters of clay and gravel flowed down the easement for the first time ever.  The storm drain grate was entirely covered with it.

The easement itself (which WAS almost 2' deep) is entirely filled to lawn level with gravel about 20' upslope and most of that is NOT County responsibility.  I spoke to my neighbor about it (we are co-responsible for the easement maintenance).  I have no idea what it would cost and return the easement to full functionality.  My neighbor is upset because they are they are nearly broke.  I can legally enforce shared costs, but I'm not looking forward to having to fight about it.  But if it isn't dredged, future storms will make matters worse and they care less about their yard than I do.

Third, the monsoon damage again. My basement got soaked an inch.  The builder did poor work on the sunken patio originally (no drainage), and I've had water in the basement several times over the years.  I learned after the first time that if I dug a 4' deep ditch through the lawn downslope, all was well.  But those fill in over time and I usually redig it each year before hurricane season.

We are getting heavier rains here earlier each year and I waited too long.  Climate change is real.  The last Spring frost of the year is about a day earlier each couple years and the first frost in Fall is later.  The first heat wave of the year  comes sooner and occurs later too.

I need to at least bury some perforated drainage pipe along the lawn edge of the patio and attach it to solid drainage pipe emptying into the lower front lawn.  But it always seems there is something more immediately to do.  So I didn't do it earlier this year or last year.

The basement was a real mess!  This time I had a lot of boxes on the floor.  The stuff like lawn fertilizer have plastic bags inside, so they weren't damaged, but I had some boards standing up against walls, cardboard boxes I was planning to use to store books while the computer room going to be changed from 32 year old carpet to linoleum.  And Iza likes to poop outside the litter boxes, so that was a real mess.

I used the wet/dry shop vac to suck up most of the water and moved the litter boxes to dry area where Iza wouldn't "go" is the wet spots.  Today, it dried enough for me to scrape the cement floor of all the kicked-out scoopable litter and poops.  I love Iza dearly, but pooping in the litter boxes is not one of the things she does best...

After that, I mopped the whole litterbox area with soapy water, mopped it with clean water, and sucked up the remaining water with the shop vac.  It wasn't a thrill.  I rinsed out the mop frequently in the laundry tub, but it wasn't exactly dry,  and I don't have a mop-wringer tub so I had to squeeze the mop dryish by hand.

I should mention that I was the oldest child at 15 when my younger sister was born.  I changed a LOT of diapers.  And that was when you had to slosh soiled cloth diapers around in the toilet before you could even put them in the bucket the diaper cleaning truck came by to pick them up for professional cleaning.

Fourth, monsoon damage again.  I had a masonry repair company estimator here today.  Here is what he told me after investigating all the broken cinder blocks and spaces around it...

The wall is a "retaining wall" (there is soil filled in behind it).  A retaining wall should be set outside of the cement slab and 3' deep so that water pressure cannot push it in.  The top caps need special  grout to help hold the top solid.  My retaining wall was built ON the cement slab and the tops were attached with regular grout.

He said the entire 2 1/2 sides needed to be removed, a 3' deep trench dug outside the cement slab, and that there was rebar involved and removal of the old cinderblocks.

Quick estimate - $15,000

And I should have a drain installed to prevent future basement next to the sliding glass doors $2,300.

I said no way!  I could have my failing asphalt driveway removed, the foundation rebuilt and pounded solid, and a new concrete driveway installed for that.  I have an estimate for that...

I asked about just forcing the existing cinder block wall force back into place, using construction adhesive against the broken edges and bolting a 2"x10" board or serious metal bar on top.

He said he wouldn't do that as a professional and that his insurance company wouldn't warranty the work if he did.

I thanked him for coming by to explain all that and that I understood his reasons for not doing some cheap patchwork and that I might be back in touch because the repair does really have to be done.  I might add that contractors generally hate being the first ones on site because the customer learns things about what to ask the next estimator.  And it's true...  I learned a lot.

So after he left, I decided to see if I could lever the broken wall parts back in place.  There are 2 6"x6" wooden deck support posts in the patio set 3' deep and surrounded by 2' wide in cement.   I found a 4"x4" post that straddled them, and a 4x4 post that just reached  cinderblock wall.  I figured that with the right angle of leverage, I might be able to push the broken parts back in place after liberally covering the broken edges with construction adhesive.  That stuff is stronger than the grout used between cinder blocks so it ought to hold.

I understand how levers work most effectively.  The longer the lever, the more force is applied.  I set 4x4 posts up as efficiently as possible.  I couldn't move the wall at all!  30 minutes work at 92F and 95% humidity and pulling as hard as I could left me exhausted and drenched in sweat.  I may take the car jack and see if I can get some better force tomorrow.

If that doesn't work, I think I will find some less-perfectionist company to suggest something less expensive.

I have several home renovation projects in mind.  But given the numerous ones and these new problems, I think I might be better off combining them into a large list and hiring a general contractor.  I did that once and the total cost was about half of the estimated costs from individual contractors.  The downside of that is that I need to empty whole rooms (and OMC the cluttered basement!) at the same time (almost like moving out)...

I wish I had had the nerve to move away 5 years ago...  Maybe I should consider that again and leave it as a fixer-upper.  I get offers in the mail every day.




Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Monday Monsoon

I had stayed up late Sunday night (blog, Civilization2 game, a discussion forum).  So I went to bed about 3 am.  As I curled up in bed, it started to rain and I was happy to hear it.  July and August are historically dry to the point where the soil cracks open, so rain is appreciated.  Plus, I'm one of those people who find the sound comforting when I sleep.

So I had only positive thoughts hearing the rain...

Well, sometimes you are just plain wrong!  When I got up about Noon, I looked out the window to see how much rain had fallen.  I have a large rain gauge that tops out at 6" with large 1/4" markers and there is a floating red plastic button so you can see the level.  I couldn't see the red button.

So I got dressed and went outside to check the rain gauge.  The rain gauge was filled and the button was hidden under the top.
So I drained a little water out so you can see the button
I don't know how much MORE than 6" we got here...

I had gone out from the deck and gone back inside the same way.  Then I went into the basement.  Now, I've had wet basement problems, in the past (there is a 12'x10' sunken patio with a 3' high cinder block wall on 2 sides and sliding glass doors, and the patio was poorly built.  It should have been very slightly sloped toward the lawn, but it isn't.

After a couple of hurricanes  that caused rainfall to seep into the basement, I dug a 6" drainage trench downslope.  It worked well, but they fill in eventually and you don't notice such gradual changes.  Normally, in heavy rainfall, I check to make sure the water is draining through the trench.  But I was asleep this time.

Rainwater got in.  I don't mean a foot of water filled the basement, but 1/4" is bad enough.  It gets everywhere.  Have I mentioned that Iza has the bad habit of pooping just outside the litterboxes even when they are utterly clean.  I often just pour a bit of clumping litter on the poops and scoop them up later.  Guess what happens when water collects around kitty-poop covered with clumpable litter?

So I set one litter box in a dry spot and cleaned it every waking hour while the litter-poop dried (and The Mews have been VERY good about using that one).  I used my wet/dry shop vac to collect most of the standing water (avoiding the poop mess until it dries).

So having done what I could in the basement, I went out and looked at the front yard.  I have one storm drain on my property and one shared with a neighbor .  I live at the bottom of a large downsloping neighborhood.  The shared storm drain is almost the end of the line of several drainage easements from the higher lots (just before the last drainage into the swamp across the street).




There is actually a storm drain under this gravel!

It is routinely covered with plant and tree debris and when I can, I pull junk of the grate covering the drain.  But it usually drains well enough.  Any storm drain can be overwhelmed by enough water but what doesn't drain there flows across my front land near the street to the one actually ON my property.  A few hours after even a hurricane the standing water is gone.

Not this time!

Usually, I get small tree debris.  THIS TIME cubic yards of clay and gravel flowed over the storm grate and covered it completely.  The lower 20' of the drainage easement was previously 3' wide and almost 2' deep.  It is filled with gravel now, almost up to lawn level.

I met my neighbor there Monday afternoon.  He had called the County Government about the problem.  I took pictures and will email the County about it (pictures help).  He is new here and was surprised.  He is direct and used to contacting authorities.  His SO (uncertain and he didn't volunteer) has been here about 10 years ( asked if she was the same person who was metalic red hair and black dresses and he smiled and said yes.  I only aksed to make sure it was the same lady I had seen years before.  He's cool.  He admits they tend to stay by themselves...  Well, so do I.

After I went back inside, I decided to check the basement (drying nicely) and went out the sunken patio glass doors.

AACCKKK!

The 3' high cinder block wall around it was broken in half like a potato chip and pushed out 1' in the middle!  I was stunned.  It wasn't like I had much flowing water over the surface.  As best I can tell, it was just that the soil got SO saturated that it expanded and pushed the cinder block wall away.  I'll call my insurance agent tomorrow, but I bet that is considered uncovered "flood damage" even though a tree that fell over from soil saturation would be covered.



See that board in the back?  That was on top of the cinder block wall.  That's how much it moved.

I'm going to try levering the pushed-out cinder block back in place and using construction adhesive to hold it in place.  I'm going to wait a few days to allow the broken edges to dry.  If that doesn't work, I will have a few masonry repair companies come by for cost quotes.  And it may be time to have the patio drainage problem solved permanently.  I had in mind to add perforated 4" pipe just below ground level with a regular pipe draining downslope but a professional might have some better solutions.

It has been a rather unhappy 36 hours.  It could be worse.  In the grand scheme of things, these are minor.  But they sure are ANNOYING!

Thursday, July 4, 2019

US Independence Day

Today is one of the most important holidays to me.  It isn't the actual establishment of my country, it is the day we declared our INTENT to become one (and why).  The difference matters.  Upon the actual signing of The Declaration Of Independence (from Britain), it was an utterly uncertain thing.  A bunch of unhappy British colonists complaining that they were represented in British Government and deciding that they were willing to fight about it.

And quite frankly, a bunch of rich colonists who were landowners and merchants who owed a lot of money to British banks and the Government and could conveniently be free of them if they got separated.

My first college textbook was 'The Economic Causes Of The Revolution' and while 'Government And Politic Science' was my major, history was my love.

But when push came to shove, it wasn't just the rich (indebted) landowners who fought.  The colonists were of British descent (mostly) and shared a common past and social structure.  A lot of poor colonists had little to gain except freedom from taxes they had no say about.

A lot of fighting went on, the British found less support over here than they expected, The French Navy turned up at a good point, and Britain discovered that fighting a war across an ocean using sailing ships didn't work very well.

Example:  One British General asked for 950 horses.  Half died on the way and most of the survivors were too ill to be useful.

Example:  The British Generals decided that fighting the colonists in New England and the Mid Atlantic States wasn't working, so they went to the Southern colonies where people were "more British".  Seldom was a worse decision ever made.  The Southern colonists didn't fight stand-up battles like the British army was used to.  They attacked in swamps, in woods, anyplace where there couldn't be a decisive battle.

Eventually, Britain decided it had more important places to fight about.  And they were right, because the former colonists had few places to trade with but Britain and France and France wasn't the major trading power.

So why do I honor this day above almost all others?

Because of what we said in our Declaration Of Independence.

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Etc...

We have not met those goals completely; it is possible we never will.  There will always be challenges.  But they ARE goals we keep closer to our hearts than some realize.

In spite of occasional presidential flaws like Donald Trump (there have been some real fails in the past too),  the majority of US citizenry holds to those goals.  We will weather this current error and recover from it. 

But for today, I mostly want to honor the start of the US, with some background...

And, as is my habit on this day, I will read the entire Declaration out loud on the deck (quietly)...

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Chili

I make some of the world's worst chili.  Too bland, too hot, too many beans, not enough beans, too much or too little tomatoes.   But I got it right tonight!

A true chili affectianado woudn't like it.  I'm a New England boy and "hot spicy" is not part of growing up there.  My favorite fast food chili comes from Wendy's, LOL

But this one was perfect for me.  I think it was the leftover brown sugar carrots that I added.  Go ahead and laugh.  I had some scalp sweat...


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Computer Security Surprise

I downloaded a new version of a Software Security I like. and the first thing that came up was "Privacy".  It sat there for an hour reading  "52kb, 62 Kb, etc" and I thought OMG this could take weeks.  So I called the tech desk.  Got right through to them BTW. 

It took the person a couple minutes to understand that I was seeing that as a search of my entire hard drive and wondering why it was so slow.  She finally caught on and explained that it was a real-time processing rate, not a whole hard drive search. 

And it took me whole minutes to get OFF the phone while she tried to explain how that worked.  The INSTANT she said it was a processing rate not a search, I understood exactly what it was doing.  But she wouldn't let me go, LOL!

Now I just have to go through the rest of the security program, which DOES search the hard drive as i expected (and doesn't show a progress bar - which would be nice).  Apparently, you are supposed to just turn it on every so often and GO TO BED.  I'm not good at not watching security programs as they operate.  The good part is that the program doesn't care if you stay on the computer while it goes along it's merry business.  But that it exactly what I want to watch it do.


Speaking Of Sports

When I was new to my first real office, the boss loved having a slow-pitch softball team in the Agency League.  I had been on one before (a temp in a Navy Office) and was good enough at it, so I joined.  The Navy guys were pretty fierce about it, so I understood playing hard. 

And I was good enough at slow pitch that I could pretty much hit the ball wherever I wanted.  Mostly way over the right fielder.  Which was a serious turn-around from Little League hardball where I seldom even swung at a ball at 12.  I had changed a bit...

We had a good team.  Lots of young guys and a few women willing to play.

I'm writing this because we played a team with a blind pitcher.  The catcher would keep up a steady stream of talk to let him know where to toss the ball.   And another player stood next to him in front after the pitch so he wouldn't get hit. 

My immediate supervisor (call him "Bill") was a pretty athletic type.  Bill hit a line drive that caught the blind pitcher right between the eyes.  No one could have reacted fast enough to prevent that.  The pitcher was completely cold-cocked. 

The blind pitcher got back in a couple innings,  the teams kept playing.  Bill kept playing.  I understand that.  The pitcher refused to limit himself, the players did the same.

But I went home...

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sports

I'm not a general sports fan.  On major events like the US Football Superbowl and Baseball World Series, I sometimes watch the last half hour out of curiousity. 

But apparently, I'm a "Homie".  I watch the Washington National baseball team games and am glad when they win.  I watch my University of Maryland women's basketball team games (but not men's because that is just a crude elbow-flying cage fight).  And the US women's soccer team...

So, I've been enjoying watching the Washington Nationals baseball team crawl up from a bad start to .500 today.  They had a tough start with several starting players injured.  But now that they are returning, the team has been doing much better and may even be in contender status by the end of the season.

Why this matters to me is a mystery.  I actually don't care a whit about my State University (a paper degree on a wall proving that I wasn't TOO stupid to get one), and professional teams trade players like brokers trade stocks. 

I suppose that part of it is that they are winning.  But part of it is that they play a game in a way I understand.  Not that the women players are soft (any of them could beat the crap out of me at almost anything), but they play in a way I "get".  More skill than elbows... 

And the Washington Nationals baseball organization seems to value skill more than power.  I admire that.

So for whatever it is worth, here it was...  Just some thoughts.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Gripe

I finally got my riding lawn mower back yesterday.  The first thing I did was mow the front lawn of course.  It seems to be working.  I brought it the the local mower repair shop because it was suddenly hesitating and then stalling.

I told them I suspected a fuel line blockage because (bizzarely) I found bits of a leaf in the gas tank last year.  And though I got most of it out with an aquarium net I bent into a shape to fit in, the engine was sure acting like there was something in the fuel line.  I can do some basic stuff, but I don't mess with fuel...  Plus, it needed a tune-up, a blade-sharpening, and oil and filter change. 

When I got home that day I looked at the repair ticket and all it mentioned was "Service 1 - hesitates and stalls but will start again after about 15 minutes".  So I called them.  I was told "Service 1 is the basic tune-up and oil and filter change.  The rest was the additional problem". 

OK... "Service 1" WOULD be the basic tune-up stuff and blade-sharpening.  So I waited for an estimate.  after a week, they called and said the hesitation and stalling was due to a failure of both ignition coils (2 cylinders, 2 coils, 2 spark plugs).  Don't worry, I had to look that up.  Its what sends an electrical charge to the spark plugs.  They gave me a price and I accepted it.

I wondered though why both would fail at the same time, but I thought back to when I was so broke I had to struggle to repair my old car and there was a single ignition coil that controlled all 8 cylinders. 

Funny short story:  I had a friend who worked at a car dealership.  One day, he opened my car hood and showed me all the parts (most of which he said were to reduce the performance of the engine for emission control reasons).  But one part he showed me was the ignition coil.  It couldn't be sealed tight for heat reasons.  But if you ever drove through a puddle and the car stalled, it was because the ignition coil got shorted by the spray.

So I understood about the ignition coils on the mower.

So they went about replacing those 2 parts (apparently they are separate on a mower.  Falling asleep yet?

Well, they called Thursday and said they were going to have to clean the carburator and fuel line (another $25).  Yeah, yeah, just do it...

So I picked it up Friday.  The experience was not good.  First, they had to jump start it.  When I asked about that, they said I needed a new battery.  Well, I had to do that too, but I thought a tune-up would solve that. 

So I asked the mechanic "This is a repair shop, right"?  He agreed.  "Shouldn't that have been something to be fixed"?  He said it wasn't on the repair ticket.  OK, he is just the mechanic and he does what the repair ticket says to do.  But they sell batteries!  Why wouldn't they have offerred to replace it?  Fine, I can buy a new battery anywhere.

But the engine gave a whiff of smoke and I asked about that too.  He checked the oil level and said it was a bit high and should probably be changed.   You want a definition of a lawn mower mechanaic?  He wiped the oil dipstick clean ON HIS PANTS, LOL!

And that's when the horrible truth hit me.  There had been no oil and filter change!  I went back to the front desk and asked about that.  The guy there said it wasn't on the repair ticket.  So I asked about the tune up.  Ditto! 

I told him I had specifically asked for that AND called the next day asking about it.  AND was assured that "Service 1" included that.  He said no, the "service" numbers are just a list of problems the customer mentions.  He said the woman I talked to just writes up repair tickets and wasn't there at the time to ask.  But they would be happy to do the tune up and oil change.  For more money.  And they were backed up for a month.

I took my mower home and I will never ever bring anything to them again.

I can change the oil and filter.  And the tune up probably wasn't necessary.  I had removed the spark plugs and cleaned and gapped them last month. 

But Jeez, what a bunch of idiots!

If I was younger, I would set up a competing business on the side.  No customers should be treated like I was.  The mechanics seem OK; it's a management problem.