Wednesday morning, I got a knock on the door while I was running around getting things together for Bubba's birthday party at Classic Skating. A local teenager, who I had never seen before, wanted to mow my lawn to "pay for summer tuition." Now, he did not seem like the college type, but I felt bad for being instantly judgmental. I actually had the $20 in cash for a change and the lawn really needed some attention. I accepted.
He got started and I took the cash to him since I figured he would be long done before I returned from the party. Cash in hand, he promptly stopped mowing the lawn and began trying to hustle me for more work he could do around the yard since (admittedly) the weeds were winning. I worked on extricating myself and he followed me up the steps, he invited himself in and began pointing out all the things in my living room that he could fix, while I politely declined over and over. I tried to point out that my husband would be taking over the house in a few weeks and that just the lawn would be fine. He wanted J's number (could you call your husband now? The sooner I get started the better...") he wanted to list every bit of experience he had in landscaping. He talked about how honest he was and how he didn't steal things. He moved on to wanting to sell me his aunt's washer and dryer and her stove. ("No thanks, no thanks, no thanks"). Finally, as the kids and I were leaving, he told me he had an appointment with a staffing agency and would come back to finish later. Later came, the party was over and I returned to find the lawn still uncut although his mower remained.
Around 8:30 p.m. he returned and I answered the door while on the phone.
Me: "Okay, the mower is still there. Thanks for coming back." (starting to close the door)
Him: "Sorry it took me so long. Do you know who does your neighbor's roses?"
Me: "Um, probably him...Sorry, I'm on a phone call..."
Him: "Because I can do the deadheading and have some spray, etc."
Me: "He's pretty picky, you should probably ask him (politely continuing to close the door)
Him: "When you are off the phone, come find me. I have a story for you."
Me: (noncommittal) "Ummm..." (Closing door)
I expected to hear the lawn mower start, but there was nothing. He had disappeared again. At this point, I was starting to feel like it was worth the $20 to just get rid of him, but around a half hour later he knocked on my back door. I opened the door a crack.
Him: "Could I trouble you for some water?"
Me: (wondering why he had worked up a thirst when he had yet to do anything, lives three houses away and had been gone for the last 1/2 hour) "Sure."
Him: "Thanks, sweetheart"
After that, he proceeded to knock on the back door seven more times in between mowing sections of the lawn to ask if I had any gas for the mower he could use, to hand me the shoes that Bubba left in the yard, to tell me that he was going to spray bug spray around my windows and doors ("no thanks!!! Just the lawn, please"), to tell me that he had a hitch on his van and could get a trailer and help me move (no thanks, just the lawn please...!), to tell me that he could sell anything I needed him to very quickly (no thanks, just the lawn please...!), to ask for more water (please just finish the lawn and beat it!!!) and most memorably (as he was trying to mow the lawn in the dark by now) for a flashlight.
Me: "I don't have one (I did), and I am trying to get kids into bed, so maybe you can just be done..."
Him: "There is something weird going on over there (points to the corner of the yard). You need to come see this. It looks like a couple of tarantulas...or maybe it's rabbits."
Me: ???????????? "No. I don't have a flashlight, and I am getting kids to bed, thanks for your help."
Him: "ok, I guess I'll just run over them or something"
Me: "You do that" (firmly shutting the door, locking it, running to secure all the other points of entry to my home and texting Britny to make sure to check in with me throughout the rest of the evening.)
Eventually (around 10 p.m.), I heard him finish and walk his lawn mower out of the yard. He was spaced out, he was persistent, he was uncomfortably forward, always stood a little too close and ultimately creeped me out enough though that I have gone back to barricading the basement door at night and sleeping with the baseball bat and the phone within reach. The next morning, the back yard looks about like it should for someone who mowed it in the dark and thought he saw large arachnids (or bunnies) on it. The trampoline was never moved, the front yard was never gotten to at all and throughout the day I noticed that the propane tank from my grill had been taken as well as some bug and weed spray I had sitting outside the garage. He also seems to have helped himself to my gas can. I have since moved everything that might possibly be stolen or sold into the garage and figure I will wait until I move to acquire a new propane tank. So, it looks like the reality is that I paid this kid $20 to not mow my lawn, scare me with some erratic and very forward behavior, steal things from my yard and generally remind me of my vulnerabilities as a single woman in my home.
I have neighbors and brothers-in-law and friends who would come over in a heartbeat in a situation where I was nervous (and to be completely fair, I believe J would as well, although I would not ever ask) and I am grateful for that. But it kind of stinks to have to be reminded that I am 100% in charge of keeping my home and kids safe at night, and to be fully honest, I am kind of a wuss. J and I were robbed early in our marriage and since then I have been well aware that a locked door won't keep out a determined thief. So, I am being even more cautious than usual and will continue to keep the baseball bat within reach in the night. And tomorrow, I have to mow the lawn myself after all (boo!). Should I see any tarantulas or rabbits while doing it, I suppose I will owe that kid an apology. But, I'm thinking I probably shouldn't plan on that.