At Large : Buy right
Sitting where I am, I see Moll zipping by on the lawnmower every few minutes. She is wearing sunglasses, and earphones, connected to a music player. She looks neither left nor right. Every swath she makes meets every other swath neatly, perfectly. I'm sure she could get a job on the grounds crew at Fenway Park. But, she's our groundskeeper.
A couple of months ago, we came truculently to the decision that we had to replace the mower that had worked for us so faithfully for 10 years or so. It was a walk behind Gravely mower with a powerful mind of its own and a 20-inch mower deck. It took hours, even days at times, to wrestle into submission the lumpy, hilly, weedy, scrub oak-bedeviled turf we call the lawn.
In its early days as a member of our family, the old mower was really a brush cutter. When we bought the place in 1990, it was a house in the middle of the scrub oak, bull briars, and poison ivy. There was six feet of grass at the back of the house and six at the front.
When the afternoon sun shone on the vast expanse of puckerbrush, one could see the tick legions gathering. When the youngest two children were toddlers and they darted off, as toddlers do, toward the wilderness just beyond the deck, Moll and I would run screeching from the house to stop the poor things before they fell among the ticks. If we successfully reclaimed them, they looked like those Christmas decorations you make by pincushioning an orange with cloves.
Widening the clearing around our house over the years took a toll on the old brush cutter, and when there was ultimately grass to cut, we replaced the brush blade with two grass blades, set at right angle to one another. It worked, but not well. It was a brush cutter pretending to do lawnmower work on a pretend lawn that was hardly a generation removed from its former life as tangled, deadly brush.
The question became what to buy to replace the brush cutter, and where to buy it. Among the considerations was the sad discovery that while we bought the brush cutter from an Island outfit that sold those high quality machines and serviced them, but that was then. Now, no Island business sells that brand, and none services it. Not good.
We hunted online. We hunted off-Island at big stores where 10 or 20 mowers were lined up out front, priced from less than we intended to spend to a great deal more. We ended up getting the new mower from Cottage City, one with a 42-inch deck, thus instantly halving the time required to do the job. The price was higher, but they service the machine we bought. And, they delivered it into Moll's clutches a day later.
I was reminded of all this lawnmower business as I read through the pleadings, testimony, and memos filed in the lawsuit against four Vineyard gasoline retailers. The lawnmower decision, the gasoline buying decision, indeed every decision Islanders make about how they will redistribute their family assets stumbles on several familiar and largely accepted characteristics of the peculiar nature of the Vineyard marketplace.