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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Ground rules for mowing my lawn

Jesse Moore scratches his head trying to figure out what his just completed task of lawn mowing was worth. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
Jesse Moore scratches his head trying to figure out what his just completed task of lawn mowing was worth. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

Every once in a while a mumbling kid will show up on our porch and ask if I would like to have our lawn mowed.

At least I think that’s what they’re asking. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Almost invariably, this happens shortly after the grass has just been cut. But that’s not the reason I decline to hire them.

It’s not that I don’t want to support Spokane youth learning about the rewarding world of work. After all, many in my own generation mowed lawns during long-ago summers. Built character and whatnot.

In a way, those were simpler times.

I can’t recall anyone whose lawn I mowed worrying about liability exposure. But as they say, that was then.

So to be prepared for the next young entrepreneur inquiring about child labor opportunities at my place, I have drawn up a simple questionnaire. See if you think this covers the basics.

Are you licensed and bonded? (You’d be surprised. Some kids are not.)

What are your rates? (One great thing about Spokane is it will quickly teach an enterprising youth to deal with observations/questions such as “I don’t know… that seems a bit spendy” and “Can’t you give me a neighborhood discount?”)

Do you own safety goggles and other safety apparel? (Better to ask than to see those items show up unannounced on an invoice.)

Will you be wanting to access restroom facilities? (Better to ask up front. In my experience, the words that worked on 1960s kids – “Hold it” – do not always work on modern children.)

How will you respond to an honest critique of your work? (Some kids can’t handle the truth. Hearing “Missed a spot” upsets them.)

Do you know not to stick your hand under the mower while the blade might still be moving? (Has to be asked.)

If I had a daughter or granddaughter your age, would you harass her? (Hey, it’s 2018.)

If I had a son or grandson your age, would you harass him? (Hey, it’s 2018.)

Do you have references? (Make sure to find out if there is a way to contact this “Betty from Spokane.”)

Do you incorporate environmentally sound business practices in your mowing enterprise? (Hey, we’ve just got one planet.)

In case of disagreements we are unable to adjudicate ourselves, what form of mediation/arbitration or civil redress will you seek? (Might want to run this by an attorney.)

Are your hiring practices compliant with federal, state and municipal equal-opportunity guidelines? (Just because a kid is 11 doesn’t mean he can’t be part of a good ol’ boy network.)

Do you have any intention of displaying political signs or stickers on any of your equipment while on my property? (This is a potential deal-breaker.)

In the event of a strike, will you expect to have access to my property for the purposes of picketing? (I’m pro-labor, but let’s be reasonable.)

Will you be wanting to play talk radio or music loud enough that it could be heard inside the domicile? (Potential deal-breaker.)

Do you have any expectation of placing signs touting “Mumbling Kid Mowing” (or whatever) on my property? (If so, negotiate a steep discount.)

Do you have a media spokesperson? (Might view a “Yes” answer as a red flag.)

Do you have your own equipment or expect the homeowner to provide it? (This can get complicated if neither of you has a mower.)

Does your introductory “Get Acquainted” offer involve any 6 a.m. Saturday grass cutting? (Better to ask now than to find out after you sit bolt-upright in bed some weekend morning.)

Would you object to a thorough background check? (A real one. Not like the ones people got before going to work for the Trump administration.)

Do you offer a summer/winter discount? (Might as well ask about snow blowing.)

Will your attire during the mowing session meet accepted community standards? (In a more predictably reasonable world, you would not have to ask.)

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist party? (Dated, nonsensical, irrelevant and probably illegal, but it might be fun to see the kid’s reaction.)

Would you mind if I yelled “Get off my lawn!” when you’re done mowing? (Hey, this is Spokane.)

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