Column, Movie Diary

The man who mows 

By Dom Cioffi

 I have a specific route I take when I drive to work in the mornings. I take this route because it is the fastest and most efficient way to get from my house to my office. I take the exact same route when I return home.

I try to avoid driving this route on the weekends because it reminds me of working, and I like to remove myself from any thoughts of my job when I can. It’s not that I don’t like my job (because I do like it very much), it’s more of a refresh mechanism that I’ve integrated into my life so I don’t feel immense repetition.

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So, anywhere I need to go on a weekend will likely never involve my weekly commute, even if it causes me to drive out of my way.

Because of this habit, I find myself in all sorts of interesting locations, seeing all sorts of interesting sights and all sorts of interesting people.

This past weekend was no exception.

While driving out to get some landscaping supplies, I swung through a neighborhood that I pass through maybe three times a year. And if I’ve been through this neighborhood nine times in the past three years, I’ve seen the same guy mowing his lawn at least four times.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to a guy mowing his lawn, but this guy stood out. Ironically, in most ways he was just what you’d expect from a guy pushing a lawn mower on a Saturday: mid-30s, unkempt hair, pair of ratty shorts, faded T-shirt, and a scruffy beard.

The one thing, however, that made this young man stand out was that he had no arms. In the place of his missing limbs were two prosthetic devices that were attached to a harness strapped around his chest.

The prosthetic arms started at the shoulder and went all the way down to his wrists, where two metal, claw-like extensions gripped onto the mower handle. I don’t pretend to know anything about prosthetics, but in my best estimations, these were very dated apparatuses.

I was in shock the first time I saw him manhandling that mower around his yard. He wrestled the machine with finesse, but you could tell it was a major struggle for him to get the job accomplished. And yet, there he was, working his tail off when he likely had the single greatest excuse to never mow a lawn.

On the few occasions that I’ve seen him, I’ve always spent a considerable amount of time thinking about him after I’ve driven past. I’ve wondered how he came to have no arms; was he born that way or was it an accident?

But what I’ve probably dwelled on the most is what type of man he must be to be able to conjure up the gumption to get out and perform a chore so notably detached from his abilities.

I have many hopes for this young man, as well.

I hope that he uses his obvious resourcefulness in all areas of his life, and I hope that resourcefulness has put him in a place of genuine fulfillment. I also hope that the dated prosthetics that he wears to do yard work are a spare set that he doesn’t mind getting dirty. And I hope that he’s been fitted with a pair of those fancy titanium models that use robotics to mimic the movement and feel of real arms. Anyone who has the guts to do what he does deserves a pair of those.

Seeing this guy taking the time and effort to mow his lawn has made me question the fact that I pay a company to mow my own. Of course, it wasn’t always that way. I started mowing my own lawn at 13 and did so up until a few years ago when cancer treatments rendered me incapable.

At that time, I hired a company, with the full intention of letting them go once I was better. But that day never came, mostly because I felt liberated from never having to think about gasoline, trimmer line, blade sharpening, stained green footwear, and every other aspect of lawn mowing that weighs a person down.

But even my all-time worst day of mowing pales in comparison to what this young man deals with on every Saturday of his life. What an inspiration!

This week’s film features another young man who also has a handicap — namely, he’s made of wood.

Originally released in Italy in 2019 (but only made available in the U.S. at the beginning of 2021 due to the pandemic), this modern adaptation of the classic Italian novel from 1883 is a visual masterpiece. However, while it is a fun and interesting film to watch, the progress of the underlying story never matched the audacious visuals.

Check this one out if you love the classic story and don’t mind subtitles. It’s a “Wizard of Oz” wannabe without the allure.

A petrified “B-” for “Pinocchio,” available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Got a question or comment for Dom?  You can email him at [email protected]

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