Opinion: Pet Peeves

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No Miracle Grow

By Mark D. Crantz

May is the month for house and garden tours. No surprise, my house and garden are not participating. To my eye, the house and garden look good enough to participate, but there’s never an invite. Instead, the house, the garden and me look forlorn, as green thumbers walk by with nary a glance.

We shake off the snub and think, well, there’s always next year. But are we kidding ourselves? We live on a corner and get plenty of afternoon sunlight. Lately, my garden has sprung up an open house real estate sign. “Honey, are we having an open house?” My wife answers, “Nobody told me. But move out if you want. Maybe a real man will move in.”

This doesn’t lift my spirits. I squint harder at the open house sign. Maybe the neighbors have gotten together and voted us out in a closed-session coup. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched. There have been warning signs. The neighbors line up their garbage cans in front of my house on the six days the garbage isn’t being picked up. My neighbors have said to me from time to time, “Crantz, you have the corner lot for garbage cans. Plenty of curb space, nice and flat, and you get good afternoon sunlight to heat up the cans’ last week food aromas.”

Then there have been the hints that the garden isn’t up to snuff. One concerned neighbor decided to give me a garden boost. Late at night, when columnists sleep, he snuck in and planted seeds. Some weeks later, I was surprised not to be able to see the open house sign out my window. A sheer wall of green blocked the view. I went outside for a closer look and to get a whiff of the rotten food garbage smells. Lo and behold, 50 or so sunflower plants were reaching for the sun and obviously happy to be on a corner lot. Now, come on. Let’s wait a second before watering. I’ve always lived by the garden rule to never have a plant taller than me. It’s unsettling to be the man of the house looking up at a plant. I yelled, “Honey, I think the men of your dreams have arrived.”

Is it possible that a neighbor had set me up for the plant version of the “Bachelorette.” My wife has always liked gardening. Was it a stretch to think my wife would start spending more time with a plant taller, brighter and more happy to talk to than me? No, it wasn’t a stretch. These man-eating plants had to go.

I made plans to take control. For several weeks, I watered less, said no to Miracle Grow and encouraged the neighborhood dogs to mark their territories. Slowly, the plants drooped down to size. My wife said, “Wow…I better get out and work the garden. Those plants are looking as bad as you. Give me a hand.”

That wasn’t my plan. I didn’t want to spend more time in the garden. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was an opportunity to share a hobby my wife loved. Plus, I could look closer at the neighbors and try to figure out who wanted us out.

It was a pleasant afternoon on that sunny garden lot. My wife got to weeding. I got to pretending to weed. My wife’s mood improved as she worked the garden. My mood went down in frustration as one neighbor after the next commented on how great the sunflower plants looked. One neighbor pointed at me and asked my wife, “Is he the new gardener? Send him over once you’re done. I have a ton of weeds he can pull.”

It was at that moment of hating photosynthesis that I noticed the garden rock. The rock was new. It wasn’t here last time I rearranged the neighborhood garbage cans from biggest to smallest. I asked my wife, “Where did this rock come from?” She replied, “Wipe away the dirt. You’ll know.” I wiped the rock clean and read “Mork & Mindy’s Garden.”

I knew the neighbor who had done this. He always called us ‘Mork and Mindy,’ after the TV show. I was Mork, the bumbling alien who tries to understand Earth’s culture and then writes badly about it. He was telling us, Nanu! Nanu! (Translation: Goodbye! Goodbye!)

Crantz tells the Indy that he outlasted the sunflowers and hopes to be on next year’s garbage can tour instead.

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