Linked to the Outer World

August Men's Room column

Phase 1 of my frustrating day has me lying on my driveway, talking on the phone while shining a flashlight under my busted lawnmower. 

I’ve called the shop that serviced the machine a month ago. Something has gone wrong, and the mechanic wants me to check a part he calls the “deck linkage.” I’m hoping he can talk me through a quick fix and stop the financial bleeding.

Speaking of bleeding, I have my face inches from the two blades that cut my grass with the force of 15 horsepower, overkill for my little yard. And speaking of overkill, I have a hand on one blade, feeling for damage while I look for that deck linkage. If this mower were to crank, I’d have a whole different problem on my hands, if I still had hands for the problem to be on.

“I don’t see it,” I tell the mechanic.

“Are you looking at the front of the deck or the back?” he says.

“The front.”

“You should be looking at the back.”

It goes on like this, him instructing, me misunderstanding, him trying again, me misunderstanding again. We give up.

“The English language has failed us,” he says, and I know he’s talking about me.

Frustration Phase 2 commences at midday, when my doctor’s office calls.

“Our notes show you’re dealing with excessive somnolence,” the woman says.

“Is this about the deck linkage on my lawnmower?” I say.

“It’s about being sleepy all day,” she says. “Has that been a problem for you?”

It has.

“Well,” I say, “I did tell the doctor we should all take a siesta every day, like they do in Spain, because I can’t stay awake after lunch. Is that excessive somnolence?”

“It is if you’re not in Spain,” she says.

Phase 3 unfolds in the afternoon. I fight off sleep and go back to my driveway to study the mower. Just as I settle on the concrete, rain comes.

I decide I need a yoga class to bring balance to this demonic day.

I’m running late. The rain has gone full monsoon, and one of my sneakers has let go of its sole, leaving me with a flop-squeak-flop walk that gets noticed when I rush into the darkened room and find everyone in child’s pose. They look like pod people waiting for the mothership to arrive.

I sit on my asana next to my busted shoes, filled not with light but with a day of confusion, irritation, and negative energy.

“Yoga allows us to remove the barriers that stand between us and happy, productive lives,” the instructor says, and I know she’s talking about me. “As we exhale, we let go of the emotional weights that hold us captive to the outer world and its demands on our time, depleting our capacity for positivity.”

Soft music oozes through the darkness. I’m sure the band is called Excessive Somnolence.

We wind down, lying on our backs for a few meditative moments. I breathe out and invite this chance at tranquility, my first all day. I close my eyes, and just as I’m about to fall asleep, I experience a vision: the undercarriage of my lawnmower, and there, hovering over my consciousness, I see the deck linkage, yoking me to the outer world, assuring me of myriad frustrations to come.

Tim Bass is coordinator of UNCW’s bachelor of fine arts program in creative writing.

To view more of illustrator Mark Weber’s work, go to

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Categories: Culture