Step 1. Make sure it has gas in there. Gas makes it go.
Step 2. Be prepared. Point it in the direction you want it to go just in case it starts this time.
Step 3. Mess with the little handle thingy until it’s halfway between the bunny symbol and the turtle symbol. This is because we don’t know which one is right. My daughter prefers bunny and then switches to turtle, whereas I tend to favor the halfway point, where I imagine some imaginary freak hybrid animal should live. Like maybe an armadillo.
Step 4. Say the Mower Good Luck Chant, which goes something like, “Please please please turn on!”
Step 5. Think angry thoughts (but not too angry so as to offend the mower) in order to give your arm some oomph, and pull the ripcord a bunch of times while saying the Chant. If it miraculously starts, jump up and down and say the Thank You Chant. Do NOT—this is important—do NOT swear at it or call it names if it won’t start! I have never known the mower to start after swearing has begun.
Step 6. Mow the worst parts first in case it quits halfway through, even though this means you weave in random patterns and create crop circles. The Laws of Mowing clearly state that mowing SOME lawn is better than mowing none at all. If the mower quits and we leave that weird reverse putting green again, the neighbors will at least know we tried, and the really nice ones’ grandson might come over on the riding mower. (So far it’s only happened when my daughter has been mowing in shorts, but you never know.)
Step 7. Do NOT stop the mower for any reason, even if you see sticks in your way, because it may not turn back on. So just close your eyes real tight and run over stuff, and say “Sorry, mower!!” to appease it. Alternately, say, “Ow ow ow”—whichever is required.
Step 8. If the mower does poop out again, repeat all the steps. When you are tempted to swear at the mower, call the Lawn Goddess, the resident teenaged daughter. She will consider a moment, nod, blink sagely, and ask, “Did you say ‘Please?’” You will of course report that you did, three times, at which point she may prescribe adding just a few more “pleases.” Because she has the most technical knowledge in our home, she may also suggest something like “more bunny” or “switch to turtle.” That’s pretty much the extent of our cumulative knowledge.
Step 9. If, by some miracle, you manage to mow the whole thing, put your hands on your hips and survey what you have done. Say to yourself, “I am She-Mower, Conquerer of the Lawn, and I am awesome.” Be sure to repeat the Thank You Chant.
Step 10. The preferred alternative to all of this is, of course, hiring the cute bronzed Lawn Guy with the rocking biceps. Check his progress often by sneaking peaks out the window. Sometimes he takes his shirt off.