Is It Just Me?

My thriving city and my peaceful neighborhood are getting noisier and noisier in a way that makes me want to add to the sound pollution by repeatedly shrieking, “Just STOP it!”  

I’m not talking about the sounds of progress related to downtown development, although those pile drivers would drive me nuts if I lived close to them. Nor am I referring to the incessant noise from nail guns being used for Old NE renovations. It’s not dogs barking (well, sometimes it is) or kids yelling that are driving me to distraction. It’s the leaf blowers. 

When did everyone get so crazy about the sight of leaves on the ground? I can name dozens of downtown establishments that must believe people won’t be able to navigate their sidewalks or parking lots if they have to walk on or past a little natural debris. 

People used to like leaves, especially when they fell in the fall. Growing up in Pennsylvania, I enjoyed the sound they made when we shuffled through them as we walked. I liked the sound of the rake, when my dad dragged the leaves into piles big enough for more than one kid to jump into. I even liked helping to bag them up for eventual disposal. The leaves weren’t a problem. They just were just a part of the life cycle.

And now, the quest for leaflessness has too often become an irritating, polluting endeavor that accomplishes almost nothing. The last time I tried to have breakfast at one popular downtown venue, we had the misfortune of being there when the leaf guy was on duty. He walked back and forth past patrons, drowning out our conversations and oblivious to everything but his noisy machine. I asked my friend, “How much do you think they pay a guy to do something that annoys customers and blows stuff up in the air so it will come back down in a different place?” Too much, for sure.

  In the interest of full disclosure, John and I own a leaf blower. I don’t love it, but I respect John for using it sparingly and responsibly. Our neighbors’ huge sycamore tree sheds 90% of its leaves onto our yard and sidewalk every year, and after John rakes, sweeps or blows them into a pile, he disposes of them. 

And that’s the other touchy issue. On many, many occasions we have watched a yard worker carefully blow all the leaves on the sidewalk of one house onto the sidewalk of the next house and leave them there, where they soon blow on to the next person’s sidewalk, or back to their original location. The futility of that action drives John as crazy as the noise drives me.  He was looking out the window the other day as a worker made sure that not a single leaf remained in one neighbor’s yard across the street. He was blowing them into the street. In our direction.

“I’m going to say something,” he said.

“Like what?”

“I’m going to ask [the neighbor] to tell his guy to bag the leaves after he blows them.”

I wish John luck, but I believe all leaf removal guys are programmed to do the job exactly the same way, and going the extra mile isn’t part of the assignment. I’m afraid we’re all destined to live our lives to a soundtrack of leaf blowers … until the Grand Prix roars into town and drowns them out for a while. And you can probably guess how I feel about that.

-end-

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