We live near the airport, but it’s been quieter since the virus showed up. The other morning, as I lay awake listening to the birdies, I heard an awful noise that got louder and louder and I got all worked up over the idea that anyone would be operating a goddam leaf blower anytime let alone that hour of the morning, until I realized it was just an airplane. Shame on me. I was blaming some nameless neighbor–although I did have a particular neighbor in mind–for something that wasn’t even happening. So. There is definitely a lesson to take away from this incident.
And that is that leaf blowers are as loud as a fucking airplane. They are.
Whatever it takes to get a five billion pound metal tube in the air and keep it there is as fucking noisy as the little backpack tube we use to terrorize the last cherry blossom into the street.
And there is no reason for it to exist. It should not exist. The job it does shouldn’t be done. Perfection is a trap.*
Oh sure. It does the job it does way more expeditiously than a rake or a broom or whatever else one might apply to the problem. You can spank your lawn clean in no time and all it costs is one more wasted bolus of fossilized carbon and the good will and serenity of your neighbors, many of whom have trouble concentrating over the sound of a tyrannosaur stepping on Legos.
So let us review. We can now accomplish something at great speed that doesn’t need doing and wasn’t done ever until about forty years ago in spite of the fact that we as a species have been fine for over a million years without doing it, and not only will we leave our surroundings aesthetically dull and completely useless to our fellow planet inhabitants, but we will do it with all the ambience of a one-ton mosquito having dental work done. There are vanishingly few mosquitoes that weigh a ton and those that do rarely need dental work, and there should be exactly the same number of leaf blowers.
Nothing needs to be that tidy. If you absolutely have to scrape all the leaves off your lawn and dump them in the street gutters, it can be done with a rake, fueled by a sandwich. But there’s another side to your compulsion to tidy. Imagine, if you will, a sumptuous banquet laid out before you. It’s coming on winter, but you’re in great shape. There are seedpods to dangle from and berries to scarf and leaves to scuff up for delectable worms and grublets. Your very beak is watering just thinking about it. And then someone comes along and upends the table and dumps the entire banquet into the trash. Someone whose obsessive-compulsive disorder is triggered by a table crumb. Why, in the general scheme of things, should the guy with the mental affliction be in charge? It would be like finding some guy who’s uncomfortable when he’s not surrounded by pasty rich people, and letting him run America.
And if we gotta have that guy, we should at least make him quieter.
*Edited to add: Dispersing tear gas is an acceptable use for a leaf blower.
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