Leafblower Apocalypse

Dealing with the regional love of noisy petroleum-powered household technology

Andre Frattino

A dull, plaintive roar rouses me from my sleep. I move to the window, expecting to see a stricken C-130 from Hunter AAF attempting an emergency landing in the parking lot of my condo development.

But no, it's just a phalanx of employees of our landscaping service, leafblowers howling, blowing leaves and debris from the parking lot into the grass area, from which Mother Nature will return it whence it came.

Still they persist, relentlessly blowing the same leaves around week after week, in one of the stranger examples of Sisyphean futility. When the landscaping crew is at full blast outside my condo, with mowers, edgers, trimmers, and blowers all going at the same time, it's like the beach landing scene in Apocalypse Now, missing only the Wagner soundtrack and the smell of napalm.

The workers seem oblivious to the sound, as none of them wear earplugs or headphones. Will they be as deaf as rock musicians by the time they are thirty? Only time will tell.

When they are done, you can almost taste the quiet. Every few days this scene repeats, regardless of the weather.

Rain or shine, calm or gale, the leafblowers roar on, fighting their eternal battle against the evil leaf.

Wouldn't it make more sense to blow the stuff into a pile and haul it away? I've lived in Savannah for 6 ½ years now, after spending most of my life in the Washington DC area, where for the most part, my experience with leafblowers involved their use to gather piles of leaves together in the fall, to be collected and removed.

This is an idea that has yet to gain serious traction in this area.

Hand-in-glove with the leafblower addiction is the pressure washer cure-all, for all exterior surfaces. Not quite as noisy as the leafblowers, the motor powering the pressure washer merely sounds like a Harley Davidson permanently at idle, pumping gallon after gallon of water through breezeways, on balconies and patios.

Are there better ways to clean the guano off your deck? Are there more efficient ways to keep your patios and porches clean and livable?

Brooms and rakes still exist, and some communities around the country, most notably in California, are trying to ban leafblowers and bring them back. Their reasoning: noise and air pollution, and use of gasoline.

But here in the South, the love of noisy, petroleum-powered technology seems to have cast brooms and rakes into the distant past, along with the rotary dial phone and typewriters.

Are there any regulations about how much noise is permissible? And with the pressure washers, one wonders what is filtering down into our water table, since cleaning chemicals are mixed with the water, to make sure the breezeways, balconies, and patios are as clean as possible.

Do I want to drink it? Probably not, but some of it inevitably winds up coming out of my taps.

How far can we be from a future when these two fabulous devices are somehow to be combined to form one, all-encompassing, ubertool for this new millennium, already 13 years old. It would not be surprising to find that research is already well underway to develop the amazing pressure blower, so that you can cast the leaves aside, clean your decks, balconies, and patios, and water your lawns, all at the same time.

Once perfected and available at every Lowe's and Home Depot, it will allow even more time for surfing porn sites and playing online poker for you homeowners. And for landscaping services, they will be able to make even more noise while still accomplishing little or nothing, and charge even more for it.

Since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, nothing, except perhaps the development of the mufflers on cars and motorcycles, has been done to slow the advancement of louder and louder machines in our environment.

When our dogs and cats run and hide from the noise, as my cat does when the landscapers come through, are they showing that they are really smarter than us? cs

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