Originally, I had intended to post a modest rant about one of my favorite American headaches:
Leaf blowers (and other varieties of gas-powered lawn equipment).
I quickly realized, however, it would be far more effective to illustrate the nuisance in action — to capture it in film — at least to begin. So I produced a short documentary on the topic. Actually, the flick is more of a mockumentary with a twist of sci-fi thriller. I call it The Leafinator, and it very well could win me an Academy Award. Here’s the blurb:
The Leafinator is a blockbuster sci-fi thriller about cyborg lawn equipment sent back in time to destroy a man who dreams of a future free from annoying technology.
The trailer can be found here:
The full film, here:
Now to supplement my cinematic artistry with a bit of philosophical elaboration:
There’s much to hate about leaf blowers and other landscaping machines. First, they are so loud that you can literally hear them a half-mile away. So think what it must be like for the people who live next door. Bahahaha! Just kidding. Screw ’em, right? Who cares if your neighbors want or need quiet time to rest or read or think or meditate or go about their business in their own home? To hell with others’ privacy in their own property when there’s dirt and grass to blow off sacred concrete pathways!
Second, leaf blowers kick up enormous clouds of dust and dirt, animal excrement, mold and mildew, herbicides and fertilizers, and other allergens (e.g., pollen, grasses, etc.). Yeah. So why not just blast all that noxious stuff up into the air and let it sprinkle back down wherever it may land, say, on top of your neighbor’s kids while they play in their back yard? Who cares where it lands as long as it doesn’t desecrate your concrete shrines?
Third, using gas-powered leaf blowers makes you an asshole. If you think it’s necessary to shoot tiny twigs and particles of wood, leaves, and dead grass through space, jamming them through the tight slits under my doors and windows, thereby covering the inside of my house and car with a fine powder of stuff that you, for some reason, don’t think belongs in a yard — well, then, you’re the worst kind of asshole.
Fourth, rakes and brooms work better and don’t make you seem like a moron. If dirt, leaves, and twigs lying around outside is a real problem for you, then please realize that blowers seriously fail to address that problem. Why? Because they just move stuff from one place to another. Like a child pushing toys under a bed, leaf blowers don’t clean and remove. They merely rearrange and hide, which forces you to deal with the problem again and again. Brooms and dust pans, rakes and bags, however… Well, either you get it or you don’t.
Fifth, as I understand it, leaf blowers and other mega-powerful lawn equipment harm the environment because of the gas they guzzle, the unregulated pollutants they emit, and the excessively loud and unnatural noises they produce (which prevent birds and bees from doing what they need to do to keep the ecosystem thriving). Now, this last concern is something I can neither confirm nor deny myself. So I’ll just stick to what I do know: using leaf blowers, etc. seriously interferes with human health and sanity. But if they also chase away pollinating critters and erode topsoil, then, yeah, that sucks really bad, too.
Speaking of sucking: If only leaf blowers sucked then they wouldn’t suck so bad!
All this said, a case can be made, I think, for electric blowers since they are nowhere near as powerful or loud. But you’re still just sweeping stuff under the rug, right? And I would say that even large gas-powered blowers have some uses. Certainly never in urban or suburban areas — but maybe in large rural areas on secluded properties with lots of trees. Maybe.
About the suburbs: industrial-strength lawn equipment + suburbs = total senselessness. These days, equipment is louder and more powerful, while yards are smaller and houses closer together. I currently live within a stone’s throw of 10-12 houses. So there is quite literally rarely a time that I don’t hear some machine or another wailing away in the distance in an off-key pitch, or even vibrating my walls.
Then there’s those who “pressure wash” and shampoo their beloved concrete pathways. The ritual tends to last no less than four hours. So if this is what the idiot next door has scheduled for his Saturday afternoon, you better hope you don’t have anything relaxing planned for yourself in your yard. Besides, yards aren’t meant to be enjoyed. They’re for landscaping and blasting with machines. I’m certain that God ordains this somewhere in the Bible.
So why all the noise? Why the perceived need to keep your lawn looking tweezed, plucked, waxed, plastic, and sculpted? Why the obsession to keep up appearances? I mean, what’s so wrong with this yard?
Keep in mind, a pretty exterior often conceals an ugly, miserable interior. I’m sure the fellow who lives in the home pictured above couldn’t be happier with existence. So one can only imagine what the creatures who live in the house below are trying to hide.
Regardless, it all seems bizarre if you put the tiniest amount of thought to it. Why can’t a single blade of grass ever touch one’s concrete? Why the desire literally to dig a small trench between the clean artificial concrete and the dirty but natural stuff of earth?
The answers aren’t difficult to find if you consider the suburban mentality. Key here is the obsession to mark off one’s “property” as one’s own, separate and distinct from another’s property and from nature. This is the grass-farming suburbanite’s raison d’être. Fences and rows of bushes do the trick nicely. But nothing says “Mine, not yours” as decisively as the moat-like ditch a lawn edger digs!
And all that plasticity? Well, that’s suburbanites telling nature to go screw itself:
“John and Mindy Grass-Farmer live here now, Nature, and we’re here to stay!”
In other words, edged trenches, shampooed driveways, waxen bushes, and leafless lawns are no more than tokens of identity and pride, just like tattoos, crucifixes, ball caps, and bumper stickers.
Leaf blowers and other such devices offer people who fall short in, say, artistic or intellectual respects, a way to project an image — a way to carve out an arbitrary place in the world. This goes for the noise they make as well, which presents, as it were, a sonic image. In satisfying the primitive instinct to ward off would-be intruders, the release of a loud, threatening sound also helps powerless people to feel important and strong. It’s the modern-day battle cry.
It’s helpful to understand this in a comparison to Harley motorcycle riders. Can you imagine so many of them riding around in packs on weekend afternoons if their “bikes” didn’t utter a peep?
Think about it: How many folks do you think would choose a leaf blower that was totally silent over an equally powerful one that was insanely loud? Be honest. Would you? Wouldn’t you think something was missing? Wouldn’t you think it wasn’t serving its purpose somehow? That’s because most people find noise comforting.
But, but, but… Loud pipes save lives!
Wrong. This is just one of the many nonsense myths people regurgitate these days, so much so that it’s almost taboo to deny. But I happily deny it:
Loud pipes do not save lives. Nor were they ever intended to do so.
Why not? Well, first, because this idea suggests that bikers who end up getting creamed on the road just weren’t making enough noise. That is ridiculous. It puts the blame somewhere it shouldn’t be, and that’s not helpful. Hell, screw my seat belt. I’m just gonna drive around honking my horn so people don’t hit me.
Second, if “saving lives” were the real goal, more bikers would wear neon pink or green vests instead of dark leather duds with cool logos. Also, helmets, you would think, save more lives than loud ‘vrooms’. So why do bikers who don’t wear them bother to modify their pipes to increase the noise?
Third, folks here in the South (esp., redneck men) tend to drive around in lifted 4×4 pickups with modified exhaust systems that roar every bit as loudly as Harley “pipes.” So are these idiots saving lives, too? What about teens who drive lowered Civics with mufflers that sound like a pig sodomizing an antique lawn mower?
Fourth, the “pipes” of a crotch rocket easily reach those cool, deafening decibel levels. But a number of people who ride such bikes have no problem flying down the highway at 110 mph, zipping in and out of lanes, cutting people off, and coming up along cars faster than you can turn your head to see them.
Fifth, riders of motorcycles go ‘vroom vroom’ the most whenever they are sitting idle in a parking lot or rolling through an otherwise serene town square at 5 mph. Whew, thanks for saving all those lives, guys! Y’all are true American heroes! Please don’t worry about damaging the hearing of people walking along sidewalks or enjoying their lunch outside. Just keep savin’ lives!
Finally, the largest and loudest vehicle on the highway is the semi-truck. Still, people cruising down the interstate in cars seem to have no problem at all finding the sides of semis. Fact: the loudest, most conspicuous vehicle on the highway is also the most dangerous. Go figure.
So there you have it. Loud “pipes” are not meant to save lives at all. The point, rather, is simple: you make your “bike” emit such noise so you will stick out. Noise is your brand, your calling card. Your clothes are loud. Your hair, beard, and tats are loud. Your TV is loud. Your kids and dog are loud. So why not be heard a mile away by an old lady at home in her rocking chair when you’re heading to the store to grab smokes?
The same goes for leaf blowers, which allow the blower and his/her yard to stick out. Like loud motorcycles, they serve to mark the owner’s territory as distinctive, obvious, attractive. But why do that? Why all the attention-whoring? It’s simple: to attract potential mates. No really, think about it. The shaft-like blow pipe of a leaf blower is a whopper of a phallic symbol. And what about all that pointless revving:
Rawr, raawwr, raaawwrrr… vrrooom, vrooooooom….
Does it not sound familiar? Squeeze the trigger and feel the tool throb in your hands. Just like a Harley dude in a parking lot senselessly revving his engine though idling, a suburbanite with a leaf blower gets off when exciting his own engine, once or twice real quick, just to feel it jerk and convulse.
Most importantly, the job of a leaf blower is to penetrate, to cross boundaries, to intrude where it does not belong. When you’re trying to read or relax and your neighbor is proudly stroking his blower, forcefully ejecting stuff from his property onto yours, penetrating your walls with his own sound and substance against your will — how could this be seen as anything other than mental rape?
In summary, leaf blowing, edging, trimming, obsessive mowing — it’s all part of an elaborate suburban mating ritual. Suburban Man enjoys the illusion of controlling protruding cylindrical objects that shoot stuff outwards — tailpipes, guns, pressure wands, etc. For some reason, this makes him feel proud, powerful, and dominant. So he never hesitates to show off this pride, even to those who don’t consent. But bear in mind:
Loud pipes tell lies.
Suburban Man wants to give the impression that he is massive and strong, master of his territory. He uses powerful machines to reassure himself and others that his own biological equipment is just as potent. But Suburban Man is a fool. In reality, he’s an insecure, child-like weakling playing with toys. Sure, his mechanical grunts and growls may drown out the mating calls of other men on the block and will probably lure Suburban Woman. But we should see it for what it really is. As Freud said:
Zie louder zie blower, zie smaller zie wiener.
© Joshua J. Reynolds 2018. All rights reserved.