My Daddy taught me to sweep. It was required outdoor activity on the weekends. I’d sweep the dirt and debris into neat little piles, scoop it up with a dust pan and pour it into the garbage can.
There was something soothing about the order of all this.
Now however, with the coming of blowers, a simple, quiet task has turned into chaotic activity. In our neighborhood near Rice University, it starts on Monday mornings at 8 a.m. sharp. A small army of men arrive in a truck, jump down and swarm my neighbor’s yard like bees, wearing goggles, ear plugs, surgeon masks and packing double barrel leaf blowers. Their mission? To cover ground and conquer time…x number of yards in x number of hours.
No poetry here. Ain’t no gardening either.
On Tuesdays, the same drill occurs in my yard—only our landscape company is a one man show. Rather than hearing two or three blowers simultaneously, one blasts continuously for what seems like hours.
On Wednesdays, yet another company hits the yard across the street. So on and so on, throughout the week so that on any given day in our neighborhood (except Sundays) you’ve got, as Marvin Zindler might emphasize, blowers on the brain!
One Thursday, I was on my computer trying to complete a sentence when suddenly, I just snapped. I snatched up the receiver like it was bobbing down a fast moving river and called our neighbor, Sally, who happens to be the kindest soul who ever walked the planet.
“Hello,” she answered sweetly.
I don’t remember eggs-zactly how I said it but above the sound of blowers, amplified through both our receivers, I proceeded to unload as politely as possible.
“Can you please get those guys to stop blowin’?!” I screamed.
Seconds later, with the blowers silenced and my sentence completed, I realized that in my line of work anyway, there’s only one thing worse than writer’s block.
Of course, it’s not just in neighborhoods. Blowers are ubiquitous. You can be driving almost anywhere and see one in use, often blowing debris out on to the street. If you’re like me, you immediately roll up the windows and close all the vents. Sometimes the person behind the blower politely backs away momentarily for my car to pass but other times, like the debris, they just blow me off.
Now I’m not saying that leaf blowers are the downfall of western civilization, but they sure seem to be representative of it. We’re not cleaning up our own mess – we’re just blowin’ it off on our neighbor. Someone else can finish the job. The blower may give us clean driveways but it also gives us the false sense of a chore achieved.
How blissful it might be if President Obama declared a ban on blowers and we’d all have to go back to using the broom. Return to the simple, relatively silent act of sweeping. To hear that slow, swishing sound of a broom swinging back and forth—reminding me of Saturdays and most every Sunday.