Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Needless Annoyance

We humans have used our brains and opposable thumbs to build the environments we live in and the various tools and toys we use to make our lives easier and more entertaining. Humans have designed and built machines that help prolong our lives, machines that process, store and cook our food, machines that transport us from place to place over land, sea and air (even space for a select few), machines that allow us to communicate. We even have machines that think for us. Many human inventions were designed to allow humans the time to relax while the machines did the work. And of course, there are machines designed to amuse us during our new found free time.

When one considers the incredible variety and number of the machines humans have built over the past couple of thousand years and how many machines we use every day (often without a thought about the wonder of such a thing existing at all) it becomes obvious that machines are as much a part of the human experience as war. (and they have machines for that too.)

But I have to wonder... are all these machines really necessary?

Do we, as a species, really need the leafblower?

Of all the needless and annoying machines in the world I think leafblowers are probably the worst. What exactly are they for anyway? To blow leaves around? Who thought building an oversized airgun was the way to make yardwork easier? How did that idea even come up? Was some design engineer raking his lawn one day and decided his time was too precious to waste scraping leaves into a pile with a handheld tool, he needed a machine to do the work for him? Or maybe he was just lazy, raking leaves by hand was just too hard.

Whatever the reason, the leafblower was invented and quickly put into use in neighborhoods across the urbanized world. If only there were some way to put that particular mechanical monster back into the box because it ranks as the most needless and annoying machine ever created. At least on my list.

Thinks about what leafblowers replaced... rakes and brooms. (Brooms because people discovered the machines could blow dust from sidewalks and driveways while waiting for leaves to fall from the tree) Rakes and brooms. Tools designed to be powered by the human body using them. Learning the various techniques of their use is easily mastered and they're an efficient tool for the task they were designed to facilitate.

Best of all... rakes and brooms are QUIET! The neighbors next door or down the street are unlikely to care about the gentle rhythmic swish of a rake or broom in use, if they even notice at all. Neither of those tools are likely to raise enough dust to impact a neighbor's hanging laundry or freshly washed car. Sure it may take a little time and some physical effort to rake a lawn or sweep a driveway but it's quality time. Time spent with your body and mind using a tool which enables you to do the task while thinking about whatever you want. (Something people seem to run from these days - quiet reflective moments alone with one's thoughts. It seems more and more people demand non-stop input no matter from what source or how dreck-filled it might be, as long as it distracts them from actually thinking.)

Leafblowers on the other hand are LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS! Not only do the neighbors next door know you're out there blowing leaves and/or dust, so do the people down the street... and the people in the next block... the whole darn neighborhood knows because the annoying noise leafblowers emit smothers the environment with its intensity and volume. All issues about leafblower users carelessly blowing crap onto the neighbor's yard, into the street, against someone's car, at passing pedestrians etc... all those issues aside, the noise annoyance factor alone is enough to warrant smashing every single one of those things to useless little bits.

I'm surprised nobody has started a campaign to ban the darn things. Seems like ban-happy zealots are everywhere these days, everything from plastic bags to smoking outdoors is under attack so why not leafblowers? Why is it ok for one person to blast a whole neighborhood with noise... useless noise... unnecessary noise just because they're too lazy or "too busy" to rake their leaves or sweep their sidewalk?

If I walked around my yard at 8:00 Sunday morning (or any day at dinnertime) screaming my best impression of engine noises as loud as I could someone would probably call the cops (or yell at me to shut-up) yet someone can walk around their yard making even more noise (and raising more dust) and nobody does anything to stop it because he's using a leafblower? Where's the sense in that?

And I'm not buying any arguments that carrying a leafblower around is any easier on one's back than raking or sweeping is. If your back is so bad you can't use a rake or broom it sure as heck isn't good enough to strap a leafblower on instead. If your back or physical limitations are such that raking or sweeping is impossible then hire some neighborhood kid to to the job for you. (I shake my head at the addled seniors who buy a leafblower and then hire someone to use it for them.)

Nope, there's no argument that legitimizes the use of leafblowers.

Here's another thing...


They run on gas, no? So that means they're spewing exhaust toxins into the atmosphere at the same time they're polluting our ears. Is the ecological trade-off worth it? It's okay if leafblowers pollute the air, contribute to the continued use of fossil fuels and add to global warming because they make doing yardwork easier? Seriously?

Leafblowers suck.
That's the truth of it.

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