Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apocalypse Autumn

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 Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now emoted about how he loved the smell of napalm in the morning. Equally as stimulating is the sound of leaf-blowers at 7 a.m. in a suburban neighborhood. Whoever invented leaf-blowers should be flown to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands, to be tried for crimes against humanity. While I am not an advocate for the death penalty, this might be one deserving exception.

When I was young, there were no leaf-blowers—only people with rakes. The rhythmic thrashing sound of rakes combing the lawns was quite soothing. And while it was eventually banned for ecological reasons, the smell of burning leaves was autumnal incense that appealed to the zen pyromaniac in me.

That pastoral scene was not to remain. Instead, some sadistic moron with a marketing plan had to invent a gas-gulping noise machine that disturbs the peace and contributes to communal deafness. God forbid we should actually have to put some physical effort into anything. No more family raking, jumping around in the leaves and bagging or composting. We’re too busy reenacting that on Simms City with a circus clown.

The average blower packs 70 to 75 decibels of ear-numbing vibration at 50 feet according to a manufacturer's lobbyist, and is most likely louder at a closer distance. Leaf-blowers are routinely used less than 50 feet from unconsenting pedestrians and neighboring homes that may be occupied by long-suffering people like you and me.

The World Health Organization recommends a general daytime outdoor noise level of 55 decibels or less, and no more than 45 decibels to meet sleep criteria. That means that even a 65-decibel leaf-blower would be 100 times* too loud to allow healthful sleep, which in my house is often trying to occur at 7 a.m. on any given day.

Sometimes advocates of the Devil’s Yard Tool try to justify motorized ear torture by comparing it to the 65 decibels of a normal conversation. Right. I don’t care what study you cite, NO normal conversation sounds like a leaf-blower and no one with any common sense would buy that. You can sell that argument to the EPA along with the Brooklyn Bridge.

I imagine laziness and leaf-blowers are here to stay. So I’d just like to make one small request: Could the same genius who invented the Gardening Tool From Hell also invent a quiet motor for it? If guns can be silenced then so can leaf-blowers. It's all a matter of priorities. So give it a try. It just might earn you a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

*From 45 decibels to 65 decibels is two ten-fold increases, or 10 x 10.

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