Monday, November 12, 2007

Blowing Leaves

Please excuse the lack of in-depth commentary in this post but I’ve got to get something off my chest. It’s leaf-blowers. Today I would like to examine leaf-blowers as a metaphor for all that is wrong with modern life, in particular, suburban modern life. I live in the suburbs of Paris. Oh I know, that sounds glamorous, but believe me, it isn’t. In the 1970s and 80s, ugly concrete apartment buildings started sprouting up all over what were once sleepy towns and villages like mushrooms after a spring rain. I should know, I live in one of them. To be fair, these apartment buildings are for the most part quite comfortable and a heck of a lot more affordable than those cute little stone houses, which now go for millions of euros. Many of said apartment buildings have a little landscaping around them, and ours has a lovely view of the local race track.

But here’s the thing. It’s autumn, and the leaves are falling. For some reason, it has been decided by our proud local developers that not a single leaf shall soil the pathways, lawns, and flower-beds of the résidence. Hence the leaf-blowers. Maybe I’m crazy, but aren’t fallen leaves part of the autumn experience? In fact, isn’t there a famous French song entitled Fallen Leaves? Isn’t walking through piles of leaves, or jumping into them, one of those cherished childhood memories shared by many of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere? Do we really care if there are a few leaves strewn across our path?

Apparently, the powers that be do. They have decreed that everyone in the neighborhood must suffer the noisy blasts of leaf-blowers at all hours of the day. Autumn is no longer the season of colors and fallen leaves, it is the season of endlessly whining leaf-blowers. I am a writer. I work at home. In addition to leaf-blowers, my neighbors get to listen to me whine about the noise. And I can’t even imagine the ordeal that the guy who operates the bloody machine goes through. Here in France, where lawsuits are not the national sport (but strikes are, stay tuned for the big one Wednesday), I see lots of leaf-blower guys working without earplugs. So let’s recap. In order to preserve the pristine environment of our sleek suburban digs, the developers have hired battalions of leaf-blower guys, whose machinery is noisy, polluting, and dangerous to worker’s health. Now instead of enjoying the quiet spectacle of falling leaves, we are regaled with unpleasant noise and smells. All so that our living area is spotless, so we can show the world how perfect and superior we are. Not only that, the cost of this unnecessary enterprise is added on to our rent. Are we to stand here, helpless, as more and more suburban communities around the world are afflicted by this plague? No! I call on you all, fellow residents of suburbia, to rise up against this oppression! Down with leaf-blowers! Long live the rake!


Aralena said...

completely agree, and would add that the dust particles blown up create more pollution to be allergic to.

Polly said...

Well, damn -- naive Parisian urban dweller that I am, I thought that there weren't ANY leaf-blowers in France because it violated those supposedly strict French noise pollution laws. Leaf blowers are the scourge of the "modern" world.

Last year I missed the whole rotten leaf smell in Paris, because everything was so tidied up, that I had to search and search to find a pile of decaying leaves.

Margie Rynn said...

Aralena, I have it from primary sources that yes indeed, they aggravate allergies.

Polly—I didn't even know that there were noise-pollution laws here—maybe they only apply to Paris intra-muros. But I fear that any attempts to get them to stop blowing would be met with sniffy dismay by some of my neatness-obsessed neighbors. In the past when I've gotten riled up about such things, everyone looks at me like I'm a freak and I feel like a stranded New Yorker in a sea of French indifference.