This Suburban Leaf Blower Drama Is Getting Heated

This Suburban Leaf Blower Drama Is Getting Heated
Photo:Spencer Platt/Getty Images

When everyone is stuck at home constantly, it’s impossible to avoid getting occasionally annoyed with even the most mundane and innocuous sounds that would otherwise fade into the background of a busy day. I swear, my refrigerator has never been louder. And if a sound was already grating on your nerves pre-pandemic, by several weeks into sheltering-in-place now it is inevitably making you LOSE your GODDAMN mind. I am lucky enough to live with roommates who I genuinely like, and I still had a moment earlier this week where I had to go sit on the roof of my building and cool off, because if I heard the “Tootsie Slide” ONE MORE TIME I was going to go all American Psycho.

This New York Times article digs into one source of noise-related drama driving the suburbs of New York and New Jersey to a breaking point: leaf blowers.

“These things could be going on almost constantly throughout the day,” said Bob Weitzner, the mayor of the Village of Port Washington North, on Long Island, who asked that landscapers refrain from blowing, as many families are home-schooling children. He himself owns an electric blower.
“In no way am I touching a leaf blower until this, pardon the pun, blows over,” he said.

A number of cities, towns, and villages have gone as far as to ban the noisy but effective piece of landscaping equipment. However, the majority of local governments that have directly addressed residents’ leaf blower-related frustrations have only suggested that people refrain from “blowing” during the daytime—setting the stage for passive-aggressive interactions between neighbors for months to come.

The suburbs are deliciously petty during normal times, I can only imagine the neighborhood gossip (and, likely, phone calls to the police) that would be stirred up by that one person on the cul de sac who’s still leaf blowing at 8 a.m. every day.

“Blowing all this stuff in the air,” said Ken Wray, the mayor of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., though he used a cruder word than stuff. “It’s just completely not necessary to do that. Sometime around 20 years ago, guys stopped blow-drying their hair and started blow-drying their lawns.”

(I love a snappy insult as much as the next girl or Gemini, but that last line is fully incoherent.)

Residents of some cities and towns have also expressed concerns that the use of leafblowers could be contributing to the spread of the covid-19 virus, a bit of a stretch! (The current consensus is that the virus only remains airborne in very specific environments—think, a sick patient’s room.) However, leaf blowers are known to spread other not-so-pleasant particles, including mold, fertilizer and rodent dung.

As entertaining as the mundane dramas of suburbia might be, this is a time where it could do us all good to be a bit more thoughtful and sensitive about the ways we interact with our neighbors. For me, that looks like regularly sanitizing the elevator buttons and door handles on the floor of my apartment building. For those in the ‘burbs, that could mean pulling out a rake instead of a blower to get those pesky leaves off your driveway.

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