Lawlessness is spreading through the suburbs. Landscapers and homeowners in our troubled land are wielding leaf blowers like weapons of minor destruction, sending grass clippings and debris onto the sidewalks and into the streets. Usually my street.
And in three months, these same miscreants will be pushing snow from their driveways into the path of school buses and senior citizen vans.
I’m sure they’re God-fearing men and women, respectable members of the community — Masons, Lions, Knights, Daughters of the American Revolution, Democrats, Republicans, veterans, Walmart shoppers, loyal husbands and fathers, diligent providers for their families and fastidious members of garden clubs with neatly clipped shrubbery and well-manicured lawns. So why do they blow their debris into the street or authorize their landscapers to do the dirty deed?
Since only one car an hour drives down my street, I calculate the clippings won’t be pulverized until the next millennium when they’ll wash into the storm drain and flow into Long Island Sound, where they’ll create an algae bloom that destroys marine life as we know it, including the lobster roll you craved.
I’ve often driven on the Post Road with my windows open and consumed a mouthful of dust from a leaf blower. It’s worse than the Dust Bowl days of the Great Depression, as memorialized by Ken Burns in his PBS documentary. Now, he should create a program about the leaf blower crisis.
My neighbors agonize over a few grass clippings instead of letting them decay on the lawn. My wife shares this obsession, so I keep the leaf blower locked up, for fear she’ll blow grass into our neighbor’s mailbox as a reprisal for his blowing clippings on to our side of the street.
Do they think a sweeper will come along and clean up the mess or that tricycle traffic will smush it into compost? When school buses and garbage trucks pass by, grass clumps start flying all over the place, and our quaint country road looks like Kansas after the tornado took Dorothy and Toto to Oz.
It gets worse in autumn. Falling leaves bring out the anarchist in homeowners. Every October, I argue with my wife because I don’t want a SWAT team of professional landscapers descending on our yard to create a whirlwind of pollution and debris, stirring up pollen and leaf mold and contributing to the respiratory problems and allergies of ailing people everywhere, namely myself.
It’s better to do fall cleanup the old-fashioned way just like we did in Pine Rock Park. Grab a rake, burn a few calories and get a few calluses. It’s better for the lawn, it’s better for your respiratory system and it’s better for the troposphere. My family members, however, don’t like to rake.
I’m old enough to remember life before the invention of the gas-powered, high-velocity leaf blower, back when communities passed ordinances to control the noise in upper-class suburbs. Leaf blowers disrupted the peaceful harmony of a neighborhood, especially neighborhoods in Greenwich, where they held polo matches and drank lattes before Starbucks came along.
In the early days, the masses didn’t have leaf blowers because they were restricted to a privileged few with four-acre zoning. Now, however, the common man and common woman can drive to the nearest Home Depot and invest in their own arsenal.
I realize every American has a constitutionally guaranteed right to blow dust into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Nevertheless, this crisis is something the protectors of our galaxy, like Al Gore and Pope Francis, should investigate with the New York Times environmental editor and a reporter from the National Enquirer.
The National Leaf Blowers Association is a powerful lobbyist, I’m sure, but leaf blowers are dangerous devices that should require a license to operate. In the hands of the wrong people — the untrained, the fanatical and the incompetent — they can cause mayhem in a civil society.
As our state confronts a political apocalypse, legislators have a lot on their minds, such as getting reelected so they can install toll booths and legalize pot, but maybe they can take five minutes to deal with this situation … and then get back to inventing new and exciting ways to tax us so they can Make Connecticut Great Again.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.