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Report From PIA – March 9

I was parked next to the Osterville Library today as a landscape crew was doing their spring cleanup. When I pulled into the space the noise from the leaf blowers was so loud I was afraid for my hearing should I step out of the car. The man who was swinging the blower back and forth was wearing ear protection, but, silly me, I didn’t happen to have any in the car.

Within two minutes my car was filled with petrochemical fumes, and I didn’t know which would be worse: opening the door and making a dash for the post office while holding my breath, or staying in the car and waiting for the crew to finish and leave. I hate leaf blowers.

We all have days when we feel powerless or a bit overwhelmed. Tasks pile up and become much more complicated than we’ve envisioned, and it seems that a simple quest for assistance is met with faulty voice-recognition software or an unending menu of “If you want x then press one! If you want y, press two! If you want…”

Can you tell that this is the type of day I’ve had? I dearly wanted to be out in the sunshine cutting down grasses and rounding up leaves with an actual, quiet, hand-powered rake, but it was not to be.

So how does my dislike of leaf blowers mesh with a trying-to-take-care-of-business-but-getting-pretty-frustrated-at-every-turn-day? Here’s what I think: leaf blowers offer people the illusion that things can be easy and without cost. It is a fantasy to think that using a tool that’s noisy and burns gasoline (non-renewable, toxic fumes) is without a price.

Similarly, it’s delusional to think that every day should be completely productive, let alone easy. We are not powerless, but sometimes the power we have is to put our expectations of ease aside and deal the best we can with robot-operators or other minor annoyances.

I am still, however, interested in banning leaf blowers.

Looking at this photo of a garden at Parc de Bercy in Paris reminds me that if we're planting on less-than-hospitable land, there are ways to make it plantable. Breaking up a steep slope into smaller steps can help.

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