They walk among us. Normal people, like you or me. But inside the corners of their ratty little minds they carry a dark, hideous secret: They own a leaf blower.

I know, I know. It’s easy to hate them, like SUV drivers, sweet sixteen psycho-princesses and those happy-slapping chavs who run around hitting unsuspecting people and filming it. But owning a leaf blower does not make you a shitty person. A crappy one, yes. But not shitty.

It’s not the individuals who own leaf blowers who concern me; it’s the whole problem of Leaf Blower Culture that keeps me up at night (that, and the noise). This is not to say the leaf blower wielders are innocent however. It is their weakness that ruins things for the rest of us. But what flaw in our collective psyche allowed it get to this point?

The Human Flaw
The skull-rattling noise of leaf blowers is the real reason that people use them, I suspect. Far from being the biggest flaw, it’s actually what attracts these weak, pitiful souls to it, desperately wanting to make some impact in the world, wrongly or rightly.

Backpack leaf blowerAlthough commercial grade leaf blowers are spendy at around $500, a small consumer version can cost as little as 40 bucks (plus gas). Like SUVs, the relatively cheap price combined with the vibrant feeling of pure mechanical power gives consumers a drunken sense of maniacal glee.

A few hours after the purchase you can find many people softly, sickly laughing as they swirl the leaf blower around like a bloated magical wand, causing a small wind storm along with an incredible cacophonous noise heard blocks away. Screaming over the monstrous din, they dance through the lawn with their mechanical version of Voldemort’s wand spewing forth a steady stream of devilish noise and blustery fury. Somewhere deep in their gollum-like mind the voice of a mad-man rings loudly in their hollow hearts:

“HAHA!! Yes!! I am making those leaves flee before me! I am invincible with my precious blower! Cower before me, you stupid leaves! I’ll blow you clear across the lawn! MUAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!”

He is no longer a balding and pot-bellied middle-aged suburban dad. He is Leafmancer the Majestic, master of all who cross his path. Dare ye to speak to him over the bilious noise of his quivering instrument of power? Nay, he will not hear your pleas. He does not concern himself with such trifles as your feelings. “Back off, before I blow you off!” he hisses in an inaudible whisper.

A Cost/Benefit Ratio Forrest Gump Could Deduce
This simple device encapsulates everything that is wrong with American culture from a social, environmental and technological standpoint. Let’s look at what a leaf blower does and it’s advantages versus disadvantages.

A leaf blower is basically a reverse vacuum cleaner. It blows instead of sucks. But what goal does it accomplish, what societal need does it address?

It replaces a rake.

That’s it. As far as I know, there is no other common use for a leaf blower than the function that is easily accomplished by the common rake, which can be purchased at hardware store for 20 bucks and requires no fuel or maintenance and operates nearly silently.

The leaf blower does its job extremely poorly — and it does so very loudly — yet people still flock to this useless, feeble technology.

5 guys with leaf blowers

To really drive this home, and be fair to leaf blowers, I will now list the advantages and disadvantages of this machine:

Leaf blower pros:

  • Slightly faster? Maybe, but I’ve seen workmen accomplish virtually nothing in an hour’s time, like a retarded monkey pushing around a box of sand
  • Some can suck up and mulch the leaves, but most people don’t have or use this functionality; the device is technically referred to as a “blower vac” in this capacity
  • Although they ostensibly reduce human energy output, using high-powered machines is somewhat difficult and still makes you sweaty. I don’t see many grannies using them

Leaf blower cons:

  • Loud as a fucking airplane
  • Expensive compared with a rake
  • Requires continual purchase of costly fossil fuels
  • Causes air pollution and leaves the stench of gasoline
  • Creates huge plumes of dust & debris, some of which can lodge themselves in your eye
  • Not as good at creating leaf piles as a rake
  • Heavier than a rake
  • Bulkier than a rake
  • Has moving parts and requires regular maintenance such as:
    • Cleaning or replacing the filters
    • Replacing the spark plugs
    • Cleaning the fan blades
    • Cleaning the air intake
    • etc. etc.
  • Doesn’t work without a fuel source yet still requires human control/power
  • If you’re using a leaf blower, you’re pissing off everybody around you

Meanwhile, a rake just fucking works. (Plus, it can be used to sneak up and attack people using leaf blowers.)

Leaf blower mouth

A Cultural Sickness that Reveals Our World’s Rotten Soul
Our world teeters on the edge of economic, environmental collapse and I’m worried about leaf blowers? Well yes, because if we think leaf blowers are a good idea then I weep for our noisy, pointless future. Why does our culture accept and use these technologically gimmicky bullshit tools when perfectly acceptable old-school tools exist? Is it sheer laziness or a delirious lust for auditory power? I’m afraid our leaf blower addiction reveals far more about our society than we would ever want to grok.

Corporate priorities tend to distort things. In recent years the idea that there’s a technological solution to every problem has been driven into the corporate drone’s head. He knows all his competitors are using leaf blowers. He thinks that a rake looks low-tech and that customers are more impressed with technology than simplicity. He expects a lawn care service company to show up with a trailer full of gas-powered goodies, all of which make an unholy racket. It’s part of our cultural expectations at this point: If you’re not making a shitload of noise, are you really doing anything?

Blame it on our Genes
Our monkey brains are helpless before the lure of shiny, noisy tools. If this is the best we can do, perhaps the world would be better off without us. Dolphins don’t have leaf blowers. When they enslave us, they will say it’s for our own good and they might actually be right. That’s what scares me. Still, rakes sit lonely and dust-covered in millions of garages, wondering, like some jilted lover, what it did to push us into the arms of that supercharged demon-mistress next to it. Will America remember the simple, subtle beauty of the common garden rake before it’s too late?

We could certainly use the exercise.

This is one cultural deficiency I can’t blame solely on the Oligarchy (although our elite-encouraged oil addiction is a contributing factor). It’s our own stupid lust for power that led us to this point. If we keep this up I’m gonna start cheering for the goddamn lizard people. Bring on the brainless zombies (armed with leaf blowers, of course).

C’mon, folks: Evolve already!

A Future Fraught with Free Leaves
I’m not the first person to complain about this plague; leaf blowers are illegal in several cities and people have bitched about them for decades. Yet, here we are in 2011 and they’re still fucking here.

The most ironic part is that leaves will win this battle in the end. Leaves will be blowing freely long after humanity has slit its own throat and withered, gurgling and gasping, into the heedless sands of history.

Are leaves such a horrible infestation that they must be removed from our urban green spaces? What about the incredible amount of noise and air pollution that is being added to the atmosphere in their place? We are truly a sick culture if we think this is an acceptable trade-off. I will risk the fucking leaves, thank you very much. Maybe our feral, wretched descendants will use them as currency.

The guy who invented the rake must be rolling in his fucking grave. He’s just lucky he can’t hear it when they blow the leaves off his gravestone.


 

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17 Responses to “Leaf Blower Culture: A Sickness With No Cure?”

  1. [...] pictures of a sculpture I have been developing.  The man is a gardener/maintenance person with a leafblower backpack.  He is engaged in a standoff with a tree.  The man is loaded with all the equipment he could [...]

  2. These systems can be expensive and it may be
    just as cost effective to hire a pool contractor to perform your swimming pool maintenance for you.
    Air speed is important if you want to be able to blow heavier bits of debris or break up
    matted sticky, wet leaves and heaps of damp grass clippings.
    I could have hired a guy to do this, but as I may have said before, even though my town is infested with
    millionaire CEOs and other filthy rich people I
    am most certainly NOT one of them.

  3. Jim says:

    Here’s a pro you may not have considered: Leaf blowers get things really, spotlessly clean, while rakes leave lots of little stuff behind. If you’re going for maximum beautification, leaf blower beats a rake or a rake and a broom for time efficiency and cleanliness. It’s also way less effort.

  4. jack says:

    1. leaving debris on your lawn is healthy for it, i mean if it works for nature which has been doing it for millions of years im sure its good for you too.
    2. Leaf blowers used in the summer/late winter and spring months once a week makes it rather pointless since usually there aren’t any leaves around in those months or at least a lighter load that doesnt need blowing once a week…
    3. People use them on sidewalks just as much as lawns,,if not more..
    4. 90% of time at least in my area people seem to need to use leaf blowers at the crack of dawn…which is anywhere from 7 am to 11 am…i dont know about the rest of the people out there but i work nights and tend to sleep in past 9 am usually and its a real pain to be woken up by a leaf blower at 8 in the morning with earplugs even.
    5. Finally health and noise pollution to the major…Leaf blowers have been linked to high anxiety due to the noise it puts out and respiratory issues from all the debris and mold spores and whatever else kicked up into the air..

  5. Jim C. says:

    Very well put. Please write similar articles on Harley pipes and ghetto subwoofers. Get rid of those three scourges and quality of life would skyrocket in many towns.

    Scientific evidence shows that noise pollution is a BIG deal. Humans didn’t evolve to cope with unnaturally-generated sounds, and many types of relatively subtle noise can cause chronic irritation, e.g. wind turbines. Also consider the unreported effects on animals with more sensitive hearing than people.

  6. Mitch says:

    Logic gets blown away by leaf blowers and their proud champions, who are really people with low self-esteem who need attention like common Harley a-holes. Because they form the weak backbone of American culture, they will not go away bur increase, infest and dominate our lives. A Lexus luxury car spot now refers to pride in leaf blower ownership as analogous to making an impression with their overpriced cars, i.e. it’s not intelligence you’re trying to communicate by using these things but something much more primitive.

  7. Michael P. says:

    All it would take for you is four short minutes with a Stihl BR 600 Magnum strapped to your back and you would retract every fucking word of this essay.

  8. JT says:

    I write this still smelling of two-stroke smoke after blasting the front porch, which had become slippery again with leaves. I have no neighbors for at least a mile, so I don’t really have any concerns as to when I am obnoxious. If I were in a more populated area, I’d stick with the electric blower and rake. But I’d also have fewer leaves. I’m guessing the article was written by someone who does not have a driveway half a mile long, or whose roof is perfectly flat and welcoming and catches no leaves in treacherous corners out of reach, or who does not have 300 oaks whose leaves pile up in two foot drifts against the house. I have dozens of acres of “wild” forest, which comes right up to the sides of my house – no raking required. However, some places have grass and require the body-twisting hurricane of a backback blower turned up to 11. (I agree 100% with Michael P, above.) Raking would take a week, optimistically, but with two rakers and one person with the backpack blower the yard was done in 20 hours this year.

  9. Miss Kae Oz says:

    I personally hate these infernal aural torture machines. The roar of these things fill my apt and rattle my brain more mornings than not, at this apt complex. They tore down and rebuilt the side of the building 3 car lengths away from my window, but the leaf blowers drowned out the noise of the construction including pneumatic cement drills. I would rather have dealt with the rumble of the cement mixer. At least that noise is rhythmic and you can adjust to it.

  10. djconnel says:

    A greater question is the environmental and social implications of the whole lawn aesthetic. That’s responsible for leaf blowers (in part, the other part being the power trip pointed out here), but additionally for squanderous land and water use. It’s like we’re trying to terraform the planet into Irish hills.

  11. [...] Leaf Blower Culture is recognised by many as a seemingly pointless exercise in domestic vegetation control. [...]

  12. Mungo says:

    It’s like I’ve always said:

    Stupid people like loud things.

    sigh.

    why I live on a boat.

  13. Red Riley says:

    My biggest gripe with leaf blowers is that in the end they are accomplishing nothing. You still need to eventually pick up the leaves and debris, which will require what? A rake. Unless that is, you are simply blowing your leaves onto the street, onto your neighbor’s lawn, etc., in which case they will eventually end up right back where they started and you will need to blow them away again, stupid.

  14. A ludicrous job says:

    The funniest thing we used to do to wile away boring lunchtimes was watch the leaf blower employed by the local blowing – sorry, bowling – alley blow leaves around for an hour then go back and get his pay. The leaves would swirl and make lovely patterns in the air.

    Hang on, isn’t that what the wind does? Yup. Pointless activity as well as depriving the trees that lose them of vital benefit as they rot down (very quickly too as worm’s drag them underground).

    Who invented this equipment, it was a joke right?

  15. Joe says:

    I have one thing to say….PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS!!!!!!

  16. NPS says:

    The lawn care industry creates serious noise, fumes and fuel waste for work that is largely cosmetic and could probably be halved in frequency without too many people caring (except paid blower-zombies). Many apartment complexes sign contracts that create redundant work on a weekly schedule. Most tenants would rather see a few stray leaves than not sleep in. A lot of trash also gets blown deep into the bushes for the sake of bare asphalt.

    The peaking of global oil production might finally put a stop to gratuitous lawn care and other wastes of gas, like NASCAR. It will correlate to a time when only rich people can afford jet travel, and that noise nuisance will also decline. I hope I live long enough to not hear it.

  17. NPS says:

    To be fair, leaf blowers do a much better job than rakes for getting under parked cars and other obstacles. They also make shorter work of large areas. To claim they are largely useless is not accurate. But they also damage soil and necessary ground cover. I think they should be limited to large-scale operations without a lot of people around trying to relax.

    There should also be a serious effort to phase out the noisiest and most polluting designs. It should be a top priority of the EPA or OSHA because people aren’t doing it voluntarily. The author may be onto something about the ego factors in their use.

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