Shut UP! A plea to lawn mowers and leaf blowers and inconsiderate neighbors
This morning, I went out to work in my garden. It's a beautiful, sunny morning, with the sun glinting on leaves and bees quietly moving between the flowers. Ahhh. I expected a tranquil, peaceful communion with the singing birds, the gentle breeze, and the buzzing of insects. That is, after all, one of the reasons why I live in a place where I can have a garden.
As soon as I got outside, though, it started. I am not exaggerating, though you will think so when you hear my story. As I knelt into the gentle grasses and began to prune back weeds, the lawn mower started up. ROARRRRRRRRrrrrRRRRrrrrrrRRRRrrrrr. And I don't know why I thought it would be any different. This is the way it always is, every time I go out into my garden. Every, fucking time.
The noise was deafening, and angering. This wasn't how I wanted to feel. So I came back inside. An hour later, when the lawn in the nearby yard was FINALLY fucking mowed, for the FOURTH TIME this week, I went outside, a little worse for wear, but still ready to forgive the intrusion and return to Eden. And then... the leaf blower started. I'm not kidding. And I despise leaf blowers. What kind of a dumbass invention is that, anyway? A loud, obnoxious, oil-chugging, pollution-spewing, phallic contraption intended to blow leaves, dust, and garbage up into the air and over into someone else's garden. In the days before leaf blowers, people used to sweep or rake by hand, and it was quiet and clean and did not pierce holes into the ozone layer or melt arctic ice caps. Not anymore, this is progress.
I stayed out there as long as I could stand it, gritting my teeth and trying to forget that this man standing out there huffing over his leaf blower is the very same man who actually called the police last year to complain about my chickens. He said they were making too much noise. In fact, all through the winter I have tried to forget about that, each time his dog barked into the night. Because I like dogs, and I did not want to think about it. But now, as his lawn mower cooled in his big garage, and his leaf blower heated up over his sterile driveway... it was hard not to remember. I was out there in my garden, now, out of an angry determination that I would not be driven out of there by the likes of him. But there was no peace left in it. I leaned into beds and pulled up weeds because they needed to be pulled, and not because I could feel the tender seedlings I had planted there waiting for me to tend them. I reached a pair of rusty shears down into overgrown clumps of grass because it had to be done, and not for the joy of doing it. This wasn't at all what I wanted to be feeling out there. But I stayed, because I knew he could only blow dust around in his pen for so long, and then he would grow tired.
As at last he did, after nearly 40 minutes of roaring, blustery, inconsiderate noise.
When at last it stopped, I took a moment to let the ringing leave my ears. I made an effort to re-focus on the warm, green earth. I took a deep breath of relief, and bent to the herbs trailing around my ankles. But the peace did not return to me. Instead, I kept thinking about how utterly inconsiderate it was, of this neighbor of mine, to fling this unnatural noise of his out into the air on such a peaceful spring day, without even a thought to his neighbors. And I thought about the messed-up priorities of our culture, where the cops will come if your chickens cluck contentedly in your garden, but not if someone's roaring lawn mower shatters the songs of birds and tears up the tranquility of paradise. One thing is an aberration to be dealt with, the other is just an operating expense. It's just an accepted norm.
And so these thoughts moved restlessly through my mind. And as they did, after awhile, I realized I was thinking them to the rhythm of a song. A rock and roll song that I don't particularly even like. A Bob Seger song, whining about how hard it is to be a rock star. Blek. And I realized I was listening to, of all things now, KGON. From the car radio of, you guessed it, this same fucking neighbor. Shit. What a fucking asshole. I shook my head, but kept gardening. Why did I expect it to be any different than this? This is, after all, how it is every time I go out into my garden. Any bright day that calls me out calls him out too. Calls out every neighbor with a lawn mower, in fact. Why would I think it would be any different today?
I kept weeding and plucking and tending, and listening in the back of my mind to stoner music from the 1970s. I tried not to mind. But then some song they must have liked over there came on, and they turned it up! So loud that I could hear the crackle of his speakers, so loud that a flock of starlings leaped out of a nearby tree and took off for other places. So loud that I grew angry and stomped my foot, and glared into the briars and trees that separate his Americana from my garden. I began muttering to myself about how this must surely be the loudest family on earth. And still the noise continued. Loud, loud AC/DC, loud ZZ Top, loud and obnoxius angst-filled, smug young men screaming out inane lyrics over my garden. Fuck them all. And fuck all lawn mowers, and all leaf blowers, and all assholes who can't hear their own noises and presumptions, but can't abide the clucking of a chicken. Fuck them all. I was in the middle of something now, or I would have gone in right then. But as I worked to finish what I was doing so that I could get out of there, I was treated to the sound of this neighbor's wife loudly vacuuming out her car, at the same time that his teen aged daughter hummed purposefully along with a Quiet Riot song, and shortly afterward all three of them got into a noisy and lingering and hate-filled argument that hung in the air over the top of all the dated rock songs and the sound of the abandoned vacuum hose, growling against the floorboards of their car, and the ringing in my ears. I gave up and went inside then, to write this. And as I write, I can still hear the knocking, plinking, booming noise of KGON drifting through my closed window.
Of all the damn nerve.
I would ask people to please consider how loud things like lawn mowers and leaf blowers are, and frankly, in the city, how fucking unnecessary they are. No city lot has a lawn so large it can't be mowed with a push mower. No one needs a power mower here. And no one EVER needs a leaf blower. And PLEASE, there is no need to treat all your neighbors to your taste in music. (Especially if you're arrested back in your party days and still listen to "classic rock.") Geez. Maybe there are other people around you who still long for the sounds of birds singing, bees buzzing, and the sound of the breeze blowing through the grass. Maybe, just maybe, some of us don't want to listen to your damn fucking lawn mower. How did it become socially acceptable to make so damn much noise like that, for no good reason at all? You know, as soon as this asshole neighbor of mine shuts up, another neighbor will mow his lawn, and then another, then another, and I will be listening to this roar until I go deaf. There's just something wrong with that. Doesn't anyone else think so?
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