I have learned recently that leaf blower usage is on the rise at Lakeside and that technically they violate current Jalisco noise pollution laws. For those on condo and fraccionamiento boards who don’t understand such laws, it means leaf blowers are loud, the kind of loud that can rattle pots and pans. Short of a motorcycle revving up for 20 minutes on your terraza, few things, including Joshua at Jericho, have the power to shake your roof tiles like the fury of a gas-powered leaf blower.
Not only that, but they can murk up every breath you take with nasty grit and dirt, known to the emergency team rushing you to the hospital, as particulates (herbicides, pesticides, dung and allergens).
My neighbor’s gardener topped all the records for leaf blower mayhem, blasting away on a high-octane gasoline engine for over 20 minutes to round up a stubborn mess of 42 bougainvillea petals – a tough, wild bunch of flora that needed to be shown a lesson. The man circled them three or four times to corral them while they insisted on fluttering about in free-form dance. Finally, his Space X rocket at close range air-hosed them into submission. At least 34 of the 42 petals settled into an exhausted pile. Five petals were shot into earth’s geosynchronous orbit over Calgary, Alberta. And the remainder were simply blown to Kingdom Come. But gosh darn it, the machine broke their spirit.
After 20 minutes of this jet engine racket, I wondered if this man could then soar up and over my neighbor’s roof on the leaf blower like Captain Yardman and land it safely at his next stop. Possibly even startle and interrupt a home break-in on his way.
Here are some local data: 60 decibels (dBA) represent the sound level of a normal conversation, 70 for us Italians. One hundred decibels represent the sound of a motorcycle heard nearby. Leaf blowers are in the category of a motorcycle and a heated Italian argument. One hundred decibel din is double the allowable level around residences, according to noise pollution laws in Jalisco. Also, leaf blower noise is banned in about 50 percent of the communities in California, while another 25 percent of communities have laid down restrictions and regulations on their use and require gardeners to wear protective gear. “Those using these machines are at highest risk for injuries and illnesses,” says the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Here, few gardeners wear gloves or masks or ear plugs, to say nothing of a parachute. I suspect that Jalisco leaf-blower practitioners enjoy appearing to be Ghostbusters – with their leaf blowers cocked and ready to stalk perilous detritus wherever it lurks. Riviera Alta, for example, where I live, permits gardeners to use leaf blowers all over the place: your garden, driveway, street in front of your house, kitchen, anywhere – and they don’t require background checks. It’s a leaf-blower Wild West.
But I admit Riviera Alta’s leaf-blower users have been successful in one regard: No houses are haunted there. So, if your community allows the use of leaf blowers, feel free to walk the grounds at night without fear of being attacked by zombies. And if squirrels are a problem, call in the leaf blower guy. He can send the little rodents hurling into the next village on a one-way flight they’ll never forget.
The broom and the rake, you argue, are just as worthy as gardening equipment. Nineteenth century tools, my friend. We wouldn’t do surgery with a coping saw anymore. So stop being a Luddite!