I often complain that suburbia’s too quiet, even though the human desire for silence and inertia is the main reason that suburbia even exists. And just because it’s quite, that doesn’t mean it’s peaceful. In autumn especially, semi-urban dwellers seem able to tolerate a profoundly jarring kind of noise annoyance – the almost ever-present, soul-gnawing monotone of the leaf blower.
Yesterday, on a beautiful and still Sunday afternoon, and in a rare show of decadence, we were sitting in a friend’s hot-tub enjoying the end of the long weekend, casually chatting and, as it happened, quaffing Moet Chandon as the sky around us slowly changed colour behind the silhouettes of spindly, naked trees. It should have been perfect, but a couple of gardens away someone had decided to take out their anger and grief at another Redskins’ loss by clearing the garden of leaves. We got to enjoy his motorised penile extension’s buzz-saw growl and the olfactory consequence – wave after wave of gasoline wafting across the fence.
It wasn’t long before Mrs. Pop pointed out that my complaining was contributing just as much, if not more, to the noise nuisance as the blower itself. But even in her traditional marital role as She-Devil’s Advocate opposing all the good and sensible things that I say, she had to concede that these engine-packing monstrosities make no sense whatsoever. It’s not just that their noisome stink besmirches the atmosphere – there are lots of modern devices we all use every day that do just the same. It’s just that these particular machines are completely superfluous. Maybe that’s what makes their infuriatingly relentless drone all the more irksome.
A rake or a broom are just as quick. If you’re too unfit to use these, then suburbia’s packed with spoilt, inactive children who could be dragooned by rote into helping out their, erm, less active neighbours. They might even have some church-approved, old-fashioned fun by diving into the leaf-piles, if you hint that there's an Xbox 360 hidden at the bottom. And a kid whining about getting too much fresh air would be preferable to the single-note irritation of technology’s most useless advance since…
Well, the hot tub probably.