Excuse my rant

I can’t believe it.

Here we are; it’s the 18th of December. It is bitter cold out there.

And still they come.

The men who do the yards.

My immediate neighbor and I are the only two on the block who do not use the services of a weekly “yard team” – a gang of men, trucks and machines who arrive promptly, every Friday morning at 8 AM, to begin mowing lawns, blowing leaves making such an unholy racket that -while I am sure they are very good sorts of men- I have come to hate them like poison.

Then begin in March, and I don’t mind it; by March I am usually desperate to know winter is almost gone, so the noise holds promise. Through the spring, who cares if there is a little noise? Things are growing! In summer, too, no problem.

By autumn, though, particularly if one has had a bad night’s sleep, the wall-shaking rumble begins to get on the nerves, and once they haul out the leaf blowers (now there is one piece of machinery I’d love to see the EPA outlaw) and go from house to house, stirring up dust and subjecting those of us who are at home working or trying to enjoy retirement, to an incessant high-pitched and droning wwwhhhhrrrrrrr that, after a while, makes one want to rip off the shirt, put a knife between the teeth and go find someone to kill.

Did I mention that, because her house is smack-dab in the center of all the paying work, they let the trucks and machinery rumble right outside my neighbor’s house and -since this is not what you’d call an “executive” neighborhood, that means it’s not far from my house, my bedroom?

Last August, this neighbor -who works outside the home and had never heard the Friday Racket before- sprained a leg and took some time off. One evening, she and I were chatting on her porch when another neighbor -a fellow meticulous-unto-anal-retentiveness about his yard, who must hate living next to my slap-dash landscaping- came home from work at and, within minutes, began his nightly ritual. He hauled out his leaf blower and commenced blowing the perimeter of his home, from foundation to boundary, so that not a leaf, twig or errant pebble was where he had deemed it ought not be.

This takes hours and has ended any hope we have of ever eating our supper al fresco while this man lives. We have seen him go out after a rain shower and blow wet things. I have seen him take his leaf blower up to the roof. I suspect the man does not like talking to his wife.

My chat-partner winced and said, “wow, that’s really annoying.”

Every. Single. Night,” I said. “You usually miss it, because you get home after the serenade has ended.”

“I can’t believe the noise pollution on this block,” she continued, pointing out all the unjoyful sounds she had encountered during her convalescence.

“Wait until Friday,” I muttered.

Although it is not her fault
-as I said, with only two exceptions, the whole block seems to use this team- somewhere in the recesses of my miserable heart I do quite unfairly find myself blaming her for the whole thing. She was the first to hire this crew, and they park outside her house, after all.

Of course, on the Friday when she was home to hear them – a clear, gorgeous day – the Yard Team managed to do their stuff in record time, and it seemed pretty painless to her. Then again, even a bad soprano is endurable if you only have to hear her sing one piece. Over the course of the year, I get the whole concert.

This morning’s landscaping may have been their big finish.
The crew arrived and parked at 8 AM, as usual, and my husband -who is taking a day off- found himself roused from slumber. “What is that?” he asked. “It sounds like World War III!”

There was an extra truck this time, a big one, with some kind of vacuum thing attached to it. Three hours (!) of non-stop rumbling, whrrrring, and grinding that made our room vibrate. It was like listening to the 1812 Overture being played, endlessly, on yard-and-wind machines. And the big finish: the loudest vacuum in the world sucking up things that went “bang!” while the truck itself ran, and ran, and ran.

I’d love to know the carbon-footprint of this groundscrew.

So, they chased us out of bed, when we really wanted to sleep in. Finally, at 10:30 they were finished. We have been sipping coffee with rather shell-shocked expressions on our faces.

“You’ve listened to this from March to December,” my husband sympathized.

“It’s horrible,” I agreed. We all know I like my silence.

My husband grinned. “We must get even.”

It seems he is enamored of those Christmas-lights-with-synchronized-loud-music kits. “Just think, we could play “Christmas in Sarajevo”, and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and Andy Williams singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” over and over, and over again, just like the radio!”

“And some lung-screamer, doing ‘O Holy Night!’” I enthused. “Or maybe one bombastic version of it, after another!”

For a few happy minutes, we were channeling K-K-K-Ken in A Fish Called Wanda, pumping up a steam roller full of “RE-RE-REVENGE!”

No, we won’t do it. Spite is not our way, and I couldn’t bear the din, besides. But for today, this is the delicious fantasy I am carrying in my poor, aurally-abused self:

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Through the spring, who cares if there is a little noise?

    Bender does.

    In summer, too, no problem.

    No problem? No — problem. Big problem.

    Meanwhile, with all the time and gas and noise (“Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. There’s one thing I hate, all the noise, noise, noise, noise!” — and not the good Whoville noise), we have all these bare spots here at our condo complex. Couldn’t they take some of that effort and use it to churn up some dirt and throw some grass seed down?

    And maybe, instead of all that noise and carting the leaves off somewhere to be mulched and then transported elsewhere to be thrown back on the ground, why not simply use mulching lawnmowers?? The ground is starving for nutrients.

    We can’t pour a cup of water on terrorists, but we can torture Americans with these monstrosities? This much is clear, everyone who has or uses a leaf blower needs to be rounded up, put up against a wall, and shot — or better yet, they need to take one of those anti-pirate devices that focuses hyper-intense noise and stick it about three inches from their heads to make their ears bleed.

  • DaveW

    OK I am one of those anal retentive yard keepers. I do my own though. But I have loved keeping my yard in tip top shape since I was a teenager.

    And I use a blower too, but it is an electric one. I’m sure it is annoying to some folks, but I do try to be quick about it, and I don’t do any yardwork before 9am.

  • http://cartagodelenda.blogspot.com Matteo

    To add insult to injury, one of the most popular leaf blower brands I’ve seen is called “Echo”.

  • newton

    May I suggest your annoying neighbor to find a nice house where his every nagging whim is regulated by an HOA? He would have little problem keeping the lawn neat.

    As for you, dear, go for it. Put all the lights in the front and put It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year on a play loop. Loud. For three nights. A few other neighbors will be annoyed, but this one will be screaming the loudest… of course, until you tell him about his day-in, day-out leaf-blowing ways… Have you ever noticed that, many times, many who scream the loudest at someone’s loud ways are the loudest offenders in the first place?

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Team Bender

    Meanwhile, with all the time and gas and noise (”Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise, noise. There’s one thing I hate, all the noise, noise, noise, noise!”

    Move to the country.

    This much is clear, everyone who has or uses a leaf blower needs to be rounded up, put up against a wall, and shot — or better yet, they need to take one of those anti-pirate devices that focuses hyper-intense noise and stick it about three inches from their heads to make their ears bleed.

    You would subject me to this?

    I’m disappointed, dear mentor. You disparage all of us who use lawn services?

    If I lived ‘in town’ as opposed to a rural town, I wouldn’t have need of a yard service – I would do it myself, because I love doing yard work. But I have almost an acre of grass – it’s where we – my family – play, in all four seasons. I have a dozen beautiful trees that drop their beautiful leaves.

    I am grateful that I have the resources to help me maintain a pleasant, not luxurious, place to raise my children and soothe my ever-more troubled spirit.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/shanasfo shana

    The version of Oh Holy Night that you really NEED to play on an endless loop is one I heard on a country station. A whiny, nasally woman singing this beautiful and sacred hymn double-fast with a horrible twang. I was utterly horror-ridden and sick to hear it sung like that. All it needed was a few banjo licks added between verses to make it worse. I have no idea who the broad was singing it, but whoever thought it was a good idea and encouraged her to do it should be tied to a tree and shot.

    On an endless loop, it should make the leafblower cringe in his basement until the season ends.

  • grace

    I am in total agreement with you. Offer it up for the conversion of these #/x?@$ :)
    Another instrument of the devil.
    You are lucky. Here, they actually start when it is still dark. 6:30 AM. And on Sunday and Holidays too.
    {it should be against the law.}
    And the local Church has it done everyday not just once a week. Modernism.

  • grace

    Did you see this?
    What are you doing this weekend?
    Mowing the lawn?

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Dear Santa –

    How are you and Mrs. Claus? Did you have a nice summer?

    For this Christmas, I would like you to please bring my team members a rake. A nice quiet rake.

    Thank you,


    p.s. would you prefer chocolate chip or sugar cookies?

  • TNP

    Offer it up. Seems like lots of opportunity for graces in your neighborhood.

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Team Bender

    Dear Santa,

    If you bring me a rake for Christmas this year, please have a lawn guy attached to it?

    Thank you.


    Bender’s Cheerleader

    p.s. There will be both sugar and chocolate chip cookies, a hot buttered rum to tide you over, and refreshment for the reindeer.

    And if it’s not too much trouble, please send something nice to Bender.

  • http://!!!! kelleybee

    We had a community meeting recently. A couple of the new folks were attempting to drum up enthusiasm for all of us to institute covenants, “because some yards , are well, just too unsightly!” Hubby and I thought heads snapped in our direction way to quick. We are just about the only ones, I think, who do not have professional groomers. Our poor yard could use a bit of whirl-buzzzzz-snip. It is adequate, but not perfect.
    Merry Happy last week of Advent!!

  • Chris

    I used to live across the street from an old man who lived on a corner and seemed to think he owned both adjoining streets and the intersection. Practically every morning at 7am from August to December he blew his yard from back to front over the curb. He then meticulously cleared the entirety of both streets along his property, as well as the intersection. On average I’d say it took him a half-hour to 45 minutes. Since I was a college student and my study groups often went past midnight, I didn’t get much sleep that term.

  • Kurt

    Excuse your rant? There’s no need for an excuse. Some of us check in here regularly hoping to find a good rant about something-or-other! :-D

    I live in a western state where water is scarce and where those that maintain nice lawns usually have to water on other than their assigned days. The alternative to having a lawn is to xeriscape–which is landscaping with plants which need little water (and/or with rocks or sand or so on, which need none). After tiring of the endless battle against the dandelions, I started xeriscaping my yard about 3 1/2 years ago. I’ve made decent progress, but I’m sure my neighbors who pay for the lawn services (and there are mercifully only a few) hate that my yard is still not done yet. I don’t care. I like watching all the interesting plants I’ve got grow and bloom.

  • George

    This reminds me of our Sundays in Missouri; we’d set the family breakfast table in our screened-in porch overlooking the woods, and usually just as we carried out the breakfast, RRRREEEEVVVVV he would start up his noisy lawnmower and gun it around the yard for 90 minutes, destroying the otherwise idyllic enjoyment of chirping birds and family conversation. I always wonder if he did it on purpose!

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Team Bender

    I guess that dumb old man could have just sat on his front porch and slowly wasted away. I wonder what you will do when you are old, Chris?

    There’s nothing wrong with xeriscaping. There’s also nothing wrong with grass. To each his own.

    I don’t know where you live, Kurt, but we live in drought most years here in Utah – I don’t personally know any water thieves, we don’t use culinary water; we have irrigation water, and we don’t water out of turn when we are restricted.

    I feel like I’m in a parallel universe compared to how it usually feels here.

  • Amy P.

    I love Christmas lights as much as the next fellow, but that house is obnoxious. :)

  • Kurt

    Team Bender: I live in Nevada. While not everyone with a nice lawn waters on more than the assigned days, I have complimented a few people on having nice lawns and several of them have admitted to watering on more than the assigned days. Anecdotal evidence, of course, but not especially surprising to me. Things may change in that respect in the coming spring and summer, though, as the local authorities have decided we will change from a two-day-a-week watering schedule to a three-day-a-week schedule.

  • Dr. Bob

    A most entertaining rant.

    May I recommend the following – a) A good set of noise-cancelling headphones, b) making Fridays your errand day to escape from the bulk of the noise, c) checking with your local government to see if there are applicable noise ordinances and d) if you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.

    A single contractor doing the entire neighborhood at the same time means a large crew, LOTS of machinery and BIGGER, NOISIER, FASTER machinery all working at the same time – thus it sounds a lot like a war zone. You get a much louder noise for a shorter period of time relative to the “good old days”.

    We didn’t have this problem when everybody did their own – at any time during the weekend, somebody would be mowing their yard, but it’s one small push mover making a little, but more tolerable noise at a time. And if you didn’t have time to do your own, you’d hire the neighbor kid to do it.

    Wish I had better solutions.

    By the way, I live in the country and yes it’s quiet most of the time – it’s a bit noisy during planting and harvesting, especially when farmers are running 24 by 7. It’s quite disconcerting and unnerving to go to a big city – I’m just not accustomed to city noises.

  • http://www.protocatholic.blogspot.com Gretchen

    This is a somewhat expensive ‘fix’ but a good, snug set of new windows can do wonders against noise pollution. Triple pane windows are a modern miracle. We have a retired neighbor across the street that has every gas- and electric-powered gardening device known to man–and he lives to use them. Unless I’m outside, though, I can barely hear him. Good windows make good neighbors.

    [All of my windows are less than five years old. Windows don't help when the walls are rumbling! :-) -admin]

  • John in Dublin CA

    I too work from home and I live in a complex where the ground crews start at 8 and work all day, virtually every day of the year, unless it’s raining very hard. They mow, blow, chop and grind and like you, I’ve been tempted to take my gun and start shooting. Since I often work well into the wee hours, I tend to sleep later than most others commuting off to jobs. But not on Thursdays! Thursday is the day my area of the complex is manicured and blow dried. Yes, the EPA should outlaw leave blowers, lots more people would be employed if they had to rake all the leaves and cut grass. And it does not snow here, so this goes on all year, not just March to December. I’ve come to hate grass and trees, or at least the ones that grow near me. Silence, please, give me silence.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Santa

    Dear Santa,
    If you bring me a rake for Christmas this year, please have a lawn guy attached to it?

    My dear Cheerleader. You have been a good little girl, but you were already sent a few “lawn guys” before. They are called “children.” Would you like some more of those?


    p.s. The hot buttered rum makes my nose red, but it also makes the ride warmer too, so thank you. And if you have some roast beast, that would be nice too.

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Team Bender

    Santa dear,

    Rakes and roast beast it is…and I’ll take the children if you’ve got some to spare.



  • Francesca

    Very timely indeed. I was just leaving the college where I teach the other day on the last day of the term and thinking about leaf blowers. A worker was once again blowing the small amount of leaves every which way with a roaring leaf blower. All I could think (for the thousandth time) was, “Whatever happened to brooms?” “Or rakes?” The college is not in a forest!

  • http://jscafenette.com Jeanette

    We use a yard service but only because we loaned him the money to start his business and he charges us just $80 a month for gas (it was free until gas prices went up) and promises that is all he’ll charge the rest of my life. Not my husband’s, but mine! He calls me “Mama (and then my last name).

    His business has grown enough to have a couple of crews and they don’t take more than 1/2 hour to do the entire lawn, front and back.

    Zero turn lawnmowers do a great job trimming and cut fast. They use a hand mower to do the work in the tough spots in the backyard.

    They trim the flowers and bushes and use a blower to blow the leaves onto the street for the city to pick up. Now that truck is loud!

    A crew of 4 or 5 get the job done quickly and the yard is beautiful. I used to cut it too short, but now have the prettiest lawn in the neighborhood.

    We pay for the spring and winter flowers and the weed killer, fertilizer and mulch, but it beats the heck out of being on a riding mower in 100 degree temps every week in the summer and more if we have a lot of rain.

    They come around 9 and I’m usually up, so I just turn up the TV for the few minutes they are in the very front of the house and I don’t mind a bit.

    They need to earn a living too and winter is the slow time although we have grass year-round.

    Take pity on them because they are working people. :)

  • J

    Years ago, with a new born living in an apartment building, the young men across the hall BLASTED their music. Going as far away as possible, all doors and windows closed, my apartment vibrated with the noise. I fretted for one and half hours….call the landlord, call the police, what to do. Opening my door to retrieve the paper at the same time they did (coincidence) I mentioned I had a newborn and could they please lower the sound? He apologized, profusely, lowered the sound and never bothered us again….what a good guy. Sometimes a gentle reminder does the trick.

  • Old Biddy

    It’s funny to be reading your rant and comment about noisy Christmas lightshows on the very morning I spent my earliest hours carefully crafting a note to give my neighbor who has seen fit to turn our quiet, peaceful (yes, even gated) neighborhood into what sounds like an outdoor shopping mall. (No, I didn’t say that in the note.) However, I doubt I’ll get as much sympathy as J did since it is only my domestic monastery that is disturbed rather than a cute little baby.

  • turfmann

    All right, Elizabeth, I love ya, but in the words of a noted American philosopher and optically challenged mariner, ‘I’ve had all I can stand, I can’t stands no more!’

    Exactly what have we all been complaining about for the last year and a half? The destruction of the American dream, the wholesale slaughter of the small businessman at the hands of our federal government.

    Well, I am here to tell you that the quintessential American small businessman is the humble landscaper. Probably the first job a young American boy has is to cut the neighbors lawns with a mower borrowed from his dad – gas, oil and hand tools, too. From there the seeds of entrepreneurship are planted. Debits and credits, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, bankers, accountants, lawyers and, worst of all, customers are the curriculum of this school of hard knocks. Do you think that they teach this stuff in the public schools? No, of course not. The public schools are filled with government employees with tenure and union membership. Nothing short of the dreaded “dead girl, live boy” circumstance will lead to their dismissal. Schools are the very antithesis of capitalism. Not so with the humble landscaper. A single dandelion will be enough to seal his fate.

    Each morning he rises and, instead of donning a Brooks Brothers suit, he puts on a pair of well worn Levis and a tattered tee shirt. Instead of driving to work in a shiny BMW, he gets behind the wheel of a grimy pick-up truck. Instead of selling insurance, real estate, practicing law, performing surgery, he plants a yew or prunes a shade tree. He takes the raw inputs of refined petroleum, sweat, elbow grease and dirt and creates something that no politician will ever produce a modicum of: tangible wealth.

    I have been in this business for coming up thirty years now and I have met more highly successful millionaires within the ranks of my profession than I could possibly have imagined. Where else in the world can you buy a bag of fertilizer, a spreader, a pickup truck and twenty years later sell the resulting business to a national recognized firm for twenty million plus dollars? I know plenty of guys who have done exactly that. I haven’t succeeded as yet, but as soon as this snowstorm passes by I’ll go right back to work trying.

    I once heard someone complain upon hearing a fighter jet pass overhead how loud it was. The response was that it wasn’t noise, but the sound of freedom. In this case, that’s not the sound of a leaf blower – it’s the sound of capitalism.

    Oh, one last thing for those who are waking up this morning to a foot or more of global warming outside their door. Who do you think will be plowing your streets and driveways? That’s right…

    [I'm all for private enterprise...just QUIETER. :-) admin]

  • http://runswithangels.wordpress.com/ Team Bender

    Yeah! Go, Turfmann!! YAY for lawn guys!!! :-)

    (Don’t let Bender see this.)

  • Paul

    I can feel your pain on this….. I have a neighbor with a *very loud* rumbling truck that rumbles my home. They seem to enjoy letting it run at random times of day for up to 30 minutes…including 3 am. I can deal with noise, I often run a fan while I’m working and that blocks lots of noise…but the rumbling drives me nuts.