Raking leaves is my least favorite activity in the universe next to shoveling snow. I’m convinced that shoveling and raking, done the old-fashioned way, are a good way to bring on a heart attack. Even so, we don’t own a leaf blower. We do, however, own a snow blower. I used to stand at the end of my driveway, leaning pathetically on the shovel handle, coughing conspicuously, hoping a passing plow would stop and finish the job for me. Then we got a small, compact snow blower that never seemed to work right, particularly if the snow was too heavy or too high, which was always. A couple of years ago, a family friend downsized and gave us their considerably more macho machine and we were thrilled to be able to trade up.
Now, can we agree that snow is to snow blower as leaf is to leaf blower? If so, why are the former coveted, and the latter demonized?
Residents of my town have been squabbling for weeks now, about a mid-May through mid-October ban on gas leaf blowers, voted on by Town Meeting last spring. Apparently, Town Meeting does not always have the last word. If you disagree with a decision, as did a consortium of landscapers doing business in Arlington, all you need to do is collect a certain number of signatures and you can compel the town to hold a special election. The cost of running a special election, even with drastically reduced hours for the polls to be open, is reported to be between $25,000 and $30,000, which I imagine would buy the town all kinds of useful tools, if we had the money, which we don’t.
There is, however, a trick to a special election. The instigators can’t win, even if they have more votes, unless at least 20% of the registered voters in town vote the way they want them to, in this case, No. As it happens, the No votes missed the required number by the hair of their chinny chin chins. Yes, it was close.
The Attorney General now has up to 90 days to approve the change and, assuming they do, we wait another couple of weeks so the town can advise its citizens of the change through advertisements in the local paper. By then it could be mid-October, and the leaf blowers won’t have missed a day of blowing. And then, I expect the argument will begin all over again.
At first I was sympathetic to those who wanted to reverse the ban. Then I started watching landscapers more closely and discovered that leaf blowers are used to blow all kinds of things, including dirt, off driveways. Dirt. Off driveways.
You know why you don’t hear people complaining that they can’t use their snow blowers in August? It’s because snow blowers are really only good for one thing, blowing snow. I’m guessing we wouldn’t be having this discussion if leaf blowers were restricted to blowing leaves. But since they’re not, I have a plan.
If the people who want to be able to tidy up their property, year round, by blowing dirt, persist in trying to overturn this ban, I’m going to collect signatures for a special election so we can vote on whether or not to rename leaf blowers “everything-but-snow blowers.” If that passed, we’d at least all be arguing about the same thing, and the next time they tried to overturn the ban, the opposition would blow them away.