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At this point in my life, I don’t relish the daunting task of raking up the mounds of leaves that pile up on my front and back yards. So, before the season began, I drove to Canada’s favourite hardware store and bought a leaf blower.
The word “blower”This is a bit of an error. Leaf blowers can do both vacuuming or blowing. The vacuum feature pulled the leaves into a bag. That’s the kind I settled on. My wife was furious. She stated that the amount she had spent would easily cover a two-night, all in-inclusive stay at Niagara Falls. She said that if I can play a few holes of golf every week, then I can certainly rake leaves.
“They’re two very different activities,”I explained. “one solitary, the other social.”
I don’t like doing things by myself. “Besides,”I said to my wife: “spending time raking and bagging leaves eats into my golf practice time.”
She rolled her eyes.
When I opened the package, I felt like a child at Christmas. I struggled to read the instructions, but I persevered. The vacuum feature was ready in two hours. I thought I had. I went out to the backyard, and found myself ankle-deep with leaves. The leaves from our silk lilac and crimson maple had not all fallen. There’s a large mulberry hanging over our fence on one side and a bigger silver birch tree on the other. Our front and backyard are magnets for leaves from many of our majestic oaks, maples, and maples that have been around for more than 100 years.
I followed the instructions to put on the earmuffs. I was filled with anticipation, and pushed that button. The motor roared into being. I pointed the spout towards my feet and began vacuuming around them. But something wasn’t right. The leaves were being swallowed by my machine and then flew out on the other side. I’d failed to attach the bag correctly. I went back to the drawing boards. My wife was looking out the kitchen window, her familiar smile on her face.
Once I had reattached the cord, I felt hungry. I didn’t feel hungry after completing such a difficult task. As I ate the leftover pizza from the previous evening’s dinner, my wife, who has a penchant for pointing out the obvious, said that I’d have raked our leaves and the leaves on the property of several neighbours in the time spent going to the store, choosing the blower, driving home and so on.
Chuckling, she asked if I’d forgotten the size of our lot which includes our semi-detached house. It’s 22 feet by 96 feet. It is 15 feet from sidewalk to porch and mainly covered with perennials.
I gave up on the second piece of pizza and ran to the backyard to get it. My attitude started to change when the machine began to take out the leaves. I was shocked at the size of the machine’s postage stamp. I realized that it was a loud machine capable of doing everything in 30 minutes. I felt ridiculous. I turned off the machine and began to pile up the contents of the bag. I cleaned the parts and placed them back in the box. I then returned to the store. After waiting in line for 15 minutes, I finally placed the box at returns counter.
“Something wrong with it?”The young girl asked.
“No, it’s fine. It’s just too big for my purpose.”
“We carry smaller ones,”She said it with earnest.
“That’s okay,”I said.
After looking in the box, she refunded my money to my credit card.
On the way home, I remembered an exchange I’d had with an acquaintance on the topic of leaf blowers. I listened to some of his conversations with a grain of salt or a grain of rice, while he was drinking from his cups. He also spoke truths. He called them the worst noise-polluters and the most dangerous to the environment. He declared they should be banned in Toronto.
However, this avid golfer said that leaf blowers were essential for golf course maintenance crews to keep fairways and greens clear.
Noise polluters? Yes. Definitely. I don’t exaggerate when I tell you that my wife is one of the calmest people this side of the Rockies, but yesterday, I had to strongly discourage her from marching up the street to tell he, whom we call Mr. Obsessive about where his leaf blower should be placed. It’s as loud as a hot rod without a muffler. He loves to turn it on at dinnertime and eats every leaf, from his porch roof to the sidewalk or street several metres away.
To overcome my fear of the lonely task, I called my grandchild reinforcements. It was a bribe of mac and cheese, mint chocolate ice cream, and cheese. Even with the bribe, our five-year-old granddaughter wasn’t overly excited about the task. She was a completely different person when I pulled out my pocket full of nearly forgotten French vocabulary for trees, leaves, rakes, brooms, scoop bag, and scoop. She’s in SK French Immersion. We got busy and she tried to learn French words. It is amazing how fast time flies when you are having fun. In 30 minutes, the backyard was back in its pre-fall state. She said she’d consider doing it again if I add sprinkles to the crème glacée. I explained to her that we had a bargain.
Declan Neary is a resident of Toronto.
I thought a leaf blower was the answer – but I looked ridiculous