TUESDAY: Overblown


Copyright is held by the author.

FIRST YOU’LL laugh at the concept. You’ll think I’m joking.

Then, when you realize I’m not, you’ll laugh — at me. Crazy woman. Calling a man-made gadget an invasive species.

But if you knew, would you still laugh? If you knew what goes on behind my neighbours’ closed doors?

It’s barely 7:00 a.m. when you and your truck pull up in front of the house next door. Tidy decal on the door, CF Landscaping.

Nice truck, I say. You CF?

You nod and smile, reaching into your vest for a business card. Smile turns to smirk when I implore you to not fire up your 90-decibel leaf blower for the barely-there sprinkling of leaves on the lawn. You assert you’re not bothering anyone. You say, sometimes the late sleepers get grouchy but everyone else is on the way to work.

I am at work, I reply. Right there, that’s my office window.

I want to say, do you know? Do you know that your intrusive, inescapable, deafening, pollution-spewing motorized menace can be heard in every room of every house for a circumference of eight houses, for every leaf it may blow it kicks up clouds of dirt, allergens, animal waste, lawn product and road toxins at 300 kph? Do you know that it forcibly enters those homes, every bit the invasive species, like any other stuff of other people’s personal choices you don’t want to hear, that makes you uncomfortable, even angry, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it?

And who appointed you the arbiter of what constitutes a late-sleeper?

Come, walk this block with me. Know the late-sleeper people in my neighbourhood, the ones who pay their mortgages and property taxes with the expectation that the very least they’ll be able to do in their homes is rest.

Here lives the new mother with the colicky infant who slept one hour between 10 pm and 5 am. Mother and baby have barely fallen into the sleep of bottomless exhaustion when you pull the cord that ends it for them.

Here lives the 80-year-old cancer-riddled chemo patient whose pain keeps her awake until the wee hours of the morning. Beside her, having also just fallen asleep is her 85-year-old husband who stays awake, by her side, for as long as it takes.

Here is the dad working from home, who must make international business calls at 1:00, 2:00 am, hitting his bed only after overseeing the kids’ breakfasts, backpacks, and dash for the school bus.

Here lives the swing shift worker who gets off at midnight, gets home at 1:00 am., and like you after work, eats some dinner and tries to relax for a couple of hours before bedtime, going to sleep at 3:00 a.m.

Here lives the midnight-oil-burning university student cramming for the exam that will make or break her grade, her future, grabbing a couple hours of sleep before the test at 10:00 a.m.

Here are the people in my neighbourhood. The neighbourhood your invasive species assaults, disrupts, infects, contaminates. The device you must wear ear muffs to tolerate—while exposing yourself to hearing loss, lung disease, stress, heart problems.

Still want to pull that starter cord? Still think you can’t do your job without it?

Or would you like to borrow my rake? While you work, hear the trill of birds, the swish of grass, the croak of tree frogs, maybe even the sound of your own thoughts? Go on, take it. Feel the smooth, silent wood of the handle and the breeze tickling your ears. Watch the tines glisten with dew. Breathe deeply the particulate-free air.

Think about it while I put on the coffee? What do you take in yours?


Image of Ellen Notbohm

Ellen Notbohm’s internationally renowned work has touched millions in more than twenty-five languages. She is author of the award-winning novel The River by Starlight and the nonfiction classic Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. Her short prose has appeared in many literary journals, including Halfway Down the Stairs, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, Eclectica, Well Read, and Academy of the Heart and Mind, and in several anthologies in the US and abroad.

  1. I could not have said it more eloquently, nor related to it more. I live in a 55+ community and I dread Wednesdays when it’s time for the mowers and blowers. Unfortunately, your solution of reason plus kindness wouldn’t work here, but I’m going to send the story to my HOA anyway.

  2. Good use of second-person narration

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *