Suburban Soliloquy #94






In ancient times the suburbanite gathered leaves from the ground using an instrument called a rake. A cunning tool of simple technology, it was basically a long rod with a fan-like spray of tines at one end. Its use built healthy muscles without contributing greenhouse gases to global warming, except when the piles of raked leaves were burned. It was a wonderful smell, formerly one of the delights of the season, but is now illegal.

In modern times the suburbanite employs the leaf blower. It is a reverse vacuum cleaner invented by the Japanese that allows you to push leaves with air as opposed to pulling them with tines. They can run on gasoline or electricity and make an obnoxiously loud noise, a detriment to someone like me who works nights and sleeps days. The leaves then get placed into bags or pushed to the curb to be sucked up by municipal trucks in order to prevent the pollution that comes from burning. We never wanted a leaf blower. We never understood the point. But then, at the Wawa, Ms Keogh saw something new that changed her mind.

It is not unusual for Ms Keogh and me to eat a quick meal in the car. We regularly stop at one or the other nearby Wawas that are either close to home or en route to our destination. Wawa is a local chain of convenience stores with a deli counter and is usually open all night. They all look the same, white blocks with glass doors and windows along the front. They compete with the 7-Elevens. 7-Elevens are a suburban American phenomenon that has globalized, spreading abroad to Thailand, Turkey, Sweden, China, Japan and more. You might have a 7-Eleven around the corner.

We favor Wawa. Personally, I'm prejudiced because these stores were born from a hundred-year-old dairy farm here in Pennsylvania. The name "Wawa" is the Lenni Lenape word for the ubiquitous Canada Goose, the bird in flight appearing as their trademark. Also, I'm glad to report, their food and coffee is much better than 7-Eleven's.

We were eating in the parking lot behind the Wawa in Yardley and listening to music from the car's radio, when Ms Keogh became intrigued by the young man working with what looked like a loud leaf blower. It was in actuality a relatively quiet leaf sucker. She climbed from the car and was introduced to a Black & Decker Leaf Hog, a device that vacuums leaves, twigs, pine needles, and such, mulches them and deposits them into a bag. It was love at first site.

Our house in suburbia is engulfed in bushes and trees. Although they would never say anything to our faces, the community likely mumbles about the appearance of our property. We are an eyesore, a spot of wilderness in a neighborhood of lawns. We actually like our rustic appearance, a front yard of moss and the house hidden by brambles and vines. We stand in contrast to our neighbors' austere homes on manicured fields of grass.

It is late Autumn and our trees have dropped nearly all their leaves and pine needles. We've hired someone to clear our lawn, someone we can afford. As a consequence of being affordable there is a trade-off, the work is not completed in a timely manner. While we wait, inevitably the wind moves the bulk of our leaves off our lawn and on to our neighbors, especially our next-door neighbor to the south.

It is mortifying. These neighbors, an elderly couple, are the most decent folks, responsible and always neatly dressed. I do not understand why God has punished them by putting us next door. Both in their eighties, the gentleman is a fanatic about having a perfect lawn. He removed the original two trees that the developer planted at the front of everybody's property so sunlight could reach the grass. My parents, many years ago when this house was theirs, added two trees thus making four. As it happens, following a windy day our front lawn is nearly bare, while despite the absence of trees, our neighbor is inundated with leaves - our leaves! Having in recent years abandoned the battle, he has hired a champion to attack the yard, a better landscape service than we have. His yard has been cleared several times while we were still waiting for our service to show up. I won't do the work. I would rather read a book.

Ms Keogh has suggested we should offer to pay for their lawn service. "Can we afford it?" I wondered to myself, while telling Ms Keogh, "The offer would probably embarrass them." With regards to embarrassment, we have been avoiding eye contact with them when chance happens to find us both outside in our adjacent driveways.

Well, our service did finally show up and remove all the leaves, as well as clean the gutters, but that was a week ago, and since then the holdouts have finally forsaken the branches to begin new attempts at fertilizing our patio and driveway and moss. In the meantime, Ms Keogh bought something she was hiding in the trunk of the car. She wouldn't tell me what it was, but eventually it had to come out. She had purchased the Black & Decker Leaf Hog High Performance Blower Vac Model # BV4000. It cost almost seventy bucks. I still prefer books. That money would have gone a long way towards the Naxos recording of James Joyce's Ulysses, unabridged, on twenty-two CDs!

This essay is the most recent in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"