Look Out! He's Gonna Blow!!

There is a controversial device stored in my garage. It remains hidden most of the time and is reluctantly brought into public view only under very specific conditions. But soon, seasonal changes will impose those conditions on my immediate surroundings, and it will be time to seek out - dare I say it? - the leaf blower.

I keep the machine in its original container, which is probably about the same size as Pandora's Box. My sympathy goes out to that unfortunate woman every time the blower is unpacked. During the past decade, as these powerful yard accessories have proliferated across the country, a significant backlash against their use has also developed.

Critics of leaf blowers complain about loud noise disrupting the solitude of neighborhoods, increased air pollution, and the laziness of homeowners who refuse to use traditional implements. I understand these criticisms, but there is still one area in my yard where a blower is the ideal cleaning tool: up on the roof.

Our house is surrounded by magnificent specimens of the temperate rain forest. There are sweet gum, beech, hawthorn, tamarisk, maple, and honeylocust, all carrying a full load of summer greenery. When the massive volume of foliage is released from the branches the entire roof will be blanketed.

Rain is always an integral factor, bonding leaves to the composition shingles like glue. Sweeping and raking are not conducive to prolonging the life span of the roof, which requires about four complete cleanings before all the trees are bare.

No, the best solution to this blizzard of biomass is a narrow stream of high velocity air, carefully directed by human hands. I point the barrel toward a particular spot, and the leaves rise up and stampede toward the edge of the roof. I confess to enjoying intense satisfaction from seeing my intentions carried out so decisively. This, I believe, is as close as a person gets to having super powers.

But I am careful not to linger at the task. Every moment the blower is roaring might be the catalyst that sets off a spontaneous outbreak of vigilantism. An angry mob of blower opponents would have no trouble spotting me from any direction. I can visualize them approaching the house, brandishing gold rakes and flaming torches.

"Look!" someone will yell, "On the roof! The obnoxious one! Don't let him escape!" Such thoughts hasten my descent down the ladder, and I work quickly to get the blower back into its cardboard cubicle. When the roof is clean, I don't gloat.

And when I hear someone denouncing the use - and users - of leaf blowers, I remain as quiet as possible.

* Jeffrey Shaffer, who lives in Portland, Ore., is a Monitor humor columnist.

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