Monday, June 15, 2009

The cacophony of the power-tooled suburbs

I live in the suburbs. Low density with lots of greenery, and that is the problem. All that greenery has to be whacked and manicured in order for the suburban image to be achieved and maintained. Grass has to be cut in summer, leaves blown in fall, snow plowed in winter, trees and bushes pruned in both spring and fall. None of this is done slowly and quietly by hand. No. Brute, electronic force does it all. My neighbors, each with the carbon footprint of a medium-sized African city and the mechanical clout of a small European army, wield an ear-wracking array of power tools. They use these on the weekend. During the week the hired gardening crews marshal their own arsenals of landscaping weaponry whose decibel levels resemble sticking your head three feet from the jet engines of a 747. The end result is a neighborhood filled with the electrified screech and aching whine of the machine.

The manicured lawns and precision cut trees of suburbia rely on noisy machine power. Because I do much of my work at home, I get to listen to the landscaping firms who work during the week and then also to hear my neighbors exercise their right to make as much noise as possible on the weekend with a battery of ever-escalating domestic machinery. Unlike the big central city where there is a constantly high level of background noise, the leafy suburbs go quiet in the late evening, but that makes the daytime noise all the more difficult to take. Not inured to the constant noise of the city dweller, the suburbanite who lives in the suburbs, rather than just sleeps there, has to experience the deafening weekday noise of professionals as well as the weekend warriors. Because of the constant drone of the power tool, the suburbs are leafy and green, but definitely not quiet.

Photos: John Rennie Short