"A long memory can drive a man crazy."
-- Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Strongest Force on Earth

     You might think the strongest force on Earth is a hurricane or a tornado or an earthquake. But you'd be wrong.

     So what do you think it is?

     I'll reveal the answer in a minute. But to explain, I first have to tell you the story of my leaf blower.

     I acquired a leaf blower about 20 years ago -- a handheld blower, not the heavy duty kind you push like a lawnmower. At the time I lived in a four-bedroom house with a big lawn to take care of, in a fairly upscale neighborhood. But perhaps we were living above our station, because unlike most of the people on our street, we couldn't afford a lawn service, so I took care of the yard myself. Once my son got to sixth grade he started cutting the grass, although not without a bribe . . . I mean, an increase in his allowance. I also got my son, along with my wife and daughter, to help rake leaves in the fall. But to be frank, they were neither enthusiastic nor effective.
My new leaf blower

     So anyway, I bought a gas-powered, handheld blower to help me with the leaves. It also proved helpful in cleaning off the patio and blowing out the garage. I even used it to clear off snow if the storm wasn't too bad and the snow wasn't too wet.

     After my wife and I got divorced I moved to a condo. And I brought my gas-powered blower with me. I no longer had leaves to get rid of, but I still had a garage that got dirty, a deck that needed clearing off, and a short walkway that got dusted with snow.

     When I moved in with B, she had two boys who mowed the lawn and did yard work. But B's theory was that you couldn't get a male to do any work around the house unless he had a toy to play with, preferably something that made a lot of noise. She had a riding mower, which the boys enjoyed driving around the yard pretending to be race car drivers when they were really cutting the grass. She had a weedwacker, an electric hedge clipper, and even a gas-powered edging tool. What she didn't have was a blower.

     So now she not only had me, but she had a blower as well.

     The problem is that my 20-year-old blower gave up the ghost a few weeks ago, when I was tasked with cleaning off the deck in preparation for some guests coming over for a cookout. You know what B made me do?!? Sweep the deck. By hand. With a hand-powered broom. I couldn't believe it -- that's technology from the 14th century!

     But, being a gentleman, I did the job with aplomb . . . and without complaint. (No, you may not speak to B to verify this statement.)

     So anyway, this morning I was sitting comfortably on the TV room couch, drinking my coffee, reading a magazine and getting ready to watch the Olympics. There was some handball, field hockey kind of thing, pitting the Ukrainians against the Netherlands (I think). You know, must-see TV. So B steps into the doorway, dressed for work, looks me up and down and says, "Are you by any chance thinking of getting another leaf blower? Or were you just thinking we could coast along without one?"

    "Why, thank you for the compliment," I smiled, "by assuming that I was doing any thinking at all."

     She gave a polite little laugh to show she was being patient, then continued looking at me.

     "I guess, now that you mention it," I went on, "a blower could come in handy. But do we really want to invest in new equipment when, you know, we're not going to be here too much longer?"

     (We're thinking of moving, so we're hesitant to start buying new stuff for the house -- well, actually, I'm the one who hesitant about buying new stuff, even though there's no way we're moving for at least five years.)

      "Well, that's what I kind of want to know," she said. "Because there's debris all over the driveway. And I figure if you're going to buy a new blower, you could blow it off. But if you're not, then I'm wondering if it's up to me to sweep it off."

     "Oh, I see," I responded slowly. "Gee, I could have asked for a blower for my birthday." I paused and looked down. "But my birthday is over."

     "Yeah, you'd have to go buy one yourself."

     "On the other hand, your birthday is coming up," I ventured. "Would you like a leaf blower for your birthday?"

     "You're not getting me a leaf blower for my birthday."

     "But you just said you were going to have to sweep the driveway," I explained patiently. "If I got you a leaf blower, it would save you a lot of work. To me that sounds like a pretty good birthday present."

     "Very funny," she retorted, although it seemed as if she didn't really appreciate my dry, sophisticated humor.

     "Well, maybe I should buy one for myself," I finally allowed. She nodded agreement and said goodbye and went off to work.

     The long and short of it is, I hightailed it down to Sears later in the day and bought myself a leaf blower. An electric one this time. On sale for $69. I brought it home, anxious to try it out. I assembled the machine, got out the extension cord, and started by blowing off the deck, then the front walk, and then I did the garage. Actually, it was kind of fun, and it was plenty noisy.

     Which brings me back to the strongest force on Earth. I blew the dust and dirt and leaves out of the garage, no problem. But no matter how much I blew at those cobwebs and spiderwebs, they did not budge. They swayed and bent under the force of the air coming out of the blower at 250 m.p.h. (or, so it was advertised), but they did not break. I knocked a few down with the end of the blower -- but even then they didn't really blow away, they just stuck to the wall.

     And so, you're thinking, finally the answer:  It's the spiderweb that's the strongest thing in the world.

     But that's not true, either. The spiderweb is the third strongest thing in the world. What's the strongest? That, you can decide for yourself. Is it the inertia of the male lying on the couch, drinking his coffee and watching TV? Or is it the female force, levering the husband off the couch to perform a routine household chore?

     I think you know the answer.


Douglas said...

I have a leaf blower. It's electric and reversible. That is it sucks as well as blows. It has a bag which attaches for the vacuum function. I forget what it costs and I haven't used in in some time so it gathers mostly dust out there in the mess that is my garage.

But I agree with you about those cobwebs. Any webs at all, for that matter. Incredible strong and flexible (not to mention sticky), they resist all attempts to easily clean them out.

Linda Myers said...

LOL! What a guy!

Dick Klade said...

The ladies always triumph.

#1Nana said...

Nice little story. We have two and a half acres and no leaf blower. We live on a small cliff above the river. We just wait for the wind to blow and let nature take its course

June said...

You need to speak with Husband. He doesn't know the answer to your question. A conversation between the two of you would do both you and me some good.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Gas powered leaf blowers pollute. If you must get one, go electric. We have 4 outside brooms, and I bribe kids to sweep occasionally. Mostly the fellow who baits the rat traps also goes around the house with a duster and busts spider webs. "I don't know why you have so many webs?" he says. probably because I NEVER knock them down. They just rebuild them anyway. Dianne

Bob Lowry said...

Gas leaf blowers are horrible devices. People who own them always think it is OK to fire them up at 7AM on a Sunday. Your neighbors and B are probably much happier with your electric version.

A motivated female is a force to be sidestepped, avoided, or finally, accepted. At least in my case, it often turns out my wife was right anyway.

JHawk23 said...

My favorite leaf blower image is the tv commercial a year or two ago (can't remember for what) where Dad was left to take care of the home and used the blower to "clean up" all the kids' toys.

Anonymous said...

I agree, most leaf blowers foul up the air -- like your whole neighborhood is forced to smoke one giant cigarette. Yucch.

The electric ones aren't as bad for the immediate environment, but of course electricity comes from such things as coal and nuclear.

So our family has gotten used to using a rake. Cost: almost nothing. Air pollution load: none. Noise pollution: almost none. Carbon footprint: 0. Physical exercise opportunity: high. Oh, and cobwebs don't fare that well against metal rakes.

I enjoyed reading your story but please give leaf rakes a chance. They're good for you and for all!

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