Comments & Curiosities: One vote to blow them all away

It happens. Not often, but it happens.

A city council makes a decision and next thing you know, kaboom! It's the shot heard round the world. That's what happened recently, right here, in Newport Beach.

Last Tuesday, the City Council decided on a 4-3 vote to ban gas-powered leaf blowers. You can still use electric leaf blowers, not as noisy or stinky, the neighbors hate you slightly less. Oh, and homeowners associations can opt out of the leaf blower-free zone movement if they choose. All in all, a bold move by the council and for me, déjà vu all over again.

I keep looking for the advantages of having really gray hair but haven't found any, save one: Once you get a slew of rodeos under your belt, there is very little that you haven't seen and/or done.

Leaf blower bans are like comets. They come, they go, they come back. Tried it a couple of times during my city council years in a neighboring city — they came, they went, they came back — and was never sure why.

But there is one thing about leaf blowers that isn't hard to figure out: People hate them. A lot.

And we're not talking about "hate them" like I hate reality TV and Miracle Whip. We're talking about really, really hating them, at a primal, visceral level. You know how cats feel about dogs? How Madonna feels about Lady Gaga? How Moammar Kadafi feels about Barack Obama and how Charlie Sheen feels about everything? People hate leaf blowers way more than that.

About the only people who don't are the peeps who make their living as gardeners. Gardeners think leaf blowers are the greatest invention since air, maybe greater. Mow it, blow it, drive, repeat. So what's the heartburn for the rest of us?

During the leaf blower smackdown in Newport Beach Tuesday night, Councilman Rush Hill's comments were eloquent and succinct.

"I hate blowers," Hill said. "They just drive us crazy in our house."

Personally I would advise against using a leaf blower in the house — crazy noisy and they stink up the place, but there are lots and lots of people who agree with Rush. To start with, most people would rather play a CD of fingernails on a chalkboard during dinner than listen to a gas-powered leaf blower, which sounds like a lawn mower that just ran over a chain.

Next is the aforementioned problem of stinking up the place and the Kafka-esque practice of blowing leaves, grass and dust from one lawn to the next or better yet, down the street, which means ultimately into the ocean — all of which makes Mother Nature really cranky. Given everything that's going on right now, I think we should annoy her as little as possible for the time being.

In case you think I am kidding about how much people hate leaf blowers, get online and Google "I hate leaf blowers."

You will find more blogs and websites about blatant leaf blower hatred than about Botox, Beyoncé and Lindsay Lohan's latest adventure combined, including but not limited to: "Anyone Else Hate Leaf Blowers?"; "I Hate Leaf Blowers. Anyone Agree?"; "Do You Hate Leaf Blowers Too?"; "Hate Leaf Blowers? You Are Not Alone"; and my personal favorite, "Leaf Blowers Must Die."

I even found a 1997 film with not one actor who anyone on this planet has ever heard of called "The Leafblower" — a "sci-fi/comedy" in which the lead character spends all his time cleaning up a trash-covered vacant lot with a leaf blower because he's convinced that extraterrestrials will be landing there shortly. I got the sci-fi part, but I need a little more information on the comedy part.

So who can we thank for those deeply obnoxious contraptions? As usual with these things, it's complicated. According to that wellspring of all knowledge, Wikipedia, it was invented by someone named Dom Quinto, which is followed by the caveat "citation needed," which is Wiki-speak for "maybe, could be, possibly, wouldn't count on it."

What is more certain is that they got here in the late 1950s, not as leaf blowers, but as gizmos that sprayed farm chemicals. It didn't take long for gardeners to realize that if you tossed out the spray tube and pitched the canister, the thing blew more air than six cable TV commentators with no moderator.

And the rest, sadly, is history.

So Dom Quinto, if you really do exist and are still with us, there are a whole lot of people who would like to talk to you. My advice? Change your name, never use a credit card or a cell phone and get into a witness protection program at your earliest convenience. It's important.

I think that's it. Everything you never wanted to know about leaves, lawns and leaf blowers. Don't hate them just because they're noisy. There are so many other reasons to choose from.

I gotta go.

PETER BUFFA is a former Costa Mesa mayor. His column runs Sundays. He may be reached at

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