Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Where The Air Is Sweet

Last week Snuffleupagus made the first of his two annual appearances at our house. As usual he moved slowly down the street alongside the curb accompanied by his attendants, stopping for no one, and leaving nothing in his wake.

His general schedule is published on our town's website -- the Monday through Friday during which he will visit -- but the exact day and time is never pre-announced. As a result, frenzied preparations for his arrival usually begin on the weekend immediately before the ordained workweek.

Landscape crews brandishing high-powered leaf blowers with a wind-force and decibel count reminiscent of our village's mid-summer tornado descend on the neighborhood. Maelstroms of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns are swirled up in the air, and then arrange themselves into Quonset shaped piles along the outer edges of the snow-shelves.

On other properties, residents (us included) manually operate wooden poles with affixed plastic tines in a repetitive effort to coax their own dead foliage into similar configurations on their own lawn aprons.

By Sunday evening the neighborhood is a picture of pristine lawns bordered by neatly arranged, autumnal colored mounds of oak, maple and elm droppings.

Snuffleupagus does not appear on Monday. Instead the intermittent rains begin. And the swirling winds, which have been mysteriously absent when nobody cared where the leaves were, suddenly come alive. By Monday afternoon over fifty percent of the previously assembled foliage has been redistributed back onto the lawn areas from whence it came; twenty-five percent additional leaves have received their golden parachutes; and the entire mess has become too sodden to do a damn thing about it.

Tuesday: more precipitation, heavier breezes, and dead leafage from unknown trees in nearby towns all appear on the scene. Snuffleupagus does not.

On Wednesday the sun is out and the winds are calm. No sign of "The Big S". Mars and I decide to give it one more day to dry out.

Thursday we return from our mid-morning health club trip to the sight of our neighbor up the street, home from work, hurriedly blower wrangling her modest collection of maple leaves onto her snow shelf. Further up the street, heading in her direction, we hear, and then actually see, Snuffleupagus.

Figuring that we have enough time before he goes up that side of street and then comes back down our own, we decide to have lunch in order to fuel our upcoming efforts. We wolf down our sandwiches and then get right to work.

Mars and I live at at a three-way intersection. While raking the leaves onto our east-west apron we hear, and then actually see, a second Snuffleupagus at the far end of our north-south road -- slogging slowly towards our shambolic snow shelf.

Under pressure it is possible for two relatively robust, rake-wielding people -- even people whose introduction to the "real" Snuffleupagus occurred well into adulthood -- to arrange their leaves faster and neater than any monetarily-motivated posse of hired leaf-blower guns ever could. This is known in folklore as the "John Henry Effect". We finish the job just as the last leaf is sucked from our next door neighbor's collection.

On Friday, one day after "The Snuffster's" visit, landscapers for the house immediately across from ours blow hundreds of thousands of oak leaves from their lawn out onto their side of the road. At least fifty thousand of these leaves are now on our property -- with more arriving by the minute. Snuffleupagus is not scheduled again for several weeks.

Just call me Oscar the Grouch.

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