Walking across the El Camino at Santa Cruz Avenue after buying a book at Kepler's this morning, I spied a huge, foul cloud of dust around the area in front of the ceramic-painting shop. The closer I got, the more painfully my ears were assaulted by not one, but two roaring, fume-spewing leafblowers, one of which was blowing dirt into the street and up into the air -- our breathing space. And as I walked closer still, my throat began to close up as I breathed in the fumes from these stupid and cruel machines.
This charming little scene took place, ironically, under the shadow of the enormous banner strung across Santa Cruz Avenue: Shop Menlo Park -- Buy Locally, Support Local Economy. Although I had planned to stop at at least two more shops before leaving the area, I instead dashed straight for my car and fled the scene, still coughing.
Menlo Park came close to banning leafblowers a few years ago, and I -- and I'm sure most other people with asthma and other respiratory problems -- am so sorry the ban wasn't enacted. I am still coughing.
The only aspect of this sad scene I was able to smile about was this: After I was past the blowers (though not past the pollution), I heard a horrific shrieking -- so loud it pierced through the brutal noise of the twin blowers. I stopped, looked back, didn't see anything. But just as I started walking again, I heard the shrieking again, and whipped around to see a short, elderly woman at Doyle Street, trying to walk onto Santa Cruz, screaming at the men to turn the damned machines off so she could pass. They did. And in my mind I thanked this outraged woman with the heroic lungs. She screamed for me.