Commentary: My Fight with the Lawnmower Man

In his The Devil’s Dictionary, the unmitigated cynic and professional contrarian Ambrose Bierce describes noise as “A stench in the ear” and “The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization.”

Sadly, his sardonic definition seems all too true.

Leaf blowers. Gas-powered lawnmowers. Hydraulic ladders used by lazy and inconsiderate house painters. Gonad-rattling motorcycles. Boom boxes in boom cars. The neighbor’s stereo playing the greatest hits of Eddie Money turned up to 11. Road construction. Sirens. Fireworks. The constant whine of traffic. We are surrounded by a never-ending cacophony of noise.

And no one seems to care.

Noise pollution actually falls under the purview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Clean Water Act.

According to the EPA website dealing with noise pollution (, “Sound becomes unwanted when it either interferes with normal activities such as sleeping, conversation, or disrupts or diminishes one’s quality of life. The fact that you can’t see, taste or smell it may help explain why it has not received as much attention as other types of pollution, such as air pollution, or water pollution.”

The website goes on to report, “that there are direct links between noise and health. Problems related to noise include stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, speech interference, hearing loss, sleep disruption, and lost productivity.”

Why bring this up in relatively quiet Door County?

I have seen firsthand how the problem of noise pollution is not taken seriously and diminishes quality of life.

Shortly after moving into the place I live in beautiful downtown Egg Harbor a little more than three years ago, I was awakened early one Friday morning by an industrial-strength machine operating directly outside my bedroom window. If I remember correctly, it was 4:45 am. It was still dark outside and it sounded as if the apocalypse had arrived. The end times were here for me.

I ran outside but instead of meeting the four horsemen of the apocalypse, there was a guy on a rider lawnmower across the street from me. He was wearing ear protection. That’s how loud his machine is.

I asked him what the hell he was doing this early in the morning. He said it was the only time he could cut the grass at this place.

With the day not even officially started, mine was already ruined. I need my sleep. Did I mention I have chronic hypertension that is apparently triggered by loud, obnoxious noises? It induces noise rage.

So I emailed a complaint to the business that hired the lawnmower man. Never did get a response, but two weeks later I was awakened by the machine again, although it was merely 6 am and already light out, so obviously fine to fire up the loudest lawnmower on Earth.

I sent an email to the village. Surely this guy was violating a village noise ordinance by operating so early (he was). I pointed out that we all keep different hours. I’m a night person. How would they like it if I came and typed outside their bedroom windows at midnight? (I’ve been told I’m a loud typer.)

So now the guy obeys the village noise ordinance (from 7 am to 7 pm you can make all the racket you want), making certain to start his infernal machine across the street from my bedroom at exactly 7 am every couple of weeks.

That’s what he did this past Saturday, which once again filled me with noise rage. When I went out to rain disdain on him for starting my day on such a sour note, he threatened to call the police. On me. For harassing him.

What bizarro world is this?

While village officials were apparently amused by my original request to deal with lawnmowers as public nuisance, they were not moved enough by my entreaty to change the village noise ordinance to a later start date for lawnmowers – ideally, 9 am, but 8 am would be even better.

Is there really any earthly reason why someone should mow a freaking lawn at 7 am? Especially on a Saturday?

And so what if the village ordinance says you can run jackhammers at 7 am? Why would you? Have you no decency, man?

Is 8 or 9 am so unreasonable? I still wouldn’t like it, but at least I would probably be awake and able to drown out the invasive sounds, sounds that I bet exceed village decibel levels (note to self: must find a decibel reader).

I am going to bring this issue before the village board again. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on noise pollution. I know you have them. I get the daily report from the sheriff’s department and noise complaints are one of the more common issues the department deals with daily.

What are the noises that ruin your day? Please tell me, quietly via email.


Article Comments