Downside to autumn: An allergy to raking

The signs of autumn are everywhere. The frost is on the pumpkin, people are apple-picking, my nose is dripping, and my neighbors have their leaf blowers revved up so much that our street sounds like the Daytona 500.

Everyone is competing to have the cleanest lawn on the block and get a citation from Better Homes and Gardens, and my wife keeps asking, “Why can’t you be like the rest of the guys? They’ve been raking leaves for weeks.” At least since July, I calculate.

Yes, they’ve made a career out of raking leaves. In fact, I’ve never seen men who love yard work so much, which leads me to wonder whether I’m missing a manly gene.

“It’s the allergies!” I tell her. “The outdoors aren’t good for me.”

They definitely have a different philosophy than I do. As soon as the first leaf falls, they’re out there, raking and blowing and mulching and bagging. And week after week, they repeat the process. To break up the routine, I recommend a trip to Foxwoods or maybe church.

I, on the other hand, am a humble homeowner, perhaps a little lazier than most, but certainly not driven by obsessive-compulsive behavior. I don’t pick up a rake until the last leaf has fallen, and even then I wait in the anticipation of a heavy snowfall to cover up the problem. (I had to pay for so many weddings lately that I got rid of the landscaper, and my sons-in-law aren’t picking up the phone.)

Since most of the trees in our heavily wooded yard are oaks, the leaves stay on until winter, and more than once, I’ve been on a 30-foot ladder, cleaning the gutters while snow is falling, which is truly a life-changing experience.

But nothing can compare with the thrill of driving around town, savoring the splendor of autumn, the reds and oranges and yellows, not to mention the marvelous artistry of the tree-trimming crews that cut down every limb within 60 feet of a power line and make maples look as distorted as abstract art by Picasso. That is your utility dollars at work.

The only downside to autumn is that I suffer allergy attacks from leaf mold. I’ve tried antihistamines, which make a mess of my stomach; nasal spray, which drips out of my nose in an unsightly way; and air purifiers with ionic filters that cause static cling. My wife says there’s a simpler solution: Get rid of the leaves and there won’t be any mold.

I recently found a cure no one ever thought of. I bought a box of surgical masks at Walmart, and when I got home, I put one on to protect my nostrils from floating allergens. Unfortunately, it made me look like one of the imperial storm troopers in “Star Wars,” and it drove the dog crazy. She started barking and running in circles and hid under the sofa.

“It’s me! It’s me!” I yelled, but she didn’t believe it.

That night while I was sleeping, I dreamt I was being kissed by Snooki, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. When I woke up, the dog was licking my face and trying to pull off the mask. We all have issues.

OK, that’s enough babbling. Where’s my rake? Did someone borrow my trusty rake — the one with my name engraved on the handle?

Joe Pisani can be reached at