Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Shoveling



Written after a snowstorm in February 2003 when I was a single lass living in Havertown...


After dealing with 22 inches of snow, alone, in a tightly crowded twin house neighborhood, I now know I can do anything. I single-handedly cleared what would be considered a paltry mass compared to what many shoveled, but this was a lot worse because I was the one shoveling it. I had to get right to it because my dog Scooby couldn't get outside, which is the human equivalent of being locked out of the bathroom.


With muscles I haven’t used since swinging from monkey bars in 1972, I sliced away at the snowy layers. They sliced back. I felt mocked by my neighbor’s walkway, already cleared by the snow blower elves who I keep forgetting to believe in. Then came the rush of breaking through to actual concrete. “Eureka, my good Scooby!” I exclaimed. “Solid ground doth rise up again betwixt the hellfire and heavens of our primordial forebears!” That was enough for me. Time for a beer.


No, not really. I’d never miss an opportunity to shred my shoulder tendons while still sober. Away I whittled, inadvertently carving a version of Michelangelo's David out of the sidewalk snow at one point. My simulated Byrd Antarctica expedition then brought me to my car and the 4-foot mound snowplowed in front of it. Now as a journalist, I’m used to shoveling, but it was hard work creating a drive-through tunnel. I made it easier by thinking of it as my own personal section of that snowy maze from Stephen King’s The Shining, where the murderous father is hunting down his son to hack him up. I’ve always wanted one of those.


While simultaneously prying my cabin-feverish dog off of each shoveling neighbor he suction-cupped himself to, I freed my Honda about 95% of the way. I finished it off by doing a little speechifying and finger-pointing to the car, giving it a little time to think about its noncompliance, and basically shamed it into budging by pointing out that the 80-year-old lady across the street had already zipped off in her Sebring and left the portable fan she’d used to reserve her parking territory rattling in the gust.


Last to conquer was my deck, where so much snow was piled that there was a guy back there selling lift tickets. Said snow was blocking my back door, so I started shoveling it. If you drive by my house right now, you will see that I am still shoveling it. I fear that while others in my community will carry on with their lives, turning to other pursuits as spring draws near and melts every suburban snow bank, I will still be back there, lips stuck on blue as I continue to chisel with my mangled shovel, unaware because of hypothermia-induced dementia that the snow is gone and I am actually just chopping apart my deck.


The only place with more snow than my deck was my living room, tracked in via boots and canine. On the TV news were some really useful snow reports. According to informed and exclusive sources, the snow was causing – believe it or not – traffic delays. People were spending quite a bit of time – I kid you not – shoveling. Temperatures were – and this will astound you – in the low thirties. Listening to it was enough to send me screaming back out in to the depths to continue my battle with the abominable snowstorm.


No wonder it’s a battle that leaves me believing I’m capable of anything. There’s something about wrestling with nature and not ending up buried beneath it, and still being able to walk with a shovel implanted in my foot, that gives me a really false yet deep and comfortable sense of invincibility. I think it’s because a big snowstorm always highlights that this is one more winter that I’ve managed to live through.


So to what use shall I put my bravado this time around? Let’s see. Already went to a Muslim country a few months after September 11. Lived on a monthly salary only slightly higher than my birth weight. Had dental work with no anesthesia. Appeared on reality and home shopping TV. I think the next adventurous risk I should take is obvious: publicly admitting that I hope we get another two or three feet of snow before April. Hate mail will be laced with grimy rock salt and returned to sender.