Do kids still do chores? I feel like I never see anyone younger than me shoveling in our neighborhood. When I was growing up, the understanding was that part of why I was there, and allowed to continue being there, was to do work around the house. In the winter that included shoveling the driveway. I mostly enjoyed it, too.
I’ve always had a vivid imagination so it was easy to slip into daydreams while doing the boring and repetitive work of clearing our small (50 feet x 20 feet) suburban driveway. There was also just something satisfying about creating neat edges and sharp corners. I had a very particular way of clearing the driveway, too. Two strips across the face of the garage, two strips from the garage down the centerline of the driveway to the street, then each half of the driveway was subdivided into 10 foot x 10 foot squares. You think that’s intense? You should see how I eat a Twinkie.
As with every epic story, however, there was an indomitable foe.
It would start, inevitably, as I was clearing the last remnants of snow from the foot of the driveway. First came a rumbling that I felt more than heard. Then individual sounds made themselves known: a hardened steel blade running over asphalt, the throaty roar of an engine straining to move chained wheels over the slick roads, and finally the whoosh of flying snow. In a matter of seconds the town plow truck would round the corner and shoot a grayish-white stripe of ice and dirty snow across my freshly cleared driveway, disappearing up the hill as quickly as it appeared.
It always made me furious. I knew that the plow driver was just doing his job, that this was not a personal attack against little David Marciniak, so my anger wasn’t directed at the plow driver. Rather, it was the at futility of the whole thing. Yes, even as a child I was full of existential angst. Why wasn’t there a better way? I set out to find a solution to this vexing problem.
My first instinct was to just keep the plow driver away from the end of our driveway. I had seen roadblocks used on the Dukes of Hazzard and that seemed like the logical place to start. So I dragged my dad’s sawhorses out of the garage and set them up to keep the plow off our side of the street (in hindsight I was given a tremendous amount of freedom from oversight as a kid). I was roughly awakened the next morning and sent out to shovel all the snow the plow left in the road when the driver swerved around the barricades. And the big strip of snow and ice chunks in the middle of the street. Clearly this was NOT the answer to my problem.
I spent a lot of time thinking of better ways to solve my plow problem. Just in time for the next storm, inspiration struck me. The plow is taking snow from down the street and carrying it to be deposited across our driveway, I reasoned. So if the plow doesn’t have any snow to pick up before our driveway…
My dad was a smart, patient, soft spoken practical man. He also had a keen, dry sense of humor, which is why I can picture the following exchange that may or may not have happened:
[Scene: my parents standing at the window, watching me shovel our side of the street all the way down to the neighbors’ driveway]
Mom: why is David shoveling the whole street?
Dad: I think he thinks that’ll keep the plow from pushing snow across our driveway.
Mom: shouldn’t we –
Dad: let him go. He’ll sleep really well tonight. And he’ll learn something.
My plan? It didn’t work. Eventually I figured out – after one more attempt, this time shoveling about 300 feet of the street – that cleaning up after the plow was just one of life’s inevitable frustrations. I had fought the good fight, but it was not mine to win.
It sure looks like I’ll be contending with the plow-driven frozen detritus this weekend. At least as an adult, I had the resources to go out and buy a snow blower. I’m actually excited to try it out!
If you’re in an area impacted by this impending blizzard, please stay safe, please stay warm, and I’ll see you on the other side of the storm!