Note: I began this piece on Sunday afternoon. Then I got distracted by a bright, shiny object in the middle distance.
Greetings, from behind about 16 inches of fresh snow. I didn’t lose power at the house; not for even a minute. Fortunately I saved the receipt and the boxes for all of those electrons I crammed into my various rechargeable battery packs last night. First thing tomorrow, I’ll bring them back to the power company for a full refund, minus a small restocking fee.
So. I spent a full evening sitting up in bed, contemplating the wind and the ice slapping against the house, and generally trying to move the cursor to the right. I awoke at noon and padded downstairs in my flannel pajama bottoms and my Skywalker Ranch Fire Rescue EMS zippered fleece. I fixed myself a ham and swiss, which I left on the counter while I stood at my front door with a stimulating beverage. Here, I gazed through narrow eyes at the vast plain of thick whiteness, which was broken only by the top bits of my car and my lamppost. I contemplated my immediate future.
This future seemed to include a lot of stoop, scoop, swing, throw, repeat. I could tell that the stuff was deep, almost as deep as M. Night Shyamalan imagines himself to be. Clearing all of this away was going to be like shoveling a driveway stacked on top of another driveway. It didn’t appear to be the kind of snow that’s warm and dry, either. No, if past experience was any measure, this stuff would be cold. It was going to make my feet and legs all wet and it wouldn’t even pretend to be sorry about what it had done.
And now, a word about marketing. Big, gas-powered snow throwers make a loud putt-putt-PAP-PAP-PAP-putt-putt noise for the same reason that high-end bric-a-brac stores fill the air with the scent of apple pies baking. It puts the customer in a buying mood. It’s hard to stand at your front door in your flannel jammies and your Skywalker Ranch Fire Rescue EMS fleece, hear that noise, look at the two non-automated snow shovels by your front door, and then fail to recognize that whoever it was who came up with the “exchange abstract units of value for non-abstract goods and services” system a few thousand years ago really knew what he was doing.
I phoned my neighbor and arranged to have her kid visit my house with that big gas-powered machine.
Shoveling 16 inches of snow yourself — to say nothing of the Jersey barrier of compacted ice boulders that the snowplows had left at the end of the driveway — is an Oreo cookie of personal feelings. Before you begin, there’s the sweet, crunchy, chocolaty cookie of thinking “I’m not going to waste money on a job that I am perfectly capable of performing myself.” After you’ve finished, there’s the pride of looking down upon 100-200 feet of bare driveway and thinking “See? I did that.”
The bit in the middle, however, is just a disc of largely-undigestible fats and oils and it might even give you a heart attack.
Yes, friends, I thought about how dumb I was going to feel slogging through this stuff for two or three hours when I could have traded that entire experience for one phone call and then about fifteen seconds of writing a check. It’s a fine example of one of the perqs of building up a little seniority in the organization. The kids (home from college, I think) want to make some money. I want to avoid having to shovel this much snow. Human society has been carefully constructed to create simple solutions to both of these problems.
They got through the job in barely more than the amount of time it took for me to finish my sandwich and a small bowl of mini-pretzels. Hand-shoveling was only required for the very top of the walkway and the bits immediately around my vehicle. So it’s not as though I had any reason to feel like the Pharaohs did when they enslaved the Jews to shovel snow from their driveways so long ago.
My car is clean and I now have a clear path to the sea. The lads have received a check for a significantly nonzero amount of money which was nonetheless quite affordable.
And that’s where the draft ended. Normally, when I spend a Sunday afternoon goofing off, I do it for free. This time, I had paid forty dollars to avoid doing hard work. If I actually spent that time writing, I reckoned, then I was hardly getting value for money, was I?