Piles


Okay, snow.

You can stop now.

We have over a foot of snow on the ground at this writing, and it’s still falling. Collectively, we, as a family, have shoveled four times since yesterday and we’re due for another any minute.

I know what those of you safely in the south are saying. “Why shovel? Why not just let it pile up and enjoy it?” Well, for those of you not in/from the snowbelt (I’m a southern girl myself, but learning fast), you can’t just not shovel. Well, technically you can, but you’d better lay in supplies beforehand and cancel all activities until the spring thaw (read: late May). Up here, snow doesn’t just go away in a few days. It accumulates.

And, if you don’t own a snowblower, you have to shovel the driveway every three inches or so. Why? Well, think of the simple math: one inch of snow pushed one inch makes two inches of snow. My driveway is roughly twelve feet wide.

So I start by pushing a path all the way down the middle of the driveway.

“Pushing?” you say.

Yes, pushing. In the north, there is no logic such that, “A snowshovel is a snowshovel is a snowshovel.” It is not. First there is the snow-pusher, which looks very much like the front end of a snowplow attached to a long handle. It does just what you would expect.

Then, after a path is cleared down the middle, I proceed–using the snow-pusher–to push snow to either side of the driveway. Over a five-foot span, three inches of snow becomes 180 inches. You physically can’t push much more snow than that by hand. You can’t. Not even Ah-nold could. Enter the snow-scooper. Its large, flat-edged scoop is employed for lifting the massive piles–made with the snow-pusher–and throwing them, scoop-by-scoop as far from the driveway as you can.

Then you stand back and admire your clean-scraped handiwork.

“Ahh,” you think. “Snow!” It is beautiful. And you have conquered it yet again. You are happy.

And then, while your back is turned to the street, the snowplow passes. I don’t know about snowplows in other parts of the world, but the Western New York snowplow is an amazing, efficient machine. It can push/throw massive amounts of snow, at great rates of speed, for miles, only to then casually toss a short-ton of it into each open driveway, roughly six feet in.

And after the snowplow passes, and you have lowered your shaking fists, you find you have a retaining wall of snow at the end of your spotless driveway. Don’t even bother trying to utilize the snow-pusher for the snowplow pile. That snow is roughly the weight and consistency of ice cream. So, imagine, if you will, repeatedly lifting your large, ergonomically designed snow-scooper shovel with five gallons of ice cream at its end. Further imagine that you cannot merely drop your five gallons of ice cream off to one side. No, for off to one side is where you’ve thrown the rest of the driveway snow, on top of what was already there, for a height of roughly two feet.

So you must scoop your five gallons of ice cream, lift it–at the end of a long handle, thereby increasing the sensation of weight and strain–two feet off the ground, and sling it away from your body. Bear in mind that your ice cream is going to be slightly melted from road salts, and that it will often stick to the shovel, thereby requiring the extra-vigorous fling, the chiropractor-calling fling.

I should add that at the start of winter, this all comes as welcome exercise. The snow piles are still small, shoveling makes you feel vigorous and slightly macho, the sun occasionally shines, and a modicum of melting may even yet occur. But by mid-January, the reality of the task sets in, the walls of snow rise, and you come to feel a certain kinship to the prisoner-of-war. A kinship with that poor ragged fellow given the task of moving a massive rock pile from one side of the yard to another, and then back again.

Oh, that poor, poor fellow.