The love/hate relationship that an upstate New Yorker has with weather is never more apparent than when it starts to snow. This gets so intense that the cities of Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester all compete in an annual Snow Derby and local news channels will often give away a snow blower to whoever guesses the total amount of snowfall for the season. We have taken what can occasionally be a miserable, cold and inconvenient time of the year and turned it into a sport. How can you not love that kind of craziness?
The snowbirds have long since flocked to Boca Raton for the winter, leaving behind only the hardiest of New Yorkers to fend off whatever the season throws at us. We may complain about it but we also revel in it. At the first sign of a snowflake, we even embrace the practicality of dressing as if mirrors were suddenly illegal. Fashion be damned, it’s cold out there, so bring it on, Mother Nature. I have a fur-lined earflap hat and I’m not afraid to use it.
An hour or so before I went to bed the other night, it was twenty-nine degrees above zero, so naturally, I kept checking the thermometer every fifteen minutes to see if it was going to go any lower. I have one of those indoor weather stations with a transmitter outside that has a twirly wind gauge, which is a fair indicator of how seriously we take weather around here. I also looked out the window at the snowfall and did the flake math to see if I’d have to plow in the morning.
Even though we missed the record low temperature by a mile, it still snowed some more, so I had to clear our driveway. We have four-wheel drive in both of our vehicles, but I keep the driveway clear anyway. It looks better and besides, it gives me a chance to fire up Big Orange and rip through the snow piles. Big Orange is what I call my snow blower. It replaced Little Orange last year as it became increasingly apparent to me that I needed wanted a much larger, heavier machine with hand warmers.
Which brings me to my topic of the day.
As anyone who has a driveway knows, the crunchy stuff near the road is the worst. These are the spoils which have been left behind by the town plows, spoils that are usually filled with ice chunks, fenderbergs, mailbox posts, lumps of sod, recycling tubs, pieces of the concrete gutter, sleds and whatever else is scraped off of the road. Just last week, I saw an entire newspaper fly out the snow blower chute in a burst of confetti and I didn’t even blink an eye.
Anyway, it was starting to get light out when I layered up and I went outside with the dog and fired up Big Orange. I won’t lie—this is my winter baby. It has an electric starter, a canopy and the aforementioned hand warmers because if one is going to live in a snow globe, one has to have the equipment to dig their way out of it and as long as we’re going to the power equipment toy store anyway, let’s get a big machine with hand warmers to do the job.
As I was merrily chugging along, blowing snowy contrails off into the wild blue yonder, I saw the archenemy of driveway shovelers coming down the road— the town snowplow and its T-shirt clad driver. The heating system in these trucks must go from off directly to pottery kiln because I have never, in all my years, seen one of these guys wearing a long-sleeved shirt let alone a jacket. I think they would plow the roads in the nude if the unions allowed it.
We made brief eye contact as he drove down the opposite side of the street, filling the aprons of my neighbors’ driveways with three feet of nasty, crunchy snow. He showed no remorse at all because let’s face it—we all know he enjoyed it. There’s supposed to be road salt in the back of these trucks, but I have never seen it. I think it’s filled with bits of ancient glaciers and they let loose a load every so often right at the foot of selected driveways.
By the time the driver went around the outside rim of the cul-de-sac, I was only halfway done and since we had made eye contact, he couldn’t fill in my driveway apron. Not while I was watching anyway, so he spent the next fifteen minutes driving around in pokey spirals, sculpting a small mountain in the center of the circle. By the time he was done, it resembled a massive gumdrop, and if it keeps snowing, it’ll be an ever-expanding sledding hill that will last most of the winter.
I had finished up with my driveway and the areas around the fire hydrant and my mailbox when he noticed everything was clear. He made one more perfunctory pass around his snow hill project and then aimed the large truck towards my driveway. Then he waited for a second and blipped the gas pedal. This was it. I was sure he was looking for some more snow so that he could bury my handiwork, but as he slowly rolled up to my driveway, he raised the plow blade just enough to spare me the road sludge.
As I turned Big Orange around and headed back towards the garage, he gave a little beep from his horn, and while laying a finger aside of his nose, he gave a small nod and up the street, he drove. Or something like that. Anyway, his act of kindness made me forget all about wanting to chase him down with a pointy snow stake, had this gone in another direction.
So I want to give a public thank you to the snowplow driver for giving the neighborhood kids an excellent place to play and for not burying my driveway apron.
Happy New Year, buddy.
And for everybody who reads these little tales I tell, thank you. Here’s wishing you all the best for the New Year.
See you in 2018. Maybe not as often, but when a tale needs to be told, I’ll be here.