Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dumb As A Block Of Ice

Did I ever tell you that I'm the stupidest man on the face of the earth?

No? Well, I would have assumed that you knew that by now, from reading this stuff, but just in case you haven't figured it out, I am. Let me give you a case in point.

Last week, it snowed here in the Boston area. 8 inches. You can usually discount such a figure as bragging when a guy says it, but in this case it was absolutely true. Anyway, the commute home that night was one of the worst in the city's history. Due to a number of extenuating circumstances, rides that usually take 30 minutes were turned into four and five hour nightmares. My own trek, from Newton to Watertown, took 90 minutes. It is generally an easygoing 15 minute ride.

I mostly spent that 90 minutes cursing out the people with whom I was sharing the road. It seemed to me I was the only one on the road who actually knew how to maneuver an automobile through snow. The people in front of me seemed content to plod along at 5 mph in zones usually traversed at 30 or 35.

Now, I understand the need for caution in dangerous conditions. I was willing to slow down to a reasonable 15 or 20, as the situation called for it, but most of the time it was just a matter of feeling the way your car was reacting to the road. If I felt a slip, or if the steering wheel started wanting to go opposite of the way I hoped, I let up on the accelerator. If need be, I applied the brakes in an even fashion. There was nothing on the road that, in my opinion, called for more than a 50% reduction in speed. Visibility was good enough to not have to slow to a crawl.

When I finally did arrive home - an hour later than I expected to - I did as I always do. I backed into my driveway. I did so with no rear window visibility. I used the mirrors on either side of the car to guide myself along the 35-foot drive and into the garage. I did not hit the house on my left, nor did I hit the fence on my right, and I left my upstairs neighbor's BMW, which was already in the garage and which I parked alongside of, completely unscathed.

After parking, I went back outside and did some shoveling. I cleared the sidewalk and the walkway to our front door. I started to clear the driveway, but only did about the first ten feet leading to the street. It was clear to me that if I could back in to the garage through 8 inches of snow, I could damn well get out through it in the morning going forwards. I saw no need to shovel the whole thing, especially since there was almost no place to put whatever snow I shoveled. The house is on the left, the fence is on the right, and you can only pile it so high against either structure before there just physically isn't anywhere to add more.

And, you know what? I was right. In the morning, I put Roddy - that's what MY WIFE and I call our car - into gear, started forward, and I had almost no trouble at all plowing through the snow and getting out to the street.

Fast forward to this past Sunday. Another storm hits. Another 8 inches.

In between the storms, our upstairs neighbors had their first child. They were at the hospital two days. They came home on Sunday. Before they came home, I had shoveled the walkway and the sidewalk again, but only about five feet of the driveway. I figured I'd wait until the plows were done on the streets before tackling the whole 10 or 15 feet I planned on doing. Why waste time shoveling out stuff that the plows would just deposit back in front of the driveway?

It gets to be about 5 pm and I look out the window. My upstairs neighbor, Peter, is shoveling the driveway. I decide it would be neighborly to go out and help him. He just had a child after all; he's probably pretty tired. Also, I want to hear him tell me about his new kid. It's all good.

So, I'm shoveling, and he tells me about his new daughter, and we get about ten feet into the driveway and we both sort of agree that as long as we have room to put one of his cars in the front of the driveway and off the street, that should be enough for now. I tell him I'm sure I can plow my way through the rest of the snow. I did it the rest of the week before this new stuff. I can do it again.

Peter seems slightly skeptical, but not enough to make him want to keep shoveling. We both head inside, after he parks his car in the cleared spot. When I want to get out in the morning, he'll move it. I go to bed with no dread other than that I usually associate with having to face Monday morning.

Comes the dawn, and I'm ready to go. Showered, dressed, Roddy warming up in the garage. Peter has heard me moving around downstairs, so he's come down to move his car. I go back inside and wait for him to do so.

I'm watching him, and talking to MY WIFE. There has been about four inches of snow plowed back into the very front of the driveway. Peter gets out of his car, grabs a shovel and starts removing some of this piddling bit of white stuff.

I say, to MY WIFE, "Oh, man. Peter really doesn't know how to drive in the snow. He should just plow right through that. It's no big deal."

He finishes clearing what he wants to, moves the car onto the street, and goes back into the house. I now go out and get into Roddy.

On my way out to actually get into Roddy, I walk down the driveway. There is a frozen crust of ice on top of the 25 feet of snow I need to traverse. With each step, I break through this crust and sink in.

It is while I'm doing this that I get my first suspicion that maybe I've made an error in judgment. The snow I'm sinking into, covered in a two-inch thick ice crust, is coming up to the bottom of my knees.

I hop into Roddy and turn on the heat. I'm surveying the scene in front of me and doubt is starting to creep into my mind. However, I said I could do it and what am I going to do if I don't do it? I have to do it. I put Roddy into gear and give him some gas.

Roddy sped along for about eight feet, like a trooper - then stopped as if he had hit a brick wall. I put my foot on the brake and shifted into reverse, to get another running start. Nothing. No movement.

OK. This wasn't going to be easy, but no problem. I know how to get a car out of a situation like this. You don't just gun the thing and dig a bigger hole for yourself. You keep shifting gears, forward and reverse, applying the brake when you reach the apex of each direction, until you have a bit of room to move in.

Nuh-uh. Nothing. I wasn't moving an inch either way. I tried turning the wheels to get a bit of different surface. Nope.

I put Roddy into park and got out of the car. I looked at the tires. I cleared around them as best as I could. Got back into the car and tried again. Nada.

Need I go on? No, I didn't think so.

I called work and took the day off. I figured that I'd do the work I should have done on Sunday, once the temperature rose a bit. I'd put in the hard labor and clear the damn driveway as much as possible. It would suck, but I could do it.

No, I couldn't. The temp never rose to above freezing that day, and trying to clear that stuff was a fruitless undertaking. I resigned myself - with much cursing - to having to take public transportation on Tuesday and attacking the driveway when the temps rose above freezing - whenever that might be.

It is now Wednesday. I took the bus (actually, TWO buses) again today. I am awaiting a return call from a fellow with a Bobcat front-end-loader. I am hoping he can clear the damn driveway, and I'm willing to pay him a premium to do so. This is because Christmas is next week and it's going to be one miserable holiday if I can't free Roddy from the glacier by this weekend. I'll have to rent a car for three or four days and I will STILL probably have to pay to have my driveway serviced.

Instead of doing 30 minutes worth of hard work on Sunday, I have suffered through three days of dread, anxiety, public transportation, and recriminations. I will probably end up shelling out a couple hundred dollars, one way or the other.

It is expected to snow again tonight.

And that is why I am the stupidest man on the face of the earth. Anyone care to argue?

I didn't think so.


lime said...

oh my stars, i can hear my grandfather's and my father's voice in my head right now if i had done that. 'girl, what were you thinking? WERE you thinking? that'll learn ya!' then shaking of the head and walking away muttering.

well, good luck.

Michal said...

so sorry. those snowy driveways are one reason i'm glad to be living in a snow free region of the country. i hate driving in snow traffic and i hate shoveling a driveway or unburying a car.
hope the bobcat plan works.

Dave said...

I gave in last year and hired a plower. Best thing I ever did. Worth every penny.

Anonymous said...


Okay, I guess that wasn't a nice thing to say. But I sure do feel high and mighty right now! ;-)

I dug myself out Friday, and Monday (in the bitter cold), and Tuesday (to finish what I had only partially completed Monday).

And now it's snowing again, and I don't think I want to do this anymore right now...