Friday, December 19, 2008

Let It Snow; I Learned My Lesson Last Year

Today, Boston is expecting a major snowstorm. It is expected that we will get a foot or more of the white stuff, starting sometime around 1 PM. Last year, we had a similar storm right around the same date.

I was not smart last year. Not even a teensy little bit. So, in order to keep myself from repeating last year's mistakes, I am re-printing last year's blog entries that followed last year's storm. I'll be ashamed if I have to tell you similar stories come Monday, so this is my motivation to do it right this time around.

Make a cup of cocoa, turn up the heat, and enjoy my idiocy.

DUMB AS A BLOCK OF ICE (from 12/19/2007)

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.

I AM SPARTACUS! (from 12/20/2007)

Yesterday, I told you that I was dumb as a block of ice.

Today, I am KING of the ice.

Today, I’m the balls.

(Say it with a New York accent. It’s one of the few things that sound better that way.)

I am Da Man.

I am Spartacus!

Last night, I cleared my thirty-five foot snow-covered ice-encrusted driveway.

By myself.

I used nothing but a shovel.

It took me three-and-a-half hours. I sweated like a pig, even in the 30-something degree weather. I have cramps in both my hands from gripping the shovel. It was easily the best workout I’ve had since softball season ended, and I’ll feel it for a couple of days in my legs and shoulders.

But I damn well did it.

Me. Myself. I, Spartacus!

So, yesterday I told you I was waiting for a phone call from a guy with a Bobcat. He was going to tell me if he could do the job for me. I was willing to pay him whatever he charged.

He never called.

So, it got to be 1:30 at the office, this guy hadn’t called, and I knew I had to tackle the driveway myself, while the temperature was above freezing. It was supposed to snow again last night. If I didn’t clear the driveway NOW, I might not get my car out until April. I left work and started walking to the bus stop.

It’s a ten-minute walk to the stop from work. When I got there, there was another fellow waiting. I stood there, looking for the bus to come, and he kind of sidled up close to me and… stared. So, I stared back at him. Then he spoke.

"Do you know the Green Bay Packers?"

Well, that certainly wasn’t what I might have expected him to say. I don’t know exactly what I expected, but that sure wasn’t it.

I said, "Yeah, sure. Why?"

He said, "You look a lot like Brett Favre. Has anybody ever told you that?"

I had to admit that he was the first one to ever make that comparison.

He was harmless - and not blessed with good vision. As other folks came up to the bus stop, he engaged every one of them in conversation of some sort or another. He was just a friendly not-overly-bright sort of guy.

As the bus rounded the corner towards our stop, he again approached me and said, "Nobody’s ever told you that you look like him, huh?"

I again said no.

"You don’t think you look like him. I can tell. Do you?"

I said, "Maybe just a teeny bit, but that’s probably because I haven’t shaved lately."

That made him giggle. We both got on the bus.

I won’t bore you with any more details of my bus rides. Suffice to say I arrived home at a bit before three o’clock. I immediately grabbed my shovel and went to work.

And ball-busting backbreaking work it was, too. But you knew that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be Spartacus, would I?

I finished the miserable job at 6:35. I drove Roddy (my car, and the best damn car in the world, too, and well it should be, because I am SPARTACUS!) out of the garage and filled his tank at the gas station. It was the least I could do, considering how I tried to abuse him Monday morning, trying to plow him through the shit it took me THREE-AND-A-HALF HOURS to clear.

(By myself. Me. Alone. MISTER Spartacus.)

After gassing up, I celebrated by going to the store and buying rock salt. On the way out of the store, I heard a Salvation Army bell ringer. I was in such a good mood, I dropped a twenty into his bucket and wished him a Merry Christmas. What cares Spartacus for filthy lucre, except the good it may do others? I climbed into Roddy, put the rock salt by the passenger seat, and flipped on the Nat King Cole CD I had in the player. To the strains of The Christmas Song ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") I went and, as befits me, the man among men and (did I mention?) freakin’ SPARTACUS, I got two double cheeseburgers and a large fry.

They were damned good, too.

I wolfed down the burgers and fries, and then took a bracing hot shower. After toweling off, I still felt so Spartacus-like, I decided to throw on only a pair of jeans. No underwear; no shirt; no socks. Definitely no slippers. My boys are free-range, as befits someone like... Oh, I don’t know... maybe... SPARTACUS?!?

By the way, I no longer want to hear any talk about shoveling and heart attacks. If last night didn’t kill me, no shoveling ever will. Hell, shoveling and cheeseburgers and fries and cigarettes, too, because I may be Spartacus, but I didn’t say I’m overly bright. Anyway, if I ever do have a heart attack while I’m shoveling, it will be because it was my time, plain and simple. The shoveling itself will not cause it. How could it?


Well, either that or Brett Favre.


Buck said...

OK, SPARTACUS... are ya in shape for tomorrow's shovel-a-thon? ;-)

Your "stuck" story rang a couple of bells. I've had similar experiences; the situation at the second link is due to glare ice, and lots of it. As a matter of fact, I have too danged many "stuck" stories to count, and as such am in the running for Second Stupidest Man on the Face of the Earth. (Far be it for me to usurp your title!)

Angie Ledbetter said...

And, THAT, Mr. Spartacus, is why me, myself and I will never ever live in sneaux! (But I'll join ya in the burger, fries and ciggy partaking.) :)

PS The Word Verification here today is "panting." Think the generator is reading your blog?

Michelle H. said...

Sorry to hear about the snowstorm, but loved the story Spartacus! And if I squint my eyes and look at your picture hanging in my shrine, you DO sort of look like Brett Favre.

In truth, I would rather have a little of your weather than what I am getting.

Karen said...

Having moved from SoCal to Montana this summer, this story doesn't make me feel really good.

The first time we had less than 2" of snow this year, all our neighbors were out shoveling their walks and sidewalks. I thought, "Meh, what for--- it'll melt... why bother shoveling?" You're right... it wasn't long before the snow on our walks had melted a little then turned to ice. Live and learn, eh?

Anonymous said...

Merciful heavens! If we had that much snow here the country would grind to a standstill, two inches would be headline news, three would close the motor ways and a foot would bring down the government.
Hail Spartacus!

just love the way the verification words are turning out: Goonsub...I'm saying nothing.

Anonymous said...

Oh honey, I have a great solution for this - it's called a plowing service.

We hired one about 6 years ago, after several years of oh-dark-30 rising to snowblow our rather long driveway to get to work - or late at night upon arriving home.

It costs, oh yes it's not free. And we don't give a crap - it's worth it to have it all plowed out with every snowstorm that drops more than 3 inches of snow.

With the 14" we are forecast for here in my area of CT - I'll pay the price with no problem!

Hope this storms goes better for you this year.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Dear Spartacus,

You are indeed a super-hero! Now, just because you didn't have a heart attack last year working for 3.5 hours shoveling the fluffy white stuff, don't assume that you can do the same thing again. If you get a heavy snow up there, please remember the operative word, "HEAVY," and take it easy. I'd miss your insanity.

Ericka said...

so, spartacus, how'd you feel the next day?

i'm glad you didn't hurt yourself!

Unknown said...

That storm last year was INSANE! We were living in Scituate & Matt worked in the Longwood Medical Area. It took him 8 hours to get home. 5 of which was going the 1 mile from BWH to the highway. Yeah.

So...although not SPARTACUS, I am going with WONDER WOMAN because I shoveled all 18" that we got down there by my little old self too. Do WONDER WOMAN & SPARTACUS hang out on weekends in the invisible jet or in the chariot? Well I think they should. I'll bring the burgers.

This year we were smart enough to move into an apartment where we no longer have to shovel & that lovely plow dude shows up to do the parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Well, Brett, may I call you Brett? YOUR WIFE must get such a kick out of living with you. Who knows what you will do next?!

Crazed Nitwit said...

I'm not sure who's dumber, Spartacus or Brett Favre? ;P

Shrinky said...

Oh hon, you can come and play spartacus with my drive anytime! It's a long and steep winding slope, I did once try give it a go on hubby's away week - all that paltry effort only earned me a crumpled boot as I skidded back down and slammed into the house.

I don't bother anymore.

tshsmom said...

My hubby learned a similar lesson the same way.
He tended to ignore snowfalls of 2 inches or less and would just let that snow get packed down. This worked reasonably well until the spring thaw. Huge chunks of broken ice and loads of slush mired our car in up to the axles. It's pretty embarrassing when you have to call a tow truck to your own driveway!

kuanyin333 said...

I nominate you for writing the LONGEST posts in the Blogosphere! You stupid? Hah! Like a fox!

Hilary said...

We had about 10 inches on Friday and a few more overnight. It looks quite lovely out there - but I have a teenager to do the shoveling - most of the time.

Wonderful story as always.. FAVRACUS!

lime said...

i remember the story from last year. glad you've learned your lesson. we got hit again too. mr. lime is very happy to have a snow blower to save his back.

Saz said...

snow...we get none, nada, a damp floodland by the solway firth, if it comes it melts in hours...sigh..

Please drop by and read todays (sunday) post!!

i beati said...

I believe you are Spartacus really - One wonderful year in Pa. my little car slipped off the first curve on the way to work-one ..then it was towed and the bumper came off.!!I 'm not going to rub any salt in any wounds here Sparty baby except to say I haven't seen snow or ice in 25 years. amen.

Lulda Casadaga said...

Hail Bret & Spartacus! Love em both...Damn, I want some snow down here! I guess I"ll have to wait till I go up to PA next week to visit mom...I know they have snow!

I did have an uncle who died shoveling shit...It was his time...:(

p.s. Please at least wear some socks! :D

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

We occasionally get snow here in Christchurch, New Zealand. They made a video of the blizzard in the 90's sometime as it stopped the city.
We did get a very heavy fall one year when we lived in Queenstown further south - and my husband, trained from years of living in Yorkshire - shovelled the snow off the drive immediately. We were the only people in our street who didn't get trapped in our driveway when the ice formed... and the whole town was almost iced in for three weeks!

Thanks for the laugh too - good luck this year.

Chris Stone said...

lol SPARTACUS. i do have one teeny question. aren't you from the boston area? i mean, like, perhaps this isn't the first time you've dealt with snow? lol. or maybe it was just the optimist in you...

Kathy said...

Hi Suldog!
I just wanted to let you know that I nominated you for an award on my blog. :-)

CapCity said...

U tell the best stories! & I love the snow on your page!

And Happy HollerDays!!

SandraRee said...

Hey you...wanted to wish you and YOUR WIFE a very Merry, Merry Christmas. Miss you. :)

Adamity73 said...

Spartacus, y'cuss. There is nothing quite like three-plus hours of ball-busting physical labor to pump up the testosterone, is there? Give my regards to Roddy.

Nestor Family said...

Merry Christmas!

(Get a snowblower! We don't have one, but I am just sayin'...)

Fun snow here! Wouldn't think you would want to see more... even on your blog!

Janet said...

You da man, all right. We have no public transportation. And we live on the north side of the mountain, so any snow stays with us for at least a week after it's melted everywhere else. The Mountain Man uses the 1987 4-wheel drive Ford F-150 pickup when it snows. I do not leave the premises.