Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Snow-Shovelers' Lassitude

It's usually about this time of year that I notice it: I no longer care if the sidewalks, driveway and other anicllary walking or driving surfaces on my personal property are cleared of snow or not.

Now the first snow, it's a thrill. You bundle up. You run out to the shed, pull the shovel out of mothballs and you push and you scrape and you work to get every flake of snow off your driveway and sidewalks. Heaven forbid someone drives or walks on unshoveled snow -- there is a circle in Hell, you're sure, devoted to them.

The first big snow, yes, is also exciting. You bundle up. You pull the shovel from its reverential perch atop the ice melt bucket on the front porch and you shovel heartily, chest-thumping with the follow next door who is also shoveling, emitting potent rays of self-satisfaction at the lout across the street who uses a snow-blower. You are a purist. And, again, you scrape and push to make sure every bit of snow is gone. You could eat off those sidewalks, they're so clean.

Then the next big snow comes, with wind, that blows Seusslike drifts onto your paths. You bundle up. You scrape and push and move that snow -- even while it's still snowing -- because you don't want anyone to tread on that new-fallen stuff and (gasp!) make it permanent.

The snow comes and comes. Finally, it comes on a day when you're not there to shovel. It gets walked on. Driven on. Compacted. No matter. You shovel the fresh stuff off, then use your special steel-bladed shovel to scrape and push back down to the bare concrete.

It snows more. You shovel. It snows more. You shovel. Sometimes you get it before it's compacted, sometimes you don't.

Then you notice it.

You have to walk on the snow one morning because your shovel isn't in its appointed spot -- it's where you left it at the far end of the sidewalk the last time you shoveled the miserable stuff.

You notice when you go out to shovel -- again -- but you don't bundle up. You're wearing a thin jacket. You're clad in shorts. You're wearing the clogs with the open heel and holes at the toe, for heaven's sake. You shovel quickly, getting a path through, but you don't clean the edges.

The next morning, the wind blows. You're in a hurry. You just walk out. Compacting the snow on top of the already compacted stuff, which is turning into glacial ice. More snow falls. It is perfunctorily shoveled, because now you're not even wearing the jacket. You just want to get rids of the stuff so the kids stop tracking so much snow into the house that your socks are soaked when you're standing at the landing putting on your clogs so you can go outside and shovel some more damned snow.

Occasionally, you get religion. You scrape all the way down to the most compacted ice, then sprinkle on that ice melt. You move the cars out of the driveway and get out the axe, bashing away at the six inches of compacted mess covering your cracked and splintered concrete. You get the sidewalks back down to the bare concrete. They're clean. Until the next storm hits, and you're too busy to shovel and don't care that the neighbor's cat is out there, compacting, compacting, compacting.

Mother Nature doesn't help. She thaws. She freezes. She thaws. She freezes. She thaws. And freezes again. More snow comes at irregular intervals.

You no longer want to shovel.

You no longer care.

Now you clean the steps, pushing the snow away, hoping the ice melt will do the rest. You're no longer speaking to the driveway. Your kids slip on the ice and actually disappear underneath the mini van, because they're walking on an ice shelf that rivals those of the Antarctic and the van has compacted its tracks and sheltered the concrete with its underbelly, turning the no-man's land underneath into a fairyland of clear concrete and those coal-black icicles your van likes to collect.

Snow-Shovelers' Lassitude. It will happen to you.

1 comment:

carl g said...

Lassitude, now there's a word I do not use much. I'll add to my find-a-use challenge list. I'm still working on "pusillanimous." I think David Brooks dared used it once in a column, and conservatives (after looking it up) gleefully cited it as proof he is overeducated sissy.