Friday, January 03, 2014
Speed The Plow
The snowstorm just ended last night, leaving in it’s wake around of a foot of snow. As storms go this is an above average total but it will not burn into our collective memories. Surprisingly, it was somewhat historic in it’s duration. On the radio today they said it snowed steadily for 48 hours which hasn’t been seen for something like thirty years. Weather usually comes and goes pretty quickly here in the middle of the continent where we are used to watching fronts approach us from distant locales such as Alberta, New Mexico, and the Gulf coast.
I can vouch for this duration in a more tangible way than usual, as I was out helping a buddy of mine plow for the past couple nights. I estimate that I have plowed snow for somewhere between 15 to 20 winters. Snow removal is one of those tasks that can be a love-hate sort of endeavor. It can be fun, and it can be exhausting. Making a little extra money doesn’t hurt, but there is visible wear and tear on people and machines. If you are a results-driven sort of person snow removal can be very gratifying. But if you like your work to have a beginning, a middle, and an end - you might seek other employment after a 48 hour three storm bout.
When I get called out I am assigned the task of clearing a non-descript one story industrial/office building that couldn’t be more anonymous. It’s one of those buildings that you drive past on the way to somewhere else, the type of something you’d fly over as you descend into any airport, anywhere. I clear the place out with a bobcat fitted out with a plow blade. It’s a nice machine. It is heated, enclosed, and much better than the some of the machines and trucks I have used in the past. It is a good machine for working around a light industrial property as there are a lot of nooks and crannies to work around. In this case that means dumpsters by service entrances and parked cars and trucks - some of which appear to not moved since last winter.
Welcome to the glamorous world of snow removal!
The main activity buzzing in one corner of this property is the manufacture of pizza type products. I have no knowledge of the quality of said products, but I can tell you that it is nearly a 24/7 operation in there. As such, this is the corner of the property that gets first attention once I roll off the trailer. I’ll make a few laps around this area, making parking available for the workers that roll in around 4 AM. The roads out there may be crappy but there is some small joy in creating a safe harbor for their arrival at work. The creation of pizza type products will go on if I have anything to do with it.
I’m not going to try and kid you about the beauty of snow falling at such moments. Honestly, I’m generally too busy to notice. If there isn’t a ton of snow, I want to get this site cleared up in under five hours. This is about the average, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for meditative Zen snow moments. There is, however, a great deal of opportunity to focus on repetition. My mantra could be: Move the snow, put it there… Move the snow, put it there. I do however try to take in the beauty of the winter on the way home. This week I noticed hundreds of Canada geese hunkered down in fields of corn stubble waiting out the weather. At one stoplight I saw a hornet’s nest way up in a treetop. Now visibly exposed in the branches devoid of leaves it sported a merry new cap of snow.
If I’m done early, I might help out on some other sites. In his roster my friend has industrial sites, a strip mall, residences, and a couple of churches that he plows. In the middle of the night most of these sites seem unoccupied, but one of the churches also doubles as a homeless shelter. I have to say that it is a more gratifying to work knowing that the benefit is a little more real to actual people - like the folks showing up to make pizza things before sunrise.
On New Years Day, mid-storm, E and I recalled that this winter had thus far reminded us of winters from our childhoods. They were snowy and cold. One could ice skate outdoors. Such winters made one pine for spring, which I‘m already finding myself doing, and January isn‘t even a week old. I try not to dip too deeply into the well of nostalgia, but they now give names to winter storms, which I think is a little bit silly. This one was christened “Hercules.” Really, has anyone ever heard of a Greek snowstorm? I rest my case.