Al Batt: I wasn’t shoveling sunshine this winter

Published 11:40 am Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I might make June my primary snow-removal system.

It’d be easier than shoveling.

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The gods of snow had visited. Their names are Blizzard and Bluster. It takes two of them to do the job. I called a neighbor and asked if he had any snow. He had some. The storm had been a big one.

I like snow that is friendly and knows its place. I don’t suffer from chionophobia, the extreme dislike or fear of snow. The word originates from Greek chion meaning snow and phobos meaning fear, aversion or dread. I hold snow in affectionate contempt.

Winter winds act as a cattle prod for the owner of a snow shovel. Snow enjoys traveling. The wind is its travel agent. The wind not only moves the snow from where I’d put it, it hardens it. I wait for the wind to reduce to a whisper before I shovel. Shoveling snow is like doing most things against the wind. The results aren’t good.

I could make a run for it like the Minnesotan who strapped his snow shovel to the roof of his car and drove south until he found people who didn’t know what the shovel was used for.

Sometime during the last century, I formed a group called LAWS. I did so after reading a report on the number of men who had died while shoveling snow. It might have been a report from Mayo, or perhaps it was a Ketchup or Mustard report. LAWS was an acronym for “Let A Woman Shovel.”

LAWS never gained much traction because I have a wife. She explained it to me. She said our snow shovel was in my size and not hers. She got me on a technicality.

Here’s a tip for you husbands. Never give your wife a snow shovel for Valentine’s Day, even if it’s in her size.

I decided to go placidly amid the noise and the haste. I carried a snow shovel to the end of the drive as if it were a bag of broken dreams and dirty laundry. A snow-filled driveway is no amusement park for adults. I tried to whistle while I shoveled, but the cold froze my pucker.

Even though I don a cape while doing it, I’ve never been recognized for my mediocre ability with a shovel — not even a certificate of participation — but shoveling snow has been a core principle of my life. It’s a free gym membership. The tattoo I haven’t gotten yet is, “Born to shovel.”

I didn’t want for much as I relocated the snow. A cap that warmed my ears more effectively or a defibrillator on the shovel’s handle would have been nice. I should have waxed the shovel, or sprayed it with cooking spray or WD-40 so the snow didn’t stick stubbornly to it. The wind woke up and joined me. By the time I’d finished shoveling the drive, it was time for me to shovel the drive again.

Who wants to shovel snow? No one, that’s whom. OK, there is that guy who married your sister who claims he loves to shovel snow. But he’s goofy, so he doesn’t really count.

Duluth provides its residents with over 86 inches of snow yearly. That’s enough. My wife and I were in Haines, Alaska, in 2012 when it received 360 inches of snow, far more than its annual average of 145 inches since 2000. The 360 inches was way more than necessary. I listened to boundlessly pessimistic weather reports with wide-eyed disbelief. Mr. T watched The Weather Channel and said, “I pity the fool carrying a shovel in Alaska.” Snowmen gained weight at an incredible rate. Snow consumed my day. I shoveled and pushed snow, and used a roof rake to pull it off the house. It was snowing when I got out of bed in the morning and it was snowing when I went to bed at night. I shoveled while the snow gained on me. I needed an app and a nap. Why did I bother shoveling? I had to make room for more snow. Back in 1991, Haines got 38 inches of the white stuff in 24 hours.

We rake leaves in the fall to get into snow-shoveling shape. Shoveling snow can be a pain in the neck and a pain in the back. There must be a game console that allows the virtual shoveling of snow.

In the pecking order of the world, the weather rules. Better luck next year.

Why do I stay here? Because nowhere else is here.

Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday and Saturday.