Monday, October 24, 2005

Snow Job

It was pretty exciting watching El Niño in the fall, wasn’t it?
I, and every other house-owner I know, watched the development of the 1997 El Niño with special interest because, along with everything else this peculiar weather pattern does, it is supposed to cut down on the amount of snow that falls in my part of The Great White North.
According to the people who know about these things, El Niño is an oceanic and atmospheric phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean along the western coast of Ecuador and Peru which causes climatic disturbances of varying severity around the world. El Niño comes along every three to seven years, which is, coincidentally, about how often I contemplate purchasing a snow-blower. But I didn’t this year because, once again, El Niño’s promise of a mild winter with minimal snowfall lulled me into a false sense of frugality.
The problem is that winter only lasts four, maybe five months in my part of the country, with only about three months of heavy snowfall. So the only time I really want a snow-blower is on February the 15th at 6:30 in the morning, when the world is as dead, dark and frozen as the inside of my car’s battery, and I am standing in three feet of freshly fallen slush, my house coat flapping around my knees, try to calculate how much weight I can shift with my bent, 10-pound aluminum snow shovel before I can expect getting either frostbite or some kind of nasty lower back injury.
It doesn’t help any that two doors away, my neighbour waves cheerfully at me, hot cup of coffee in hand, as he surges through the cement-like snow at the helm of his brand-new, self-propelled, fully automatic, self-starting SnowMeister which is effortlessly launching the frozen, gray-white slurry clogging his driveway in a graceful arch onto some other hapless neighbour’s driveway. In the time it takes me to clear a little space around my soggy feet, he has cleared his driveway and the sidewalk in front of three houses.
I bought the euphemistically named snow shovel at a yard sale in June for a buck and a half. Here is how my thinking went when I saw the thing: shoveling snow is good exercise. I really remember thinking those words. Standing there in my shorts and T-shirt under a brilliant summer sun, I actually felt that shoveling freezing rain out of my driveway in February would be something I should ENJOY! It would be an invigorating start to my day, and it would provide me with a good cardio-vascular workout without my having to join a health club, I thought, exhibiting the same short-term memory problem that causes me to plan summer canoe-trips involving me having to carry the canoe over portages.
Besides, I said to myself as I handed over my money to a disbelieving yard-sales person, we don’t really get that much snow, so why spend all that money on a snow-blower which will just wind up rusting in my garage anyway? And everybody knows how noisy they are, and how much they pollute. This, of course, is the same line of logic which, if followed, would lead me to forego buying a lawn mower in favor of cutting the grass with scissors.
By now I am possibly the only person on the street without a SnowMeister, and I can feel as morally and environmentally superior as I like while I scoop spoon-sized chunks of ice and snow out of the mountain of slag the snowplow just deposited in my driveway. The fact remains that starting with the very first yard sale in the spring - El Niño or no - I am going to be on the look-out for a good, used, SnowMeister of my very own!
I do have a pretty good snow shovel to trade, though, if anyone is interested. It is a lot cheaper than joining a health club!
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