Shoveling More than Snow

by Tom Swift

You brace when you hear a snowstorm is coming because a snowstorm means two things: inconvenience and extra work. In this case the inconvenience is that you may have a tough time getting home from work and always a blast of snow means shoveling. All day you glance out the window in anticipation. Your colleagues talk about it as the A-topic of the day — for two days, really, this dump has been been anticipated by the weather experts since at least the morning before — and the late-shifters are asked if they need to leave early. Then the storm begins and four hours later the day ends and you get in your car and drive into it and then something happens: you become grateful for it. Yeah, sure, it takes longer to get home and, no doubt, there are a few places on the commute where the road is treacherous. But you put your favorite talk show on the radio and they are talking about the storm and you adjust your thinking. You drive slowly and deliberately and more attentively. You must. You do not try to make lights or take shortcuts or try to get past people because your extra minutes of freedom are more valuable than everyone else’s. You. Just. Take. The. Time. It. Takes. And as you pull down the alley a half block from home you think about how pleasant that was and you consider reasons to run errands that you don’t have to do right now. And you get in the door and instead of racing to put food in your face you grab the shovel. And your neighbor is out and he just got a new snowblower today and he offers to help with the driveway. And you make a pass through your walkway and clear the pathway to the front door, knowing you will be doing this all again later tonight, and then again tomorrow morning, because the heaviest has yet to come. And after you freeze your fingers but do enough shoveling for now you close the door and look back at the white world against the low light of evening and memories and present contentments come at you in a collage of sensations and you renew your appreciation of thermostat-controlled heat and you think about the gift of communal experience that’s increasingly rare but that a thick blanket of snow uniquely provides.