Ice wars: Now here's one battle you can win

SATURDAY'S HERO

January 22, 1994|By ROB KASPER

Overall, last week's battle with bad weather was a pain in the gluteus Maximus. But I did have a few pleasurable moments bashing the ice.

I enjoyed breaking slabs of ice into pieces and tossing them off my sidewalks and driveway. There are several reasons.

First, unlike so many of life's seemingly immovable objects, ice -- eventually gives way.

Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes you have to soften the slab up with melting pellets or a few artful whacks with a heavy tool. But most of the time, your patience and persistence pay off, and your foe slides away. There aren't a whole lot of victories like that in my life.

Secondly, ice bashing relieves tension. Years ago I used to work with a guy who would let off steam by going home and smashing panes of window glass. I thought he was nuts. But I was young and without a care in the world.

Now that I am older and familiar with stress, I fully understand why somebody would be out in his backyard bashing inanimate objects. It feels good.

Especially when, instead of using a ball peen hammer to attack the ice, you swing a 5-pound baby sledgehammer. I had tried the ball peen hammer on the ice, but the results weren't impressive. So, putting on some safety goggles to protect my eyes from flying ice chips, I began using the heavy artillery.

As I wielded that baby sledge I thought about DRIVERS WHO DON'T TURN THEIR HEADLIGHTS ON DURING A SNOWSTORM! And LEAKING PIPES! And BEING STUCK IN THE HOUSE WITH BORED KIDS FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK! Ice and tension gave way.

Appealing as it is, brute force is not always the correct ice removal technique to employ. Sometimes you have to vary your pace. When the ice is very thick and the temperature very low as it was last week, all you can do is chip around the edges. The pace is slow and steady. It is mildly satisfying work, sort of like straightening up your work bench. But there are other times when a powerful blow, a haymaker, gets the job done. I experienced several such joyful fissures last week while attacking the ice covering my parking pad. I was dutifully chipping away at the edges of ice when suddenly I saw a big crack. A crack was a sign of weakness, like wobbly knees in a fighter. I then delivered a reeling, knockout stroke with the sledgehammer, and a huge chunk of ice was history.

I pushed the vanquished ice from the driveway with a snow shovel. Then I admired my work. Another appeal of battling ice is that it is easy to see how you are doing. Much of life is ambiguous. You are never quite sure if you are making progress with problems at work or at home. But with ice, you know where you stand. If you can stand up, you are making progress. If not, you have got work to do.

I made progress on my parking pad driveway. I was able to clear the ice from a sloping patch of pavement that connects the pad to the alley. It was a slippery slope. I wanted it clear of ice so I could maneuver the family cars in and out of the parking pad without getting stuck.

So I chipped, hammered, and I shoveled until I got down to the bare pavement. I was proud of that patch of pavement. The next day when it snowed, I hurried outside and cleared the patch off again.

In other tussles with the ice around the house, the ice was the clear winner.

The ice covering the backyard walk, for instance, was too thick and tough to take on. Rather than try to move it out, I just sprinkled this ice with cat litter to improve traction.

Some ice on the front sidewalk was also immovable. Since the front of the house is supposed to be the showy side of the house, I sprinkled the sidewalk there with sand. This sand had pizazz. It sparkled in the sunlight, and it was geographically correct. The neighbor who gave me the sand said it came from the Eastern Shore. I like that Eastern Shore sand; it seemed to have a grittiness that other sands lack.

Eventually, of course, even tough slabs of ice will be reduced to docile puddles. That will happen after the thaw, which should start today.

Ice gets its last licks in during the thaw. A slab will pull a gutter loose, or a falling icicle will take out a window. Sometimes, when a homeowner lets his guard down, the fast-fading ice will surprise him and send him crashing to the ground.

If that happens to you I have some advice. Laugh it off. Then return to the icy spot the next day with a sledgehammer. And get even.

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