Snow puts wrists, wallet at risk

March 04, 1994|By Kevin Cowherd

As I write this, it is snowing again and the sky is the color of dishwater and I have lost all circulation in my wrists from shoveling.

The shoveling began at 8 in the morning, and for the first few minutes, it was not too bad at all, nerve-damage-wise.

However, by 8:15, with the wind whipping along at a brisk 20 mph or so, I was alarmed to discover there was no longer any feeling in my face, and my wrists went shortly thereafter.

A lesser man might have quit at this point, but I kept shoveling.

I shoveled the driveway first. Then I shoveled the sidewalk. Then the snowplow came by and pushed a huge mountain of snow from the street back into the driveway, so I had to shovel it again.

The snowplow guy thought this was a hoot, you could tell. This is what happens when you've been plowing for 22 hours straight and you're all jacked up on two dozen cups of convenience store coffee: Pushing snow into the driveways of homeowners becomes funny.

On his return trip down the street, the snowplow guy saw me shoveling the driveway again and tooted his horn and waved.

I waved back and smiled and thought: Yeah, yeah, ha, ha . . . might be time for you boys to get some sleep, OK?

The good thing about the terrible winter we've had is that it gives the people in Los Angeles something to laugh about.

Lord knows they could use a few giggles. First they had those brush fires sweeping through the canyons and torching everything as if the Earth were soaked with kerosene.

Then the earthquake hit and suddenly people were being bounced from their beds at 5:30 in the morning and highways were buckling and houses were folding up like bridge tables.

Then came the rains and the mudslides and $2 million homes were washing into ravines as their owners stood in the back yard whispering into their cellular phones: "Hello, Allstate? I, uh, wonder if I could get some information on my homeowners coverage . . ."

At least now people in L.A. can pick up the paper and see a picture of some poor slob shoveling snow in Baltimore and think: "God, can you imagine living there? Why don't those people just move?"

Me, I would love to move. But since I no longer have any feeling in my wrists, it makes dialing a mover all but impossible.

Here's something I want to know: Whatever happened to young entrepreneurship?

Twenty years ago when it snowed, you'd have platoons of kids knocking on your door and offering to shovel your driveway for a ridiculously low fee.

Even if your driveway was 100 feet long, these kids wouldn't bat an eyelash. They'd be out there shoveling for hours. And when they were done, you'd give them a buck or two and they'd practically kiss your feet, they were so happy.

Boy, those were the good old days. Young people were incredibly stupid back then. It was easy to take advantage of them.

Unfortunately, things are much different now. Kids are much more savvy. Now when you try to fleece them, the little brats try to fleece you back.

Take what happened yesterday. I was taking a break from shoveling, leaning against the mailbox and trying to keep from passing out, when a boy of about 13 approached.

"Hi," he said. "My name is Tad."

This, of course, was my first clue that whatever was about to follow would be extremely unpleasant.

"I'd be willing to shovel the rest of your driveway," Tad said, "providing we arrive at an amicable financial agreement."

Immediately it was clear that Tad was the most annoying person I had ever met -- at least if you didn't count the snowplow guy.

But since I had lost all circulation in my wrists and had very little feeling in both my face and feet, too, I made the little creep an offer: five bucks to finish the shoveling.

At this, Tad's face clouded over. Pulling out a pocket calculator, he studied the driveway and did some quick computations. Then he announced he would do the rest of the shoveling for $15, which, he assured me, was a rock-bottom price in today's market.

As politely as possible, I told Tad to get lost and continued shoveling, numb wrists and all.

My feeling here was: They have painkillers you can take for your wrists these days and splints you can wear, not to mention all sorts of surgical options to choose from.

Anyway, the driveway is done, although I'm sure the snowplow guy will be back tonight.

He had that look in his eye.

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