Will the man with the snow blower please step forward?

February 11, 2010|By Dan Rodricks

There's evidence of limited snow-blower activity in my Baltimore neighborhood. I didn't see anyone operating a snow blower and I didn't hear a snow blower. All I'm saying is, there's evidence of snow-blower activity in my neighborhood -- and it's not at my house.

The snow-blowing apparently occurred directly after our first blizzard, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, when most of us were sleeping. (The machine must have been equipped with a special snow-blower silencer, because we never heard it.)

Guy across the street has nice, straight edges to his driveway, and perfect 90-degree angles where the driveway meets the sidewalk. Until Wednesday's storm, the path in the sidewalk in front of his house was straight, neat and of gorgeously even width.

Same thing down the block: Guy I've known for years has a long, perfect path in his sidewalk, from the corner to his driveway. Until Wednesday, his driveway looked like the snow had been surgically sliced away by elves with sharp knives and straight-edges.

Except there were no stinkin' elves.

There was a snow blower.

I didn't see it, nor did I hear it. I was never in the Boy Scouts, but I know what deer tracks look like, and I know what raccoon prints look like -- and I can tell a snow-blower path in the snow when I see one.

So, I'm wondering: What goes on here? Why so limited? I mean, ours is hardly the longest block in the world, and all the neighbors know each other, and we're all in this big winter mess together. How come the rest of us didn't get our sidewalks and driveways snow-blowered? (I know: snowblowered is not a word. However, under current conditions, I think the inappropriate turning of a noun into a verb should be excused, especially if the resulting nonword sounds as goofy as snow-blowered.)

I admit to snow-blower envy. I should have bought the one offered to me by a relative a few years ago. But this is Baltimore, with an average annual snowfall of about 18 inches, so I figured a snow-blower would just end up in the garage, with biking helmets and ice skates dangling from it.

Of course, when the Big One hits, I'm stuck, like all of us snow-blower-deprived.

So someone -- and I'm not saying who -- has a snow blower in the 'hood, and he's using it on a very limited basis while the rest of us have to shovel heavy snow into high stacks, or carry it over four-foot drifts to get it out of the way. I don't have to tell you how exhausting and spiritually debilitating that has become here, in the horrid winter of 2010.

The fact that the snow-blower activity occurred when the rest of us were not looking -- in the darkness of early morning -- tells you something. It tells you our neighborhood snow-blower person probably feels self-conscious, if not profoundly guilty, about not sharing it with the rest of us.

I hope the guy gets cooties.

If I owned a snow blower under these circumstances, I'd chop through the snow at my house and my neighbor's house and my other neighbor's house, and I probably wouldn't stop there. If I got tired, I'd turn the machine over to someone else.

Maybe I'd ask for a little gas money. Or maybe I'd just consider it something you do in an extraordinary circumstance -- unconditional snow-blowing. There oughta be a law!

I don't know how you own a well-functioning, hardly-ever-used snow-blower in a situation like this and not offer it to everyone on the block. I know we don't live in a utopian commune, where all property belongs to all people.

But, for crying out loud, is it gonna kill you to share?

Besides, you might be saving someone from a heart attack by offering your machine.

I don't know what proper snow-blower etiquette is, but it definitely goes beyond what I've just seen.

Before I go any further -- which is only, like, another paragraph -- I need to make something clear: I'm kinda/sorta kidding about all this. I love my neighbors as myself, and I really don't mind shoveling snow, and I don't hold grudges for more than, say, five years. By then we should be having another blizzard, and my nameless neighbor with the well-functioning, hardly-ever-used snow blower can make amends.

Dan Rodricks' column appears in print and online Thursday and Sunday and online-only on Tuesday.

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