Shovels, backhoes and other signs of snow madness


Janet's World

February 21, 2010|By Janet Gilbert | Special to The Baltimore Sun

In recent weeks, we've had more than enough severe winter storms, as well as quality time with our families. As a result, some of us have developed the quirky behaviors of the long-snowbound. Let us examine the warning signs of this irrational state, a result of the progressive whiting-out of reality.

The first things to go are your housecleaning and child-rearing standards. The disarray outdoors is mirrored indoors, and you might be prone to inappropriate outbursts. Just the other day, surveying our dreary kitchen landscape of damp snow pants strewn over chairs and slushy boots drying on muddy towels, I shouted: "Why can't you people just stay inside and spend more time surfing the Internet and texting your friends?"

Next, you may suddenly develop a preference for a certain shovel. Before this series of storms, I considered all shovels pretty much the same. But after Week 1 of scooping up the confectionary covering, I acquired a discerning eye, choosing the curved, metal-edged shovel for a wet, heavy snowfall and the cheery red plastic one for the powdery stuff. After Week 2 of shifting the suffocating blanket of pristine paralysis, I found there was only one shovel that seemed to fit my hand and body type best for snow relocation. This became my favorite shovel.

I love this shovel so much I would like to be buried with it. Sure, other civilized people across the country might have a favorite wine, a favorite chocolate or a favorite author. But I and thousands of others in this snowy state of chaos we call Maryland proudly wield a favorite shovel, and may the Lord help you if borrow it and forget to return it. What we're saying is you might just become a missing person. If you get our ... drift.

Another sure sign of blizzard-brain is that food and the foraging for it takes on an unnatural importance. You rush out to grocery stores when your pantry is already well-stocked because you are compelled to roast huge hunks of meat and make them into soups later. You are called to create and eat large, soft cookies. And you simply must experience the Zen of real hot cocoa, made in a pan on the stovetop with whole milk and melted bittersweet chocolate.

The final indication of snowbound mania is a rekindled excitement about heavy equipment. Remember when you were a child and you saw your first Mike Mulligan earthmover, and the ground trembled and your ears buzzed with the vibrations and your jaw dropped open in awe? When this equipment hits the road for snow removal, it's just plain inspiring. The other morning - at precisely 2:52 - I heard the droning and the back-up beeps of a large backhoe or bucket loader, and I leapt out of bed and threw open the shades.

"What's going on?" my husband mumbled.

"There's a piece of heavy equipment in our court!" I shouted gleefully.

"Hmmm," he said.

"It's picking up the snow and redistributing it!" I reported, verklempt. "Come look!"

My husband got out of bed because he had no choice - my tone of voice indicated that this happening in our Woodstock cul-de-sac in 2010 was on a par with the Woodstock happening of 1969. But this enthusiasm is only natural when one has spent weeks moving voluminous amounts of snow shovelful by shoulder-stretching shovelful. It is just plain exhilarating to see a big orange bucket scrape up a mountain of it and dump it on your neighbor's front yard in one elegant, effortless motion.

I just hope I can find a wall calendar with photos of heavy equipment, pot roasts and cookies to hang in the garage next to my favorite shovel, so I can relive the thrill of this particular winter throughout the rest of 2010.

Now, who left this wet scarf on the dining room table?

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