During the last storm, as I was panting and puffing and pushing the shovel across the driveway in the kind of temperatures you usually encounter in Caribou, Maine, I paused, caught my breath and asked myself a serious metaphysical question: Why was I the only one on the street who was shoveling?
I’m one of the few baby boomers left in the neighborhood. The others have moved to Florida or North Carolina. Two older guys who are still around have sons do the work for them after a lot of begging, bribing and threatening.
The other homeowners are from Generation X and they have snowblowers. These younger guys must be smarter and richer than I am, but I suspect they could use a little exercise, and for that very reason, I shun snowblowers and lawn tractors. I’m also the only one who cleans his gutters.
The crazy thing is even without a snowblower or a plow, and by relying solely on my trusty shovel, my driveway is always cleaner than everyone else’s.
I’ve been shoveling snow since I was a lad of 9 being raised in the rugged hills of Pine Rock Park, Shelton. Back in the olden days, our only line of defense was the sturdy steel snow shovel designed to shovel coal. It was so heavy you needed biceps like Sylvester Stallone to lift it. This was before ergonomic lightweight shovels were invented to prevent back pain and strain.
Adding to our misery, we had to toss the snow up over a four-foot wall, and after an hour doing that, I would walk two miles to the school bus stop. Abe Lincoln had it a lot easier, believe me. Yes, life was grueling for us pioneer Italians, but it taught me the value of hard work even though I didn’t get an allowance. The word wasn’t in my father’s vocabulary.
There’s a lesson here for kids today. So I was pleasantly surprised recently to see a photo of the mayor of New York’s son shoveling the sidewalk for his old man, who, I suspect, was too busy raising taxes to do it himself.
I had four daughters, and it was a cold day in hell before they’d get out there with a shovel. I blame myself for pampering them. I should have sent them out in their Care Bear rubber boots and mittens when they were toddlers to toughen them up.
My wife, however, has been known to clear our driveway (I had to say that to avoid a marital squabble), but she always expects an allowance. You see, she grew up in a rich town where kids got cash rewards just for doing their homework.
I certainly don’t want to sound like one of those curmudgeon/geezers, but shoveling snow has benefits, at least if you don’t get a heart attack. After a few minutes, you start to perspire and your ticker starts pumping and your blood starts percolating the same way it does for guys who spend time at strip clubs. However this is a far purer form of cardiovascular workout.
My daughters accuse me of being too cheap to hire a neighborhood kid to shovel, but the truth is they don’t come around anymore because they don’t need the money. Nowadays, I never see kids picking up snow shovels unless their Audis get plowed in at the mall or at the Shake Shack.
When I was their age, we’d roam the streets in gangs, trying to find work and make a few bucks. Now the youth of America are too busy playing video games and sending one another “selfie” photos with their tongues wagging like Miley Cyrus.
As my mother often said while she had her coal shovel slung over her shoulder and a corncob pipe in her mouth, “A little hard work never hurt nobody.” (Mom, I was kidding about the corncob pipe.)
So bring on the snow. But can you bring it on next year, if you please.
Joe Pisani may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.