"Vhat do we do?" my Alpine Snickerdoodle Dagmar asked yesterday morning. "Everyone else is closed but where I verk. I have to get to my job this morning."
I'm not very polite at 6 a.m., no matter how long I've already been awake. But I can't be rude (at least not intentionally) to my beloved bride, so I stomped instead.
"What do you want ME to do?" stomp stomp stomp. "I suppose you want ME to go out there and shovel?" stomp stomp stomp.
"No, no," she replied, "I'll do it." (This is where I should have recognized sarchasm.* I rarely do.) "You just go back to sleep." (That time I got it. Sarcasm.)
I reached for my brand new long underpants. These days I wear long johns under my pajama bottoms, with blue jeans over both. "Hush, you. I'll get it. Just give me a minute..."
Five minutes later I was outside, standing knee-deep in snow on my sidewalk. I looked at the sidewalk. I looked at my shovel. I looked at the driveway. Deeper there, with a nice drift. I looked at my shovel. I paused for thought, idly tracing a picture of a palm tree in the snow with my finger. I walked out to the street -- they hadn't plowed yet. The snow was nearly two feet deep over most of the street, though not quite so deep up at the corner... I could see truck tracks in the snow in the street of the "main road" half a block away, but I could also see where the truck had gotten stuck. I went back inside.
"Honey, I don't think you're gonna drive anywhere this morning." I pulled off my gloves, hat, face mask, coat, sweatshirt, and jeans, putting them up where they could drop on a towel as the ice melted. "Why don't you take a vacation day?"
"I can't," she said. "I only have two vacation days built up and I'm going to use them vhen you have your nose surgery Monday."
"Well, you're not going to drive to work today, that's for sure..."
"Vell, then, I valk."
Half an hour later I'd put my jeans, sweatshirt, coat, hat, gloves and face mask back on. The dog had her little pink coat on and was all harnessed and leashed and ready to go. The vunderful vife was so bundled up all I could see was the tip of a nose and two big green eyes. "You're sure about this?" I asked. "It's cold out there."
"Yeah, I'm sure. Let's go."
Outside went we, and down the street. "I see vhat you mean," Dagmar said. "There's no way I could drive in dis." The closest main road wasn't plowed yet. We went another couple blocks to the "main drag." It had been plowed, but no one had scooped their walks yet, and the traffic was too bad to continue walking in the road. "Vhy don't you two go back home?" Dagmar asked. "It's nice dat you vant to walk me to work, but I'll be fine. It's just another ten blocks or so."
"No," I said, "I want to go at least halfway." We crossed the street and headed eastward. Zoey-dog led the way, wearing her pretty pink coat, picking out the easiest route for us. I followed, wearing my black leather jacket. Dagmar brought up the rear.
We trudged. Then we trudged some more. And yet a little more after that. We finally got to where we could see Dagmar's workplace. "Now you turn around," she told me. "Take Zozo-hund and go home." I tried to kiss her on the nose, missed by two feet, and turned to go.
On the way home I made mental notes on which stores and shops had failed to scoop their sidewalks, forcing us to trudge through 10-inch snow on their sidewalks. I shall never buy anything from them, EVER. If anyone wants a list, I'll send it to you.
After about twenty minutes (or hours, I'm not sure) Zoey and I finally made it past the main drag and were close to home. One of my neighbors, someone I'd never met, was stuck in their driveway. I waddled over to help push. I tied Zoey to a pole and put my shoulder into pushing the car, but it wasn't going anywhere. We tried rocking the car back and forth to get it out of the rut, but no dice. After a few minutes the man came to me, "Gracias," he said. "I call my brother Jorgé. He come, take me to the plant." I smiled at him, collected my pink dog, and headed homeward.
Shaking the snow off my boots, I let the dog in the house and took her coat off. She made a beeline for her food and water. Me? I sat for a minute, then went back outside. My across-the-street neighbor had told me I could use her snow blower "anytime you need it," so I decided to take her up on the offer. I knocked on the door and was met by her grandson, who got the key to the snow blower for me and told me where it was.
I got the machine out of their garage, got it started and proceeded to start clearing their sidewalk off for them -- they're letting me borrow their snow blower, after all. As I got to the end of their sidewalk I saw the other neighbor was struggling with his shovel, trying to get his car out.
What do I do? I want to help, but it's not my snow blower, and it's not my gas. Hmmm... I have ten bucks, I'll just leave that on the snow blower when I return it. Okay...
I get the other neighbor's attention, the one who was struggling with his driveway. I know he understands English, for the most part, but he doesn't speak it well, so I didn't try to start a conversation, opting to mime instead. "You want maybe I should use this here snowmachine to dig your sidewalk and driveway out?" I said with one hand. He nodded, which means "Yes" in Vietnamese. So I got to work.
I cleared off his driveway, then a couple passes on what I thought was his sidewalk and I was done. Across the street I went. Might as well do the OTHER neighbor's walk and drive while I'm at it -- he did, after all, try to fix my car the other day. (Car's still busted -- won't start now. But the neighbor guy fixed my flat tire and de-dented my dinged door.) Back and forth and forth and back I went with the snow blower. After about an hour I was finished.
As I was dragging the snow blower back to put it in the neighbor's garage, I noticed that when I cleared the Vietnamese neighbor's sidewalk, I had missed his sidewalk by about ten feet. I'd cleared a rather snaky path right through the middle of his yard...
When I had the snow blower put away, I heard the familiar whine of a stuck car at the end of the street. The Vietnamese man's wife and sister-in-law were stuck. I went up the street and helped push them out. Once they were on their way I turned up the street to go home, only to see the neighbor lady standing on her sidewalk. "I ain't takin' this ten dollars. Now you just take this back, or I'll stand out her arguing long enough that you'll have to spend the damned ten dollars on a get-well card for me when I have pneumonia... Now you just use that snowblower any time you need it and don't be trying to give me any money!" So I took the ten dollars back. (Dagmar took them a $15 gift certificate to the local pizza place later that day.)
I finally got back inside and took my coat 'n stuff off by about noon, a little earlier. The rest of the day was spent in a rush to try to get nine hours of work done in four and a half hours. (Strangely, the first e-mail I read when I got to my computer was from someone saying how they loved winter. I choked back a little bile and ignored it. They live in the south.)
About 4:10 in the afternoon I got dressed again to go pick Dagmar up from work. The streets should be clear by now, and the driveway's clear thanks to the neighbor's snow blower... I went outside. Cool -- the city hadn't plowed our street yet, but enough traffic had gone through that I was confident I could get out. I went to the garage and started the car. As I was backing out, the snowplow came by, clearing the street. Unfortunately, when they clear the street, it's usually done by the expedient of pushing all the snow into my driveway -- and sure enough, that's what they did this time.
Now I'm back out with a shovel again...
But, you know, all the time I spent clearing snow gave me time to ponder, to philosophize a little. I wondered why, when my forefathers came to America, did they choose Iowa to settle...? The proverbial covered wagon must have been going through Iowa in that one week in June where the weather's nice. I also wondered why Iowa's one of the few places in the world where it's not considered strange to wear your wife's underwear. If you do, people just assume it's because YOUR long underwear is in the wash...
This morning I woke up to blizzard warnings on TV. Dagmar and I spent another half an hour scooping out the sidewalk and driveway earlier today, only to have the snowplow come by just as we finished, rendering all our work useless. Half an hour's work doesn't sound like much, but when it's below zero and the wind chill is between -20 and -25 degrees, ANY work is difficult and taxes your system.
Dagmar's happily wrapped up in blankies alternating between TV, napping, and meditation. I'm trying to get a little work done, blogging a little, and enjoying the rum in my tummy-tum-tum. The world can keep on blizzarding out there. We're taking the rest of the day off.
*"Sarchasm (n.): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit, and the person (usually me) who doesn't get it.