Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Battle of Driveway 28

The battle started Tuesday morning, 6:00 a.m. The alarm woke me up. I got out of bed, pulled yesterday's jeans on, grabbed a pair of socks, a sweatshirt, and headed downstairs.

I laced up my shoes, zipped up my coat and pulled on my work gloves. Then, with sleepy seeds still in my eyes, I opened the garage door and faced my enemy head on.

The snow was powdery and easy to shift. Simple pressure on my shovel scoop pushed it down the inclined driveway and out of harms way. Yes, more snow continued to fall, but I paid it little mind. I just wanted improved traction for my car as Lynda and I headed out an hour later to go to work. I knew that more snow and freezing rain would come, so I didn't expect driveway perfection.

After I had sufficiently cleared the driveway, wishing for the fiftieth time that our driveway wasn't angled upward at a 35 degree angle, I headed back inside, tossing my damp, snowy outerware in the front room to dry while I ate my bowl of cereal and grabbed a shower.

It was approximately 6:25 a.m.

The house was still dark and slightly chilly. The girls were asleep in their warm beds but Lynda was up and around, drying her showered hair and selecting her work clothes for the day. We checked the weather report and investigated the school's status. Still open.

After a warm shower, the girls were awake and pulling on their clothes. We finished our morning rituals and headed downstairs to get in the car. I noted through the upstairs bedroom window that the driveway was partially covered again. I wondered if the snow was now mocking me.

Downstairs and outside, I saw that the accumulation was more than I was happy with--around a 1/4 inch or so had fallen in the last thirty minutes, more than I wanted to get covered with freezing rain later in the afternoon. So, I grabbed the scoop and quickly began pushing the offensive precipitation out of the way once more. Sarah, who I have discovered is a great fan of driveway clearing, enthusiastically joined in with her yellow handled broom. Lynda also grabbed a broom and soon the driveway and clear enough again. We set off to start the rest of our day.

It soon became clear, once we dropped the girls at daycare and arrived at work, that many people were staying home. But, secure in the knowledge that we were awesome, Lynda and I hit our keyboards running and got to work. The morning was unremarkable. During lunch, we heard the announcement that the building was closing at 1 p.m. to allow employees time to get home. The snow had begun shifting to freezing rain at this point and the roads would become more dangerous as day turned into evening. We gathered our books and the work that was portable and headed outside to sweep off the car.

As we drove out of the parking lot, I remarked to Lynda that I was surprised that the daycare had not called. As if on cue, the cell phone rang. The center director was on the line, informing us that she was letting the teachers out at 4 p.m. (two hours early). We assured her that we were on the way and would be there very soon. We drove up Country Line road, plowed by the constant movement of other cars, and stopped at the Home Depot to pick up some wood (just in case the power went out during the evening). We had the kids and were home by 2 p.m.

But, the driveway was covered again. We parked the car by the sidewalk and I got the shovel out once again. The snow was about two or three inches deep, still a bit powdery but there was the beginnings of an icy skin forming, which made shifting it a bit harder and slightly heavier besides. I don't remember how long it took, even with more help from everyone else, but soon the driveway was clear and we moved the car up the incline and into the garage.

Tuesday evening was fine. No power outages, plenty of heat, and we had a nice dinner and the girls got a warm bath. After Sarah and Grace were safely in bed, I examined the driveway once again, noting that it was now covered in a sticky, icy concoction that had the consistency of powdered sugar but the sticky tenacity of the ice at the bottom of the refrigerator's icemaker. I spent a few minutes pushing it around in the light of the garage bulb and the reflected light from the street lamps. I smelled the wood smoke of neighborhood chimneys. The driveway was not clearing and I was tired. Rationalizing that even if I spent another hour pushing it all around, another three inches of snow would be sitting there on Wednesday morning anyway. So, I sprinkled some driveway melting pellets around and headed inside to warm up and watch TV.

All considering, we were much luckier than many poor souls that evening.

Wednesday dawned with the expected layer of fresh snow. I didn't bother to get up at 6:00 this time, since I already knew that schools were cancelled for the day and work was on a two hour delay. I intended to clear out the driveway once again and get to the office by 10 a.m. I quickly realized that this morning's snowfall wasn't going to be moved as willingly as Tuesday's. The leftover layer from Tuesday evening was sitting under the new layer of powder and was stubbornly refusing to give up it's hold. I chiseled at it for about thirty minutes and then gave up to go inside and have some breakfast. Two pieces of toast, some oatmeal, a banana, and a mug of hot tea later, I headed back out once again.

in my head, I was already giving up the idea of going into work. By now I knew that the county was on a Level 2 snow emergency (drive only if necessary) and that the county immediately on our northern border, which sits a mile from my house and which sits alongside the work premises was at a Level 3 (emergency vehicles only). Besides, the daycare director had already told Lynda that the center was empty of children and was expected to close at any time. We had brought work home with us, I reasoned and so I flipped the switch in my brain that told me to go to the office.

But . . . that driveway was sitting there, all smug. I just had to do something about that. But, how? when?

Well, I decided to clear out at least half of the passage, to allow a car access up and down, in and out. Sarah was willing to help and started to push the snow around up top near the garage while I planted myself at the critical bottom section where the driveway meets the road. Here the level of the roadway and the incline of the driveway meet at an angle, a critical point of snow buildup that can hamper a car that is trying to begin the ascent up a snowy incline. Any hesitation here can result in vainly spinning tires, burning rubber, and the inevitable slide backwards. (It has happened at least five time since we moved in.) Plus, any plowed snow flung from the roadway gets deposited at this point, creating a slushy barrier of thick snow.

So, I set my jaw and toiled, slowly moving the heavy piles of icy, slushy detrius out of the way. Sarah gave up after a few minutes, claiming that her hands were cold and her fingers numb. I forgave her in my head, realizing that she was far too young for this type of warfare, and continued to pound away. Soon, the bottom third was clear enough . . . though still covered by a layer of snow and ice that I, in my obsessive mind was now calling "snice." I pushed the snowy top off the driveway and headed back inside.

But, I couldn't leave it like that. I knew that even if there wasn't going to be any more precipitation, the temperatures weren't going to be any higher in the coming days. If I didn't get rid of the nefarious "snice" it would only tighten its hold. Lynda bundled up and came out to help me, chipping away with the shovel while I lifted and cleared with the scoop. In this way, we made a workable path up the left half of the driveway. Maybe, I thought, if we weren't going anywhere, the driveway didn't HAVE to be totally clear. She placed the last bit of salt on the driveway and we headed inside. As long as one car was given clearance, that was enough, right?

Those, I knew, were the thoughts of a loser . . .

. . . but even a loser needs a shower and a bit of warmth. That I got and so I tried to forget about the driveway. Besides, Lynda had to get some work done on the computer and that meant I needed to divert the kids. I played three games of UNO ATTACK!! with them and then we went down into the basement to play with Barbie dolls for a while. Lynda did her own plowing, typing away at the keyboard and making some phonecalls. Soon, it was close to lunch time. We ate (bratwurst for Lynda and myself, ravioli for the girls) and then Lynda gathered her stuff. She had decided to head to the office for the afternoon, to ensure she could get some meaningful work done without the interference of the children.

But, I couldn't leave well enough alone. I knew that the driveway was still out there, mocking me. And I remembered, as I said before, that if I didn't try to do something about it now, it would be days before it might loosen it's grip.

So, after lunch and after Lynda's successful departure down the cleared half, I set out once again. The girls were inside, playing on the computer. I took shovel in hand, yet again and began to chip away. Things went great at first. The top quarter of the driveway, which flattens out again near the garage door, had loosened due to the appearance of a weak sun and the work of the salt. I could push it aside in chunks without terrible effort. But, as I moved down the drive, slightly losing purchase as the slope began, the ice thickened and dug it. The battle was on!

I tried to keep my mind off the tedium, savoring each small victory when the shovel grabbed under a icy layer and broke the snow into jigsaw pieces the size of paving stones. I gathered them up in my scoop and flung them into the yard, over the bulwark of previously moved snow that now reached about eighteen inches high. As I worked down the slope, some areas of the snice was looser than others and I had dug around a particularly stubborn area that now jutted into the cleared driveway like a sneering peninsula of doom.

Other neighbors were conducting their own driveway battles, but I paid them little heed except for when I paused to rest my back and arms. Every once and a while I shifted hands, pushing with the other shoulder. Surprisingly, this proved very effective and I began to bust into the snice with renewed vigor, chopping it up like some sort of frenzied Paul Bunyan. I let my mind wander as I continued to work, allowing descriptive phrases to float in and out of my awareness, beginning to compose this post as I slowly gained the upper hand on the remaining snow.

Everytime I began to give up hope, I would hit another patch of loosened snice and, feuled by bratwurst--the Midwestern meat of choice--I would jackhammer it into submission, piece after piece, one snowy slab after another being flung into the yard.

Eventually, it was over. The driveway was clear and the black of the asphalt was visible all across the width and breadth of the driveway. I shouldered my shovel and began walking up the incline, acknowledging the silent cheers of the snowbanks that flanked me like spectators to a fifteen round boxing match.

I love the smell of sweat under fleece.

It smells like victory.


David said...

Coworker GY informed me this morning that if I had not shoveled the snow off the driveway Tuesday night, I would have had an easier time of it on Wednesday.

Apparently, leaving the powdery layer on the driveway prevents the icy layer from adhering to the driveway surface and when it comes time to shovel out, the scoop can go underneath the ice and push up from the snowy beneath.

It would still have been several inches to push around, but it would not have stuck so tenatiously.

So, there you go, I guess. Georgia boys like me never learned these things growing up.

Anonymous said...

note to self: before doing anything, ask someone who knows everything

David said...


Some anonymous person is being touchy, or I'm not seeing the humor in the typing.

I didn't mean that coworker GY was being bossy. Far from it . . . GY was being helpful.

It's all good!