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How Are We Going To Get Out Of Here?

The Day Before

Lain has speech therapy on Thursdays, and so we go to the elementary school that morning. Some kids are trying to taunt admin about the schools being closed on Friday. The office folks say the kids are dreaming.

How would you like to be the product manager for that last loaf of bread? When a snow storm is coming, and everybody is looking for something and… oh, god, not that. That seems like an “It’s back to the drawing board” moment for your product.

healthyoptionsClancy ends up doing the pre-snow shopping, mostly because she was already going to be doing the shopping. It is… as you might have figured. Even before the Washington Post explains that people inordinately seek out junk on such occasions, Clancy reports that only the healthy stuff was left on shelves. Some of that is the general phenomenon, but some of it is the culture in which we live. There is a helpful sign above the line with the fewest people waiting in it. “Healthy Options” is local lingo for “This line has few people in it.”

One downside to shopping in a store that has been picked clean is that you’re disproportionately likely to get rotten stuff. Turns out the coffee cream Clancy got is bad. We discover it in the nick of time, before I have any. I’d noticed when I poured it that its composure was… odd. I assumed it had something to do with freezing at some point in the process. Clancy confirms through a little taste that it seems to have bad. But I don’t think I’ve had any.

That night we get an automated call. School is canceled for Friday the 22nd.

Grade Schoolers 1, School Administrators 0

Day of Impact

snow-day1And the snow starts falling, somewhere between 12:45 and 1:10pm. I know this because it comes after the vomiting and before the salting. Let me explain.

At around 12:45, I’m outside vaping and drinking coffee. Suddenly, I’m not interested in vaping anymore. Just as suddenly, I don’t need coffee anymore. I need to just… go inside, or something. Then I need to go to the bathroom. Then I need to vomit in the toilet. Then I need to collapse and lie there next to the toilet for a little while. If you’ve ever had a “motorized vomit” (where not only stuff comes out, but your body is aggressively sending it up), you know it takes a surprising toll on the body (well, it’s not surprising because you know, but anyway…). I just lie there, in the bathroom, by the toilet, for maybe fifteen minutes.

snow-beforeafterI eventually get up and moving again. Still not feeling well, but… sigh… I have to do some chores. That involves going down to the mailbox (expecting some ejuice, which shouldn’t be left outside in freezing weather), and also throwing some salt on the extensive and steep driveway. I get out and the snowing has begun. Doing chores in the snow is unpleasant under regular circumstances, but moreso when my body still feels like it’s going to crumble.

Oddly, within a couple hours, I feel better. I’ve gone from fine to sick to fine in two hours. Hungry, even. I have no idea how that works.

That night I call Jules, our snow plow guy. His phone isn’t on, so I leave a message saying that we”ll be fine on Sunday and Monday, but we really need the driveway cleared by Tuesday morning.

The Second Day

No word from Jules. It isn’t a storm in the sense that you might think about, but the snow keeps coming down with a very impressive consistency.

The Third Day

Day2Still no word from Jules and I’m starting to get really concerned. I’d called him again to ask for an update, so there were two messages out and no returns. The snow finally let up. The city’s plows have been through. As usual, they had taken care of Ford Road up to the Burton house next door and then left. As it happens, Mrs Burton is the mayor of our tiny little town.

Not knowing what to do, I go out and start digging.

As it happens, digging through three feet of snow is not a very easy thing. Clancy is of the mind that with enough effort and perseverance, we can dig a way out by Tuesday. With each passing hour, I am less certain that’s the case. At first, I start digging a path for us just to be able to walk about. The ground is slippery, but not as bad as it could be. Besides, given the wall in front of me, if I slip and fall I’m not going to slide all the way down. That’s my only consolation.

Dig, dig, dig. Slip. Hurt. Dig. Ouch. Dig. This isn’t working.

Day3That night I call our neighbors, the Sawyers. Jules was their plow guy before he was ours. No, he hasn’t heard from Jules. But he’ll give Jules a call. Jules is apparently taking his calls and tells him that he will be by Ford Road tomorrow. Oh, thank heavens, no more digging required. Mr Sawyer, on hearing that I’ve been digging, calls me stupid.

That night we get an automated call. School is canceled for Monday the 24th.

Grade Schoolers 2, School Administrators 0

The Fourth Day

You ever wake up with one of those feelings? I wake up with with one of those feelings on Monday morning. The feeling is that Jules isn’t coming. Clancy has the same feeling. My back still hurts from my fall, so she starts digging.

Day4The feeling ameliorates at about noon, when a team arrives and starts to work on Ford Road and up the Sawyers’ drive. Typically, because Sawyer has been with them longer, they take care of the Sawyers and then us. They take their time with the Sawyers, meticulously ridding every single inch of their drive of snow. Around 5:00, we start getting really nervous. I call Jules again to confirm that they were going to take care of us after they took care of the Sawyers. No answer; I leave a message. Finally I just park myself outside, as they are almost done with the Sawyers, to ask the guys working. (Jules isn’t with the team.)

I ask, and I do not get the answer I need. They say they have to take care of another house across town, then maybe they’ll get to us. But they’re tired and they can only take care of one more house. So, good luck with all that.

I call Jules again, more panicky. We don’t have to get out that night, but it will be critical to get out in the morning. I’m getting really agitated because we’d told them when we needed to get out and that if there was a problem to keep us apprised of the situation. Clancy is livid because the Sawyers didn’t need to get out and we do, and they took care of the Sawyers first. She calls him and leaves a sharper message.

Within a half an hour, Jules calls back. His equipment has broken down. He isn’t sure if they will be able to get to us tonight. Or tomorrow, or when.

snow-peaksnowUpon hearing this message, Clancy goes out and starts shoveling like a madwoman, while I start making calls. I call our general handyman to see if he knows anyone. He puts us on to his cousin. We offer the cousin $300 if he can get us out tonight (usual rate: $75). He says he’s too tired and wants to go home and get some rest. Handyman tries others, but nothing pans out.

Clancy shovels, shovels, shovels. Then, like a gift from heaven, she sees the Fosters, who live down the way, shoveling from the other end. Mr Burton is literally yelling at Mr Foster about engaging in snow removal on a public road without being qualified to do so. Foster tells him that he can’t argue now, he’s busy digging. (The Fosters and Burtons apparently have a history.) Together, Clancy and the Fosters create a path through which Clancy can walk out. Said neighbor also offers to drive her to work on Tuesday, and she can rent a car in Millsburg. So the immediate catastrophe is averted. But with Jules out of commission, what are we going to do?

That night we get an automated call. School is canceled for Tuesday the 25th.

Grade Schoolers 3, School Administrators 0

The Fifth Day

snow-lainWhile Clancy is able to get out, I am still stuck. Also, Clancy has to walk a long and dangerous path every time she leaves. The weather reports are suggesting that it could take more than a week for the snow to melt. I could sit tight for a bit, but I need to get out. Also, rental cars cost money. I call Handyman’s cousin and leave a message, but don’t hear back. I also find some names off Angie’s List and another website, and make some calls with no returns. By now, my back is feeling better, and so while Clancy is at work, I park Lain in front of the TV and dig, dig, dig.

Around noon, Clancy finds the number of an emergency line that has a list of people who are taking calls. This is the first valuable lead we’ve had: I get a call back pretty quickly. He’s worried about the incline I describe, but he’s sure we can figure something out. A couple hours later I haven’t heard from him. I text him and he informs me that his equipment has broken down. But, unlike Jules, Second Plower is able to get it working again. He comes by around 6:00pm.

snow-outthereUnfortunately, he takes one look at the incline and decides there’s virtually no way he’ll be able to get all the way up it. He says he’ll push it as far as he can. A half hour and ten feet later, he admits defeat. He says he’ll call some friends to see if anyone has better equipment, and he leaves.

I never hear from him again.

That night we get an automated call. School is canceled for the rest of the week.

Grade Schoolers 6, School Administrators 0

The Sixth Day

As it turns out, Second Plower has made a wall with his efforts, and so it takes some work for Clancy to be able to get out again. Some of the snow has melted, though, so it’s no longer anything you can’t slosh through. Second Plower also really packed the snow he worked on, which would become a factor later on.

Dig, dig, dig.

Day6This time, trying to dig enough so that we can get a car out. The meltage and gravity has packed in all of the snow, but at least there’s less of it. Lain is loving all the TV she’s getting to watch, but I’m tired of digging and Clancy is tired of fielding questions about why we haven’t called Jules about clearing our drive. One of the neighbors gives us the number of someone to call, but that person is tired of plowing and uninterested in extra work.

Dig, dig, dig.

The Seventh Day

More headway. By about 2:30pm, the walking path has almost become a driving path. I have about 10-15 feet still left to clear, as well as figuring out what to do about the ice that was packed by Second Plower. Exhausted and needing a break, I make my way inside. While resting, I get a call from Jules. His systems are running again. Do we still need help to get out. After days and days of begging to the high heavens for a plow, I immediately say yes.

Day7Fifteen minutes later, I’m looking out the window and realizing just how little there is left to do. If I could get my muscles back, I could even finish that day. The sticking point is that there still isn’t room to turn the cars around. So I text Clancy asking how much she objects to having to back out all the way on to Ford. She’s still very angry at Jules and anxious to tell him to go to hell, so backing out is not a problem. I call Jules back and decline his services and get back to work.

Immediately it seems that I have cut off my nose to spite my face. Second Plower’s snow and ice are simply immovable. I throw a bunch of salt on it, but… man. It sure would be nice to have Jules. So another day without being able to get out. However, I feel pretty confident that tomorrow is the day. Surely the salt will weaken the ice so that I can do something about it.

The Second Week

Day8The salt did nothing. It’s reasonably clear that the car is going to be driving over ice. Which isn’t the end of all hope, because the Forester has All-Wheel Drive. So as long as I can keep two tires on the road at any given time, I can get out and likely back in. The Camry will be able to get out, but maybe not back in. Will the Mayor ticket us for technically being parked on Ford Road, even if we’re not blocking anything? A question for another time. Worst case, Clancy is parking our car at the Parkers’ instead of a rental. I confirm that the Forester is able to get out and back in. We’re set. I let Clancy know she can turn in the rental. Clancy does some more shoveling to take care of the Second Plower’s ice patch, and the job is done.

snow-recessionI feel very good about having turned Jules back around. Yes, we have to back the car(s) up a long ways, but we did it! The Second Plower cost us more work than he saved, so, with a bit of help from the Parkers, we did it almost on our own.

We get a heat spell soon after, and everything starts to melt. Then the Deck Rain starts. The Deck Rain is the ice melting on the second-story deck, creating the sense of rain below it. It sort of feels like the cartoons where the rain follows a character around. Except, in my case, it simply hovers in one place – the one place I want to be while letting the dog out or vaping.

But I’ll take the rain, real or not.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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56 thoughts on “How Are We Going To Get Out Of Here?

  1. With apologies in advance for second guessing you, if you have a long driveway why didn’t you position the car(s) at the road end, facing outwards? That way you only have to figure out how to get to them (which can involve wading through snow in the pinch), with only a modest amount of digging required to get them on the road? For that matter, why not invest in a snow blower?

    I have only a very modest driveway in front of my townhouse. I backed both cars in, bumper to bumper. I had both cars out by Sunday afternoon and got into work on Monday. I benefit from living within the limits of my smallish city. Even though I am on a cul de sac, at the bottom of the list of ploughing priorities, the city got there by midday Sunday, and over the next couple of days returned to widen the traffic lane and eventually to totally clear the road. People who live a quarter mile away in the county jurisdiction didn’t get ploughed until Thursday.


    • The short answer is “We should have!” Though it gets more complicated from there.

      We’re hesitant to park our car down the driveway due to the incline. But we have, in the past, parked one of the cars on the yard beside it. We stopped doing that when Clancy broke her kneecap and didn’t really get into the habit of doing so again. To the extent that we did think about that, we also thought that we had a couple of days for Jules to show up and surely he’d make it in that time. We’re still kicking ourselves for that.

      However, in this case, it would have made only a limited difference and wouldn’t have solved the Tuesday Morning Problem (wherein she had to be able to get out by that point). We still would have had to dig ourselves a walking path, and would have had to dig the portion of Ford Road leading up to our house and the remaining part of our driveway, and wouldn’t have been able to get it done in time. And we still would have needed to be able to get the other car out (It would probably have shaved a day or two off of the car rental, though.

      The Fosters have volunteered to allow us to use their driveway in the future, which we will probably do.


  2. The Colorado Storm was a pain in the butt. We got a snow day, of sorts, on Tuesday (a snow day at this point in my life means “you don’t get paid but, hey, you don’t have to come in”). On Wednesday, I tried to leave my house and got stuck in the snow in the street. Wednesday night, I picked up Maribou from work and said “we can’t get too close to the house, we’ll get stuck in the street” and we immediately got stuck in the street again.

    So now I’m parking about a block away and hoping that the city plows eventually get the side streets.

    It’s supposed to hit 50 today. Maybe tomorrow too.

    It’s not going to melt anywhere near enough stuff in the street. This means that the street then turns into a sheet of ice… but maybe I’ll be able to park in my driveway again.


    • So now I’m parking about a block away and hoping that the city plows eventually get the side streets.

      In my suburb, the statutory requirement is that the city plow residential side streets only if there’s more than 15 inches of snow. I shoveled 16 inches off my driveway from this last storm. Official snowfall amount according to the city? Eight inches. I think they have a covered area out behind city hall where they take the measurement :^)


        • Roads aren’t really the main argument. This is just the low-hanging fruit. I always enjoy the reactions. The most typical is a broad roll of the eyes, to disdainfully suggest “oh please, that one again?” followed by a change of subject, as if the argument were so silly as to merit no reply. This reaction is perfectly justified in some arguments. I will do the same for, for example, climate change deniers. But if pressed, you gotta have something more. The roads argument? I have never heard that something more. But in the big picture, if we were all hitching up our buggies and driving on dirt paths into town from our spread on the Ponderosa, there would still be good reasons to want government.


            • , Instead of immediately thinking government bad because they can’t get your road plowed you spend a couple of minutes thinking about an article in USA Today from 2010 talking about the budget cuts put into place by the right wing people that run your city and how they would slow down snow removal.
              Also, usually Colorado Springs gets about 4.5 inches of snow in Feb. and your last snow was about 22 inches. So if your city council had spent more time listening to the vast majority of scientists instead of talking heads for the energy companies someone might have made adjustments for the extra precipitation that was expected.
              If you need it done right away you need to get a private company to do it. I heard Jules is available.


                • , Yeah buddy. That is exactly what I am saying. And after you study it for awhile you might want to tell your neighbors what you think should be done. An example of which might be how you would like it if the government spent more on snow removal. Or since you don’t like government you could ask them to refund the amount of your taxes that go to snow removal and you could use that money to hire Jules.


                  • One of the wacky things about Colorado Springs for the last year or so is the *HUGE* number of complaints about the things that the government, you’d think, ought to be doing but, for whatever reason, isn’t doing.

                    Like potholes. Holy crap, the government around here sucked when it came to fixing pot holes. Now it’s doing a half-assed job when it comes to plowing the roads (though, I suppose, the lack of blades on the streets is not putting additional wear and tear on them).

                    If we agree that there are things that the government ought to be doing, and the government is not doing a good job on them… what can we do?

                    Apparently, the only people who are allowed to complain about the government doing a crappy job are the people who think it should be doing more than it already is, I guess?


        • To be honest, though, they do a really good job on the streets that are designated “snow routes”. Plowed well, sand and deicer at the traffic-light intersections and steep bits, etc. For me, the day after a storm, the question is whether I can make it the three blocks to the snow route. After that, getting around is not a problem (unless the final destination is not on a snow route). This past week, getting out wasn’t a serious problem. The people with the big four-wheel-drive pickups do enough that there’s a track my little Honda can follow without problems.

          If I have to choose between the city keeping the snow routes really clear, or letting them deteriorate in order to make a pass or two down my street, I’ll take the current strategy. And whine about it from time to time :^)


            • You should be glad. Last time we got 3 feet of snow, the snow didn’t melt for over a month. And during that month, we got minor snow practically every day.

              [This much snow caused fieldmice to start crawling into houses for warmth/air. Also, hordes of 100+ rats running across roads in daylight.]


            • 16 inches of snow last week, 16 miles on the road bike this morning. Warm enough that I didn’t bother with leggings. Had to get off and walk once, for about 150 yards, where the trail was covered in about 2 inches of packed snow that was just soft enough in places to really grab a wheel. That stretch made me feel old for two reasons. One, 40 years ago I would have just sailed through it, half out of control all the way but always recovering in the nick of time. Two, the young woman who passed me right at the beginning of it wiped out spectacularly half-way through and just sort of bounced back to her feet. If I fall like that these days, getting up is a much slower process, checking all the joints and such before I put my full weight on them.


          • I don’t understand how cities do not have “mandatory snow removal within X amount of time” (maybe you aren’t in the city?). Pittsburgh gives itself 48 hours, I think, even in the worst snow we’ve seen this year, and 36 hours otherwise, to have every single route ploughed (with the possible exception of a few “this is the steepest road in the country” type roads, and deadends to boot).


  3. Except for the rental house down at the end of the street, I am pretty much the last holdout on my block without a snow blower. Of course, it’s a rare winter where we don’t have at least one storm in the 12-16 inch (30-40 cm) range. I have noticed that the blowers are getting bigger over the years — almost everyone has at least a two-stage machine, and the guy across the street who is 80-something has a monster three-stage. Further up the hill, the guy with the 60-foot-long steep driveway told me that mentally he just included the cost of a big snow blower in the price when they bought the house.


    • A couple of guys on my street have snow blowers, but here in central Maryland you only really really wish you had one about every five years or so. Our last big storm was in 2010. There have been others since then where people use a snow blower if they have one, but which don’t inspire a subsequent purchase of one if they don’t.


    • We looked into it. The biggest issue is, of course, the slope. The people who lived here before us apparently had one but he fell using it and after that started hiring Jules. Walking on snowy-icy concrete is dicy enough as it is, and gets worse while lugging a 90lb device.

      If we were staying here permanently, we’d possibly look at doing something about that dreaded incline (even if it meant walking up an extra set of stairs).


      • In the spirit of Tim the Tool Man… Bigger self-propelled blower. Track drive. Something that weighs in at over 200 pounds, you’re never going to carry or drag it. Slip-on snow spikes.

        Me, I think hiring Jules is absolutely the right thing, and just accepting that once every few years there will be a problem.


        • I don’t know why that’s flippant. They work. Even on mountains!

          Given where Will lives, I don’t think a snowblower is worthwhile. If a snow like this happens every few decades, hopefully he’ll manage.

          IMHO, the best way to handle such snowfall is to try to do only several inches at a time. But depending on how quickly it falls, this might mean shoveling every few hours or waking up in the middle of the night.


    • At least with respect to those of us posting from Colorado, you should want to leave the current 120% of median snow-water equivalent in the mountains that feed the Colorado River right where it is. ‘Cause at the rate y’all have been sucking down Lake Mead, you really need the feds to be in a position to have a surplus to release from Lake Powell this year.


      • No. Joke.

        I’d be quite pleased to see some of that east coast snow on the Rockies, too, for precisely this reason. I’m rather a fan of the Colorado River and to look at pictures of how low Lake Mead has fallen makes me a sa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ad panda.


        • Burt, all the snow on the east coast is moved from the roads to “melt areas”, at least in the big metro areas, like stadiums. No technical reason it couldn’t be transported to Calli. Of course, you ‘d get road salt and sand in the mix as well and the cost would be, so “gynormous”, but I’m sure Californians can spare a few more dollars. Should only coast a few hundred million to equip the cargo planes with chillers and a dumping mechanism. Then the fuel and the cost of collection/transport. Let’s say 1billion for the year. Sounds good? Send me a purchase order. I’ll make it happen.


  4. Mmmm, what fun.

    I couple years before I was born, my father started grad school in a little town I think you have heard of, Pullman? Well, my parents are California kids, and drove, at the time (late sixties) a mustang convertable. The first year they were there, it got 14 feet of snow and -40 degrees.

    It can always be worse.


  5. Having stocked up for hurricanes (or, more normally, happened to need a loaf of bread or chips or something when other people are frantically preparing for a hurricane as though it was two or three categories higher than it is), that last loaf of bread is probably something like “Low-carb, gluten-free bagels”.

    It’s in the bread aisle, and could technically substitute for bread, but is some weird specialty product.

    Last hurricane I needed a loaf of bread and all that was left were blueberry bagels. No idea why. I ended up buying them, because hey, I had cream cheese at home. And some frozen waffles.


  6. The tweet really pissed me off. The market is not always right and there are some times when a high number of choices leads to suboptimal results.


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