Let me preface everything by saying that I lost my mind during a sequence of several major snowstorms, which are still arriving, quite comically, one after the next.
And so the story begins with me — an urban street parking New Englander. The big storm hits and news teams are giddy. Grocery stores are overrun. Milk sales are up. There are, miraculously, still people rushing to buy snow shovels.
Jim, the meteorologist, is standing in two feet of snow at a gas station pointing at cars driving down the highway. Look at Jim!
I'm going out to shovel. My fiance, Amanda, assesses me before I leave in my snow pants and ski goggles. She is blanketed and warm.
Do you want me to help?
You don't have to help.
She stays inside to monitor the snow team on the local news — an important job.
Outside, I see that my car has disappeared, as have all the cars on the street. It is mine to protect. I will need it. I dig out.
The storm is powerful. There is something calming about the empty streets and the burial of the neighborhood. My space now looks neat, crisp; it could be a suit. I am sweaty and cold.
The first shift of the first storm comes to an end. I look at Amanda, she points at the news team. It's not looking good.
The station is receiving thousands of pictures of children and dogs looking out windows. Patios and porches are being assessed by the thousands. Check the roof. Never forget the roof. The news team begs the meteorologist for better news. He shakes his head.
The second shift calls for a headlamp. There is a man on an ATV riding around, masked. He plows sidewalks and rips donuts in the intersection. With waving arms he summons a crew of shovelers to his side as he barks orders — he is the general.
Decorated in bright yellow suits, these snow blowers and shovelers descend upon the neighborhood.
Sidewalks are rediscovered as snowbanks are constructed at intersections and various curbside locations. Wobbly walls of snow go up and navigation becomes difficult. Peeking around corners becomes the fashion. Roads become sidewalks. Sidewalks become whatever they were before sidewalks.
Tourists are out playing. They take pictures of my snow pile. I take pictures with them. An old lady waves to me from her window in the retirement home, she is smiling. I'm glad I did a good job here.
More photographers come. Absolutely nobody is shoveling out their car. It's a photo shoot. Hashtags are being assigned, dispersed, and enjoyed in a symphony played across the night sky. Everyone likes it.
Two days later I travel to work in my car. When I return, the spot is gone. I did not expect it to be not gone. I will think of it often. It's still crisp, still perfect. Gone.
My car transitions from a vehicle to a snow removal equipment storage space. I upgrade my tools as they become irrelevant. Bigger shovels, higher quality salt. There is snow in the backseat that will not melt.
It is all impossible, or so I thought. I constantly take out shovels, put them back, defrost the car. Is the exhaust clear? I have a printer in the backseat that worked horribly for years and is waiting to be donated so someone else can be frustrated by it.
It snows again. And again. I see a woman smiling. Her car is behind mine, and she takes a thousand pictures of it in a second. She is proud of the unshoveled vehicle. She wants it piled high and to be invisible. She performs several successful cartwheels and breaks out in song. Pictures are taken from every angle. I see a bird.
Why bird? Why are you still here?
It's still snowing.
Life is becoming strange.
I dream of shoveling.
I dream of defrosting.
Days pass. The mayor speaks. The governor speaks. Public transportation simply stops. The news team shows us pictures of snow farms, snow melters, tired people being tired. It is all too cold and all too snowy.
I see a man digging out his car with a small and useless shovel. Right into the street it goes. A plow comes and gently places all the snow back onto the man's car. Ouch. The man returns to shoveling snow into the street. No biggie.
I learn that my car requires shoveling underneath because that's where the extra snow goes to hide. Some of it rips the engine cover partially when I try to park. I learn that there is such a thing as an engine cover.
It drags along the road as I drive. I'm questing again for car help. The Shell station is fully staffed, but no lift. No lift? A car fixing place with no lift. Good. Thank you. Why would you have a lift here anyway? There seems to be no reason to have one of those at an automotive repair shop.
I'll do it.
He'll do it.
You'll do it?
An older gentleman in line at the Shell station says he can do it. I follow him to either my death or another car repair shop. I follow him into a parking lot, down an alley along a highway. Phew. A shop.
I wait in a waiting room with a woman working at a desk and a small furry dog wearing a sweater. The shop is large, packed tight with messiness. The file cabinets are overwhelming.
The waiting room appears to have been here for hundreds of years. I watch the dog lazily waddle my way to sip from the water bowl. I see a jar of customer pretzel treats, but I don't indulge. There is a newspaper clipping on the wall. This place is dusty. I like it.
It was an emergency.
I give him a 20 dollar bill because it's all I have to offer. I return to the life of a shoveler. I shovel laying down on the ground. I shovel laying on my side.
There will never again be snow underneath my car — I swear to myself. This promise does not last. I shovel here. I shovel there. I shovel large heaps of heavy snow up into the sky and watch as it falls back down the curbside walls. The walls are winning. I am powerless.
The man in the mask on the ATV is losing ground to the storms. There is nowhere to put anything. The weather team is exhausted but joyful. News teams are bunking at the station. They eat pizza several times a day and sleep in shifts.
How can this continue? Do we work? Do we buy things? Someone tell us what to do, please. The subway is canceled. Commutes have become a crapshoot. Neighbors turn on one another. What do we do? Will civilization survive this winter? This week?
A man with a snow blower on the sidewalk aims snow back onto the cars. I make a comment. He tells me I can no longer shovel snow around my car because it falls down the snowbank onto the sidewalk. He yells. I'm concerned that he's yelling. Is he confused? Does he think I work for him? Why is he yelling? His name is Doug. Of course it is.
My body hurts.
Must keep shoveling.
Where does it go?
By now I have transported close to 46 pounds of salt into my apartment. Neighbors are coming to me for salt. I am the salt man. How much for the salt? I have a new spot to shovel out this time. I'm not sure about it. It looks like a poor position. It has nowhere to put anything at all.
I'm shoveling and exploring new places to store the snow.
I put it in the trunk of my car. I fill up suitcases with the stuff. I fill up garbage bag after garbage bag. I must donate more clothes to make room for the snow in my bureau. It's in my ears. It's down my pants and in my shirt. I mail packages across the globe full of the stuff. I fill up hats, Tupperware, mugs, shoes. I remove plants from their pots and fill those up, too. I fill up the tub and blast the heat. I'm melting snow now. It will be okay. Put it in the sinks. Under the bed. There is snow in the couch.
Outside on the street I can still see all my old spots. I have fond memories of them. They are still crisp. Nice corners. Clean.
I shovel in silence; no one will ever know. Those are my spots. More snow is coming. My mind is lost, and I can't remember when it drifted away. I've handed over my sanity in exchange for what? I'm not sure. Maybe when this madness has come to a halt, I will carry on as I did before, as a perfectly normal, regular person. But for now the world is masked in snow.
Tomorrow who knows.
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