Digging Myself Deeper
Is it too soon to joke about this past winter?
Late last fall my wife pointed to some fine print on our marriage license that said I had to do all the snow shoveling on our steep two-car driveway. I met this burden at first because the early snows were light and fluffy and arrived on the weekend. Then an ice storm came on a business day during the morning hours that I typically devote to staring out the window. So to save time I shoveled just the half of the driveway that ran to my wife’s car—the better half, you could say.
After a few weeks the snow at the bottom of my side of the driveway was seventeen feet high. Each morning I would back out from my side of the garage diagonally, then straighten out as I went over my wife’s side of the driveway, then through the narrow opening in our glacier, and into the street that was hopefully empty of moving cars. I fancied myself a riverboat captain, navigating shoal waters in a Honda.
Then one night my wife and I got dressed up for dinner at a nice restaurant. As I was backing us out down the driveway, I was thinking about the panko-crusted halibut instead of looking where I was going, and I ran the back left corner of my car into the icy mound by the mailbox. I spent the next sixty minutes digging through the icy snow with a dirt shovel, with a starving wife in the driver’s seat revving the engine.
I vowed to do whatever it took—buying my own snowplow, blasting the ice with dynamite, paying attention to where I was going—to ensure that I never again backed the car into the snow drift, particularly when the neighbors were watching through their bay windows with cups of hot chocolate held to their lips. I shook my fist at the sky until my wife yelled at me to shovel faster. Such an experience is how a man finds himself. And he finds himself sleeping on the couch.
The second time it happened my wife and I were leaving for work. She was in her car and I was in mine. The polite and, in retrospect, smart thing to do would have been to let her back out first. But I wanted to impress her with my driving skills and impatience.
I really thought that I was going to make it, but I was holding the sextant backwards and soon felt the familiar crunch of a back bumper hitting icy snow. I had to ask my wife to once again get behind the wheel of the beached Honda while I dug underneath the rear wheel amidst exhaust fumes and shame. Her facial expression was hard to read when one’s eyeballs were starting to freeze over.
After I’d cleared out enough ice to make the cocktail I was going to need, I went around to the front of the car and shouted the only thing I knew about freeing cars from suburban snow banks: “Keep rocking it!” That night, as I lay down to sleep on our living room sectional, I told myself that never again would I crash in the snow.
The third time it happened I had no excuse. It was not dark and I was not in a rush. I was not distracted by the radio or the rising cost of Nilla Wafers. I had to finally face the fact that I had failed in my legal duty to shovel the driveway, had failed as a riverboat captain, and that my only success had been getting stuck in my own driveway after my wife had left for work.