“Snow-mageddon“, the snowstorm of the year, has come and gone as promised. Mother Nature behaved quite civilly, for an old lady throwing a meterological shit fit. ‘Round these parts (he said, hitching his overalls up by the straps with both thumbs) the storm began at a reasonable hour – sometime around 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, and really didn’t gather ferocity until after Spouse and I had safely arrived at work. The teeth of the storm were mostly bared during the meaty portion of the work day – a frosty, face-full-of-cold-razor-blades undoubted inconvenience while walking around downtown Hamilton, but really nothing more. At around 4 o’clock, as promised (such genteel behaviour!) and in plenty of time for us to journey home in the daylight, the storminess of the storm fizzled and we set out on our journey home.
The roads were snow-covered and generally somewhat slippery, but more than passable. I think we may actually be in a better position than many folks, living in our current location, because we generally only have to travel over main roads to arrive at our destination – main roads that get prompt and careful attention from the plowing crews. I suspect that folks who live in subdivisions and down residential sidestreets were having to negotiate thoroughfares that were much more generously covered with snow than we did. We really didn’t reach any significant obstacle at all, until…
…we reached the driveway.
The path leading in to Juniorvania is about a hundred yards long, measured from the edge of the road on our northern border. We need a path about nine feet wide to get the official Juniorvanian Transport vehicle up the drive. The snow was about a foot deep. By my calculations, assuming uniform distribution and depth of snow (an unwarranted assumption, especially at the roadside where the plows had wrought their special brand of hellish magic), 2700 cubic feet of snow needed to be moved. It was a very physical and very intimdating demonstration of the last mile concept.
Spouse parked the car at the side of the road and flicked on the hazards. Together, we clambered over the snow drifts and headed for the house carrying the groceries we had stopped to gather on our way home. Believe it or not, we had thought far enough ahead this morning to pack a couple of small shovels in the trunk of the car; it was clear, however, from the size of the drift at the end of the drive that this was NOT a job for “small shovels.” We needed to get regulation size snow shovels and a wonderful contraption known hereabouts as the “snow float”. The plan was to carve a wee notch at the bottom of the drive, enough to permit the car to be stored safely off the road, and then see whether we could get the snowblower up and running at a suitable point, either later this evening or early tomorrow.
As I changed into my snow shovelling clothes and hurried back downstairs towards the enormous task ahead of us, though, it occurred to me that I have a mammoth snow blower in the garage for a reason, dammit, and I had better get the thing started and earning its keep around here. Otherwise, we’d be shovelling for a significant portion of the time between now and July.
Spouse headed off down the drive to attack the obstacle with conventional weaponry; I rolled the Beast out of the garage and commenced start up procedures. Six or seven minutes were spent exploring the various permutations and combinations of the choke lever, primer bulb and gear lever while tearing prodigiously and desperately at the starter cord. Twice, the Beast coughed to life – briefly. Twice, it sputtered and fell silent. Another six or seven minutes were spent inventing new curse words and wondering when the last time was that I exercised ANY of the muscles in my right arm. The book of words for the snowblower contained a long passage that I had briefly considered reading about the importance of the proper placement and positoning of something called an ignition key. I could not believe that such a thing was actually necessary, given the two brief periods of sputtering success I had earlier achieved, but was fresh out of ideas and still had a shitload of snow in my drive, so I returned to the house and began searching for such a key. I did locate a plastic doo-hickey that looked like the ignition key pictured in the manual, grabbed it and – turning quickly to run back out of the house to the snow-covered driveway – promptly tripped over the cat. A foul and profane phrase that would have offended Mike Tyson’s evil twin passed my lips and I returned outside.
I couldn’t find anywhere to insert the blasted key. In examining the motor on the snowblower more carefully, though, it only took me a further five or six minutes to identify it as a device known to those in the technical game as an “internal combustion engine”. Previously, my research into these devices had revealed to me that these contraptions are generally powered by a fuel known as ‘gasoline’. It occurred to me that I might profitably endeavour to confirm whether the present engine had been furnished with the necessary fluids.
It had not.
I quietly filled the tank with gas, because I had run out of truly filthy ideas for phrases to utter. Engine to “start” position, choke “on”, gear lever engaged, primer bulb depressed, starter cord pulled – and voila, we had ignition.
Forty-five minutes later, my brave little motorized auger and I had dispatched the offending snow (including that portion of the roadside horror not yet dealt with by Spouse, plucky little digging machine that she is) to various localities surrounding the via Juniorvania. I have to tell you that I was feeling:
- mighty proud of my mad small engine skillz;
- like a brave pioneer who had self-confidently killed a bear with his bare hands (please do not speak to me about how the pioneers did not have internal combustion engines and about how bears are not made of snow and have way more teeth. Brave pioneer boy does not like your insistence on hyper-realism); and
- very fucking cold.
My learning curve with the machine was not inconsiderable; it took me about half an hour to realize that I could engage the power drive with the levers on the right hand side at the same time that I was engaging the auger power with the levers on the left in such a way that I didn’t have to keep holding down the auger levers, allowing my left hand to fart about with the chute-aiming control. This, as anyone who has operated a snowblower knows, is very important because if you don’t manipulate the chute-aiming control just so, the snow that is ejected from the machine will be blown forcefully and directly into the operator’s face. My own personal research on this issue indicates that the margin for error in this regard is slim indeed; approximately 98% of the available settings of this control seemed to result in all or substantially all of the blown snow ending up caked in my eyebrows, packed in my nostrils, glazed across my face and crystallized in my ears (when I was smart enough to turn my head rather than taking the snow exhaust plume right in the face). Please be advised, you may not be able to achieve such excellent results in your own laboratory.
Ten minutes after I came back into the house, emptied the snow out of my underwear and coughed up a snowball the size of a pumpkin, I sat down and wrote this year’s letter to Santa. Item number one on Junior’s Christmas list: a balaclava.