The Fine Art Of Doing It Wrong
In high school, one of my chores was shoveling the driveway. Given that we lived in the Colorado high country, way up in the Rockies over 5000 feet above sea level, we received a not-insubstantial amount of snow: On average, about 30 feet a winter.
The driveway to our house was not terribly long but it was long enough. It could fit a Volvo wagon and at least another car or two, including one of Toyota 4-Runner length and another similar, plus a little extra. It was straight and wide. Unlike most of the rest of the block, we didn’t have a snowblower, possibly because they were loud and obnoxious, but honestly I don’t remember why because I was 13 and too busy rolling my eyes and complaining in my head about the stupid reasons a person could come up with for thinking snowblowers were a bad idea.
Like many high schoolers, my first class of the day was at 7:30. If it snowed, and during the winter it often did, the driveway needed to be shoveled before I left for school. This sometimes meant shoveling at 5:30 in the morning. It’s worth noting that I was a teenage girl, that I do not do well in the cold thanks to bad circulation in my hands and feet, and that I was never in my life a morning person until recently - even this we could still debate, both in terms of “morning” and “person”.
Shoveling the driveway meant first standing behind a large metal scoop with a large handle attached to both sides of the scoop, near the back. You grasped the handle, jammed the scoop into the fresh snow, down into the packed snow, down as far as you could to get as close to the pavement. Then you scooped forward, gathering as much old and new snow as possible, carrying it to the end of the driveway and across the street, and dumping it in the field on the other side.
As a teenager, I was in good enough shape, but I didn’t have an enormous amount of upper body strength. I confess to you here what you can already guess: I hated this chore. Even so, I did it without fail every time it snowed, before school started, and I never hated it enough to intentionally do it wrong. I struggled with the scoop and often couldn’t get it to go down into the harder packed, old snow. Sometimes I’d just get the fresh new powder, running it along top the original surface, packing even more on top.
One weekend morning, as I was shoveling away, my dad - a tall, strong man - came outside and watched me for a moment as I maneuvered the scoop up and down the driveway. Suddenly I heard him behind me.
“You’re doing it wrong.”
I stopped as he came over.
“See,” he told me, “you’re not getting down into the old stuff. You need to really get down in there, harder.”
He took the scoop and said, “Let me show you.”
I stood there, my face and fingers tingling with a combination of cold and the blood-rush of unfettered annoyance. My father tilted the scoop upward, angling the sharp front edge down into the packed snow and drove it in, gouging far deeper than I’d been able to. The scoop piled high with snow and he deftly ran it down the length of the driveway, dumping it across the street. He dragged the scoop back up to the top and repeated the process, and then again, and then again. I watched him two, three, maybe four times.
And then I slowly and quietly turned and went inside. where it was warm. He didn’t seem to notice. Eventually, the driveway was clear.
So next time, if someone tells you you’re doing it wrong, why not let them go ahead and expertly show you how to do it right?
31 Notes/ Hide
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- jeremyharrisphotographs said: My Dad used to make me shovel the driveway in CO and VA when I was a kid and I too hated it. Funny enough, now I really rather like it.
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- angelablack said: This (in a slightly different way) is how I always got out of the dishes and told to go play outside by my mom. I learned that if I did a poor job she’d take over eventually. Manipulation! Yay!
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