Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Snow Angels Are Anatomically Correct

It's snowing here today and the entire eastern part of the state is hunkering down for the dusting of the century. Schools have let out so fast and early its like the student population has been vomited out onto the sidewalk. Children are coming home with summer school plans if the heavy weather holds and rain somehow develops, cancelling anything educationally based until April.

Federal Express has announced it will be picking up early tonight and may not be back. Chernobyl gets more frequent parcel pickups.

Looks like its going to be a snow day here. The anticipation is such that, even if tomorrow were to dawn clear with temperatures in the seventies, people would walk around in parkas, sweating behind snow throwers clearing the foot deep air on the driveway just to savor the feel of the snow day that never was.

We had snow days too. I grew up in climates more favorable to preserving lichen for a few thousand years, but even we got overwhelmed by snow from time to time. Usually when the stuff reached the roofline was a good indicator.

The old man had a sense about snow days and his sense was they shouldn't happen. If he had to fit galoshes and climb into a cold, four thousand pound rear wheel drive car to careen it to the office why should we get a full day off.

We were going to pay for his misery. And if, in pulling out of the driveway in the morning he also forgot to unplug the block heater and dragged an extension cord through the slush to the first stop sign, then we were going to pay more.

He'd leave chores in his wake. Now, if I had a snow day, it was self evident that it was my job to clear the driveway before any kind of street hockey game broke out or sleds were dragged to the park to play dodge'em with two hundred year old oaks. Trouble with the old man was, he'd pile some extras onto the driveway, like shoveling the sidewalk before the town did so Mrs. Bitchus from next door could hobble downtown for the latest Child Hater's Digest if she so chose. Or clearing the patio at the side of the house just in case Dad would come home with the idea of an impromtu barbeque. Then of course he'd insist that all the homework was done. It was done the night before but, do it again, just in case and while you're at it, read ahead. Eighteen chapters or so ought to do it. You'll have an advantage over the rest of the class.

He didn't know my class. Breathing through your nose most of the time gave you an advantage over them.

And so it was that at my house, most snow days had you wishing you were doing long division by ten o'clock or in biology wondering where the "Dowagers R Us" store was that Miss Martin clearly got all her clothes at.

The old man never really changed his stripes. I worked for him at his assembly plant when I was in college. He was the plant manager. I was his kid. There was a sales manager there too. And his kid worked in the plant too. It was in fact, for one summer, Nepotism Inc.

I think the old man was aware of this. His kid got an instant summer job the easy way. So everyone figured he'd have an easy job too.

They didn't know the old man.

He compensated for this misperception of my cushy life by in fact tossing me into some of the hardest jobs he could cook up. And even the ones that weren't that tough, he found ways of making tougher.

Apparently, the sales manager guy had no such hang ups. His kid was named Keith and got to work the loading dock.

I got pulled out of spot welding just as the first summer heat wave broke and temperatures got turned down from roasting. I was to go outside and paint the curbs safety yellow so that semis turning around to load and unload would be aware of where the curbs were. That is if the huge decorative rock that the company's logo was bolted to didn't tip them off first.

I grabbed my bucket of OSHA yellow, brush and headed merrily out the door.

"Don't forget your tape." says the old man and tosses a roll of masking my way.

"Do you want me to mask off the driveway, or the lawn, or both?

"I want zebra stripes painted on the curbs. They should be three inches thick and alternate around the curbs."

"You must be kidding me." didn't even occur to me as a retort. I knew he wasn't and that painting curbs plain yellow was just too easy a job. So there I was, taping and painting stripes onto the curbs while forty feet away, up on the loading dock, Keith was sleeping on a pile of boxes due to be shipped out in a few hours. I tried to tear the masking tape quietly so as not to wake him.

I got sent into the paint shop a week later to run a steam gun. This involved being closed into a ten by ten metal booth with a large metal box meant to hold electrical circuitry that had to be painted. In order to be painted, it had to be de-greased. That's where the steam gun came into play. I steamed parts clean just in time to welcome the second heat wave of the summer. I hoped Keith was all right in the shade of the loading dock and that the afternoon sun didn't get in his eyes and ruin his nap. The paint shop was a few departments away from the dock but I endeavored to steam quietly so as not to wake Keith.

Just before school started again and I was counting single days and a wake up before I got to go back to dorm food, the old man came up with his last job for the summer. There was about a 3/4 acre plot alongside the plant that had to be covered in gravel. It had been bulldozed but it turned into a mud field every time it rained. So we'd cover it in a dump truck load of gravel.

I guess there was one last shred of youthful naivite in me that the old man hadn't beaten down yet. Given that it was a large area to cover and given that it was a whole truckload of gravel and given that there was a finite amount of time for me to do it in I somehow got the idea that he would do something sensible like rent a Bobcat for the day and have the job done.

Don't ask me what I was taking that brought that thought on.

I got to the site and there were the tools the old man had set up for me. Yep, a shovel, a rake and a wheelbarrow. Oh, and a pile of gravel conveniently dumped in the center of the lot.

I had had enough. Before I lifted a single shovelful I stormed into the old man's office to demand the right tool for the job.

"Gimme a sheet of foam rubber, for God's sake!"

"What for?" He was genuinely curious.

"The bottom of the freaking wheelbarrow. That first shovelful of gravel on metal is bound to make a racket. It'll wake Keith up!"

Bunny on.

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