Before You Complain About That Plow Guy …

photo by jeanne sagerI need to write myself a note on a Post-It, and fasten it to my laptop. What would it say? “Don’t check Facebook on a snow day … it will only send your blood pressure rocketing.”

Needless to say, I went on Facebook over the weekend, as the last flurries of the storm that dumped a good foot in our corner of the globe fell outside my window.

I was greeted with several complaints about the state of the Sullivan County roads and a few insults hurled at our road crews to boot.

I suppose there are a few bad apples in every bunch, but if you live in the Northeast, it’s high time you learn how snow plowing works.

The guy gets in the truck and drives down roads no one else wants to face. He plows one road, and even as he does it, the snow still coming down covers the very path he’s just cleared. Literally, he can look in his rear view mirror and see fresh powder where his blade just scraped the pavement clean.

Such is the nature of a big storm.

But what can he do? He moves on to another road, and then another. See, most crews in Sullivan County are small — some have just seven or eight men for all the roads in the entire township.

On each road, he faces the same problem. The snow, still coming down, continues to coat the paths he’s just cleared. It’s not unlike cleaning up after a toddler. They follow behind you, strewing toys in your wake. Only this is one dangerous toy.

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If the snow continues all day – as it did on Saturday – he will drive those same roads over and over and over again, trying to stay ahead of the storm. At some point, he will stop because common sense and the law both say a highway worker needs to get out of a truck to pee and sleep at some point. Would you want someone in a two ton pickup truck with a sharp blade on the front who hasn’t slept in 24 hours? I didn’t think so.

He will try to grab some shut eye, and the snow will continue to fall. He can’t stop it. He wishes he could.

Overtime or no overtime, he’d like to spend some time with his family. He doesn’t ask for it to snow the night of his daughter’s big concert or on Thanksgiving (that’s right, Wal-Mart workers aren’t the only ones who work on Turkey Day). Oh, and if he’s the boss, he doesn’t get overtime anyway.

But I digress.

The snow continues to fall, and so he climbs back in the truck. It’s not a comfortable ride. I know. As a reporter, I once took a ride in a plow truck as part of a day in the life series the paper was running.

The driver was Town of Highway Superintendent Bill Eschenberg, or, as I call him, Uncle Bill. Family or not, I can assure you there was no special treatment.

There are no plush seat covers, no fancy speakers in a plow truck. The engine is loud, the radio often blaring, the wipers occasionally becoming so coated with ice that the only option is to pull over and climb out of the truck in the worst of the storm and use your bare hands to clear them off.

This is the truck the plow guy drives.

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And as his wipers swish back and forth, he keeps his eyes peeled for cars stopped dead in the road, for children making snow forts in the drifts, for ice that can send even a plow truck careening into a ditch or over a cliff.

He keeps his cool when impatient drivers honk and ride his tail. He keeps his calm as the snow turns to sleet, the powder to ice.

Sometimes he drives with the plow up because he’s crossing one road that isn’t part of his route to get to another. Town crews may not plow state roads, but they often have to drive over them to get from A to B.

Sometimes he drives without dropping sand or salt because there’s no more left in the truck to drop, and he’s headed back to the barn where he’ll stand outside in the whipping wind with a shovel.

And still, it will snow.

All the while, other people will be at home. They’ll be making cookies and sipping hot cocoa. Maybe they’ll feel like getting on Facebook, where, snug and cozy, they’ll sound off about the work he’s doing, or should I say the work they aren’t seeing?

It’s easy to complain about the plow guy when the 1,000 feet around your house look treacherous. But do me a favor. Look, just for a second, past that 1,000 feet.

Look to the sky, where the snow continues to fall. Look to the clock, which is inching toward the time the storm started 24 hours prior.

Look at the guy behind the wheel of that truck when you do see it pass. Give him a wave; maybe take him some cookies or a cup of coffee if you can.

It may be snowing, but he’s just doing the best he can.

 

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Comments

  1. You are my favorite blogger, and I love everything you write…. THIS by far is the best piece yet! It hits home. Thank you! My companies guys give up countless hours away from their families, miss holiday party’s, birthdays, etc to make sure that we all have safe passage during and after a storm. And after working at our company, my s/o puts in his 16 hour shift at NYS DOT, working nights during the winter for extra income to support our family. Any man or woman who gives up his precious family time to insure that MD’s and Nurses can get to the hospital to work their shifts, that EMT’s and FF’s can help you in your time of need, deserves recognition, and not the continued beatings I have read recently on social media. Thank you for such an on point piece!!!

  2. Laurie Ferber says:

    I love our plow guy He’s up way earlier than me, the road is plowed sanded, before I am ready to leave to go to go to work . What more can you ask from the guy ? Schools are usually closed after he passes through. He’s the one taking the chances out in the storms, while we are home and warm in out homes. He’s the one getting that dreaded early morning call, when every one else is sleeping, no one else out there but his fellow workers, and maybe the paper delivery or emergency personal. No complaint from me. Town Of Liberty Great Job Guys!

  3. I have to say you said this perfectly. As you hit this issue dead on i must say just one thing i feel should also be put out there to go with what you said. Not only are all these guys out there at all hours of the day and night as my husband who works for a municipality in Sullivan is, but what people that are complaining dont notice is, that these crews are the ones to drive into work on the worst roads possible risking their vehicles their safety n their lives to get to their plow trucks to clear the roads for the other idiots that insist on going shopping or going out to galavant when they should stay off the roads and out of the plow trucks way! There are also people that scream and curse and throw things at these drivers because when they plowed past they put some snow in their driveways! These people should all be ashamed of themselves for acting so immature. So what, they have to shovel for a half hour to clear their driveway. What about all these guys that have been stuck in these uncomfortable cold plow trucks for hours and hours!!!! All the people out there that complain should have to live the life of a plow truck driver for a day and see how they feel then! Im sure they’d feel pretty damn stupid for being so ignorant!!!!

    • you mean “the other idiots who don’t want to get terminated because their employer doesn’t consider weather an “excuse”…

  4. Jimmy b crawley says:

    Well said… and thank you as I am one of those plow guys

    • Frozen Fred says:

      Me too! But my truck is 36000 lbs. people need to learn to stay home in that kind of weather. A gallon of milk really isn’t that necessary! Like the sign says “give em a brake!”

  5. Well said. As the wife of a former highway employee I would like to add that there are times when these guys were lucky to even get to spend a couple of hours with their families on Christmas because they had to go out and plow. They missed out on valuable family time to clear the roads for others to be able to get around to spend time with their families. The complainers should be thankful for the job these guys do. Unless they walk a mile in a highway worker’s shoes, they should resist complaints and give thanks that there are people devoted to a job other people don’t want.

  6. Mia Koerner says:

    I have followed your growth as a writer and human being. I think you have hit the proverbial nail with this insightful article. Well done.
    Looking in another direction for a story makes it very appealing and you do it with warmth and empathy. Congrats.

  7. I would like to thank you for this article, as I am a retired NYSDOT plow driver and totally concur with everything that you wrote.
    As they have said, been there done that for 15 years, and as a dairy farmer previously, I feel that the job of the highway worker is more dangerous and takes more time from your family than working on the farm. Both jobs are high quality positions in this state, and I am proud to say that I was able to do both to the best of my ability.
    Thank you to all of these professional drivers, and I have had many 18 wheeler drivers state that they would not do my job for love or money. Keep up the wonderful job and know that there are many citizens that do appreciate what you do.

  8. Stephanie Hazzard says:

    Great article! And so true! These people do a thankless job!

  9. Thank you for your story! My husband ton, is one of those plow guys! He has been on the job for 40 yes! Would he like to be home all snug and warm with his family? yes,he would,he takes his job seriously.I am very proud of him and all road crews who sometimes work around the clock. Thank you to all road crew workers.

  10. Great article! As a prior PennDOT employee (in the office/Potter County) I understand exactly what you are talking about! I pray for no snow on the holidays because I have two sons working there now! God bless you for your insight on this and for putting it out for all to see! Some still won’t understand!!

  11. Last year we saw the town plow guy hit our mail box during a snowstorm. I pulled on boots, coat, hat and gloves to see if I could right it. As I started down the drive the plow truck driver coming back on the road stopped and got out of the truck, heading to the box. When he saw me he looked upset.. “Sorry ma’m.” I said we were grateful for what they were doing and he breathed a Loud sigh of relief then explained that the car coming at him on the narrow road would not move over and he chose to hit the box rather than car. “Thought you’d be mad.” The box was easily righted as my hubby had arranged it on a swivel. “Not a problem at all. Thanks for the help.” We were glad he chose to do the difficult job that day and keep all of us Safe.

  12. Most of the was perfect. People have to realize that we as plow drivers make many and I mean many sacrifices for our jobs. Here in Muskegon MI last winter was brutal, we worked almost 80 straight days with no time off. As a smaller outfit we often seen shifts that ran 24-40 hours. Sleep was around 4 hrs per day and the wife’s and kids were almost never seen. It’s a tough and thankless job.

  13. Be thankful the plows are even out here where I live the plows wait for the storm to finish before plowing they are on call to run in front of emergency vehicles if needed but other than that its no plows til storms done

  14. Sidewalk Guy says:

    Great article – and yes, I do the sidewalks in the Village that I live in. 16 miles worth of twisty, turny, “I have to walk to the store because I am a healthy person”, “My dog needs to be walked” sidewalk. I average about 3 middle-finger salutes every bad storm. 🙂 I don’t let it get to me tho – I DO get some good comments, and that more than makes up for the paintballs shot at me (Yes, last winter my machine took a paintball hit).

  15. william wells says:

    Thank u for that it was good read I also drive a plow for the past 6 years. What people dont get is when we plow the snow across your driveway at least they get to shovel it while its still soft. Someone plows my street and sometimes its hours or longer until I can get home to shovel my frozen snow bank.

  16. Dennis Hotaling says:

    Very well written and TRUE thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Jill Gelinas says:

    Perfect….and Thank You!
    from the wife of A Plow Guy

  18. couldnt have said it better. It drives me crazy after a 16 hr shift fighting snow an stupid drivers who shouldn’t be on the road during all the chaos with the snow it might see a friend and they say u guys didn’t do anything I didn’t see one truck come down my street. I jus wanna punch them in da face like u stayed up 16 hrs jus lookin out ur window. If we didn’t do anything during that time no one would leave their house unless u hav a snowmobile that’s not cover up also thank u for writing this article been snow plowin for 25 yrs.

  19. DOT rules do exist for a reason so for the guy making 500 an hour maybe that should also be thought about safety first not how much plowing you can get done take a break granted there are times when emergency vehicles need to get through but you also have to think that that plow driver on no sleep mighy be the caus

  20. My boyfriend drives a plow. Yesterday was his 30th birthday. He spent it on the tail end of a 48 hour shift while countless people screamed at him because their driveways weren’t spotless after the heaviest snowfall this state has seen in 20 years. We didn’t even see each other except to sleep (I was at home holding down the farm). Today, someone who I am no longer friends with had the gall to say, “I could just get a bunch of Mexicans from the Home Depot parking lot to do it.” This article was shared with me right after that. Thank you. I needed this.

  21. Great article. Thank you to those who take care of our communities in so many ways. Also I drive by that wonderfully adorable red and white house in the blog every day. Beautiful picture of it in the snow

  22. Karen Cooksey says:

    Awesome story and I enjoyed every single word. We are all guilty of complaining. I never complain about the plow guy. I get upset the people do not see the beauty in the few snows we get each year or let their children enjoy them. They don’t enjoy them because they are to busy with their busy lives, the bills (& I know they must be paid), or all the things they think “have” to be done. Slow down, teach your children and grandchildren to enjoy life.

  23. Brilliantly written! Truth!
    Before we complain, we should always take a breath, look outside the box and wear their shoes for a moment.
    As a society, we have become quick to judge, quick to complain, quick to toss aside and have lost basic compassion for our fellow human beings.

  24. I know I’m grateful to our plow drivers! I’m a truck driver I drive 10hrs a night on a Plattsburgh to Syracuse NY turn. The roads could be a whole lot worse than they are that’s for sure, and freezing rain or sleet….the guys are right out there salting. Definitely appreciate them and the job they do keeping us safe, just one thing none of us can figure out…when the plows are 2 or 3 abreast going down 2 and 3 lanes., not letting anyone by? We are on a schedule and 35 mi an hr for miles puts everyone and everyone down the line late? Other than that…well done!

  25. I’m a plowman in Ct. We’ve had our share of snow. The residents in our state are very spoiled. The expectation of seeing blacktop at all times is very real… even during a blizzard! Please people get real. Read this article you’ll get an understanding of what and when we do our jobs . Thank You

  26. Great article but it is missing one thing… That the plow driver has to drive in his/her own vehicle on unplowed roads to even get to the garage to start plowing!

  27. Though I lived in snowy upstate New York for 40 years, I am embarrassed that I never really thought about the difficult and usually thankless work and incredibly long hours the plow guys put in, often on holidays.

    As I write this reply this morning from my now-home in Southern California, keeping you guys in my prayers.

    BTW, as a former English teacher, I want to comment on how beautifully and compellingly this piece was written !!!

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