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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