Shoveling Snow At 56
It’s now almost 2 hours after what I’m considering as my first real snow shoveling of the year. I’ve actually been outside twice this year, but one was definitely in 2015 and the other… kind of dicey in my mind. I guess I could have said I’ve shoveled 3 times this season… oh well.
In any case, those other two times were nothing compared to today. There might have been in inch of snow the first two times. This time, it was somewhere between 5 and 6 inches; I’m not quite sure. The first picture you see is what the driveway looked like before I started. It’s hard determining just how much snow there is when you first look at it because it all blends in. Because we’ve had little snow so far this season, there were no snowbanks on the side of the driveway to measure it against. The second picture shows you a bit more, and hopefully helps people appreciate how much snow I had to remove.
First, some backstory. I haven’t really shoveled snow in 3 years. I was out of town for one winter, and last winter I had paid for snow removal because I wasn’t sure if I would be home or not. I actually did shovel once both years, very minor stuff, just to keep in practice.
I’ve lived in cold and snowy conditions for 45 years. I didn’t have to move any snow when I lived in apartments, but I’ve been in the house for 15 years, and the first couple of years I shoveled, then inherited my dad’s snow blower and used that for 9 or 10 years when I sold it to Howard Triche (yes, THAT Howard Triche) for $25, along with a riding lawn mower. Then I went back to hand shoveling until the day my wife and I tried to remove 11 1/2 inches of wet snow from the driveway and failed miserably until our younger neighbor, with a monster sized blower, came over the bailed us out; whew!
This year, since I knew I would be home for the winter (I’m a consultant so sometimes I travel, sometimes I work from home), I was hesitant to pay for a snow plowing service for a few reasons.
One, I figured I could stay on top of it; I’m not a weakling after all (even though I did just remember the 11 1/2 inches above…).
Two, the price of plowing went up higher than I thought it should have, knowing that before when it went up it was to cover the rising price of gas, and now that gas is almost half what it was last winter it felt like more of a money grab.
Three, all long range weather predictions have said we’re going to get less snow than the last couple of years. To date that’s held true, as we had barely a dusting in November and had less than an inch of snow until the last couple of days of December. Even up to last night’s storm, where it had snowed every day except 2, we’d had little snow.
Snowstorm; pffbt! I’m not scared of snow! Of course I heard the warning of that woman I’m married to: “You’re getting older”; “you’re not used to that kind of physical labor anymore”; “don’t over exert yourself”; “it’s easier to pay for plowing”. Yeah, yeah…
Things have changed haven’t they? Isn’t 50 the new 30? Doesn’t that mean 56 is the new 26, which is almost physical prime? Aren’t I one of the most experienced snow shovelers in history with the time I’ve put into it over all these years?
Today we found out. The snow started yesterday evening and continued falling overnight. Although I ended up having to dress myself a couple of times before I was ready, eventually I was all set for the task. The main thing to remember is to dress properly for both the wetness of the snow and the long term exposure to the cold, as it was under 20° when I started. For me this meant a pair of regular and thick socks; sweats with pants worn over them; a shirt, hoodie & heavy winter jacket; hat.
Gloves were a part of this also, but there was a minor fail here. I was shoveling okay when my wife called. I took my gloves off to answer the call, which was only a few minutes. When I put my gloves back on my hands felt like they’d frozen. Thus, I had to come back into the house, grab some protective jelly to coat my hands with (major mistake not to start with that; petroleum jelly of some kind is the way to go), then put on nitrile gloves (I’m allergic to latex) and finally my regular gloves. I’ll be coming back to my hands later, but at this point, my hands felt pretty good.
When there’s a lot of snow, you’re always hoping it’s light and dry instead of wet and heavy, because it gives you a chance of pushing a lot of snow instead of having to keep lifting snow. Even if you do have to lift, which I did because of how high the snow was, its much less of an effort and exertion. Truthfully, that would have been dangerous for someone like me at any age because I’m a bulldog when it comes to snow removal. I’m going to push as hard as I can and not take any breaks, for fear that if I stop I won’t start back up again; don’t be like THAT me. lol
The best way to remove snow is to set yourself up so you can walk in small spaces and not have to deal with too much snow at once; the more snow you have to handle, the heavier it gets. You see the image of my driveway; it’s taken from inside the garage. That’s obviously where I started.
I cleared all the snow away from the garage first, making a space of about a foot so I could move around. Next, I decided to create a path from the garage to the street. That goes against the small space theory, but it’s always smart to have a way for you to reach the street or for help to reach you from the street; trust me on this one.
I had to make that pass 6 or 7 times to clear a space that was also about a foot. The initial passes were heavy, and I had to stop to life and throw snow out of the way. Still, it gave me what I needed, which was space so I could then just push snow to the ends, only having to lift any snow when I got to the end.
That made the job easier, but certainly not any faster; after all, that was still a lot of snow. Including the time on the phone and having to go in and treat my hands before continuing, it took about 2 1/2 hours to clear the snow to the street. I was listening to the 7th Harry Potter book while doing all of that; so I’m a big kid! I left just a little bit of snow down there because I knew the big plow from the village would be coming by and burying the end pretty soon; it came 10 minutes after I was back in the house. 🙂
When I was done I took that second picture and felt pretty good both mentally and physically. I came back into the house, closed the door, then took off my shoes, coat and hat, all covered with snow. I took off the hoodie in the living room and threw it over a chair; I was sweating a lot but since I had a shirt on the hoodie was somewhat spared.
My first stop was to the bathroom for my hands. The rest of my body felt fine but the tips of my fingers were numb; I hadn’t noticed it while I was shoveling. Here’s lesson two, which I’d forgotten because I’m used to my fingers being cold, not numb. Do NOT, EVER, put your hands under warm or hot water when you’ve come out of the cold and are cold or numb… unless you like pain. Whoa, the pain! I had to make the water cool to relieve the pain; how the heck do you go from numb to pain? It was about 2 minutes before I could get to warm, and both my hands were giving me more discomfort than comfort; that’s why I should have treated my hands before I started shoveling.
The rest of my body started feeling the pain after about 30 minutes. Actually, because of all the walking I do, it’s possible that I’m handling the pain better than I might have two years ago. Either that or my luck in the snow being relatively light. I’ve taken 4 200mg ibuprofen to stem the tide and, by now, 2 1/2 hours later everything is throbbing, including my fingers, but I’m not in enough pain to keep me from doing anything, which is good because my hands are throbbing as I’m writing this.
I’m trying to figure out if I hurt more now at 56 than I did when I was younger. I’m not sure there’s a real way to compare the two things. I didn’t start taking pain killers “regularly” until around the time I turned 40, which was before I bought this house and after going years without actually having to shovel much (not counting the ’93 snowstorm; everyone did some kind of shoveling then). Actually, I feel pretty good because I got it done, all by myself.
One last thing, which also makes me feel good. When I was halfway through the adventure, this young man, maybe an older teen since school was out, came walking by and asked if I needed any help. I told him I was good, but I smiled as he walked on for offering assistance like that. Maybe we will be okay as we get older after all! 😀