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Thursday, January 30, 2003  


It’s almost February and I just got my first chance to use my snowblower this week. I love my snowblower. Why? Because it works.

It wasn’t always like this. I used to have this Crap-brand paperweight of a snowblower that would break down at least once every year. It would only throw the snow in one direction. Getting the right fuel/oil mixture required measuring cups. Starting it called for a pullcord-based workout that left both arms feeling like I’d walked to Mexico on my hands. The only way to shut it off was to run it into enough snow to slow down the blade, which is a pretty self-defeating feature for a snowblower to have. And that was when it worked at all. I took that thing apart and put it back together so many times that it started to look like one of the bad kid’s playthings in Toy Story.

Before that, I had a shovel. The shovel was better.

I could pick up the shovel and put it to work. I didn’t have to take the cover off the shovel, poke around its workings for an hour in the freezing cold, call my dad and ask how to fix it, drive out to the exurbs to buy tiny little parts for it at thirty bucks a pop, load it into the back of my station wagon when my pitiful efforts failed, drive it to my dad’s house so he could overhaul the engine, and go to put the cover back on only to find I’d lost the bolts. It was a shovel, and it did its job.

But it was impractical. The thing about our driveway is, we share it with our next-door neighbors to the south. It goes from the curb, between or yards, to the space between our houses in a nice, manageable, single lane. After that, it spreads out like a lava flow into a four-lane expanse that services both our garage and theirs. I think it has more square footage than our house. Most driveways, you can just do a push/scoop/toss maneuver. Ours requires a push/scoop/lift/carry fifty yards/dump/walk back maneuver for every few square inches. For a couple of years we sucked it up and used shovels anyway, but every time there was a heavy snowfall we’d be digging out from it until Easter.

Now, I’m lazy, but I’m also cheap. Trash had to talk me into buying a snowblower one year. We got the cheapest one we could find. We got what we paid for.

After five years of fixing, kicking, and cursing that thing, Trash and I decided it was time for a new one. Despite my lobbying for a fully loaded model with a cab and a radio, we went with a three-hundred-dollar Murray™. This was about a year ago this month, after several snowfalls, several failed attempts to get the old snowblower working, and several leaves of absence from work to remove the snow manually. I promised myself I’d take better care of this one. I’d keep it oiled, take it in for periodic tune ups, and knit it little sweaters. Unlike my old snowblower, I wasn’t going to treat this one like a rented mule.

The next time it snowed, I went out into the garage, filled my brand-new snowblower tank with the precisely correct mixture of gas and oil, yanked the brand-new cord—once—and reveled in the healthy roar and beautiful billows of brand-new blue smoke that filled the garage. Several dozen brain cells died happy. I engaged the brand-new blade and guided the brand-new machine joyfully into the powder.

It died after three feet.

Oh, how my thoughts went black. This snowblower was supposed to change my life. It was supposed to make winter itself effortless. Instead, it was sitting on my driveway, three hundred dollars in a form that refused to do so much as cough when I pulled the cord. There’s a word for people who spend a hundred dollars per foot of travel. That word is NASA.

It was under warranty, but I was still livid. Because once again, I had to move ten tons of snow, twenty pounds at a time. My ire increased with every shovelful. By the time I was finished, I planned to bring it right back to the hardware store the next day. Then, when they asked me the inevitable question, “are you sure you have the right fuel/oil mixture?” I’d slit the gas line. While the volatile liquid sloshed onto the floor, I would hold aloft a flaming Zippo™ and holler, “Does that look right to you, fuckstick?

As it turned out, that scene wasn’t necessary. They’d put a wrong part into the engine at the factory. It was fixed at no cost to myself. Of course, if it had snowed while it was in the shop, I would have rented a large front-end loader to carry all of the snow from my driveway directly to Menards’ lawn and garden aisle.

But they got it back to me in working order and in plenty of time, and my snowblower and I had a highly functional working relationship for the rest of the winter. I bought it some fuel stabilizer (because gas here contains an additive that supposedly protects the environment, which it does by turning the gas into varnish that gums up small engines, because what could be better for the environment than landfills packed with gummed-up small engines?) and ran the motor for a few minutes every month throughout the summer just to keep everything clear. And the other night after work, I fired it up for its first job of the season. Before it was fully dark, I couldn’t even see one end of the area I’d cleared from the other, due to the curvature of the earth. Life was good. And so is my snowblower.

As for my old snowblower, it’s sitting in my dad’s garage, waiting for him to do horrible, gruesome experiments on it. I love writing happy endings.

posted by M. Giant 3:35 PM 0 comments


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