Everybody has their own nostalgic reminders that carry them back to the days when times were simpler and life was a whole lot easier.
Maybe it’s a classic, like a bonfire on the beach that takes you back to that summer after high school. Maybe it’s a particular song that reminds you of driving around with a group of friends, just killing time. Maybe it’s a book your grandmother gave you when you were younger.
For me? Snowstorms.
For several winters during and after college, I plowed snow for a town in Massachusetts and few things put me more at ease on those cold days than the thought of sitting behind a plow at 3 a.m. during the middle of a snowstorm with a large Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in my hand, listening to sports radio, with nobody else on the road but me and anyone else with a plow.
Daytime snowstorms? No fun. People always have somewhere important to go. The world is active and awake and I’m right in the middle of it, the center of attention as the snow continues to fall and I drive on by, pushing snow from the middle of the road into someone’s just-cleared driveway. (It has to go somewhere, so get over it.) And, of course, there are always the kids to watch out for.
But at night, with my plow down on the asphalt, I’m the king of the road. Nobody else is around. It’s me versus the snow. I’m bundled up — in case something happens with my truck or someone else’s, which is not uncommon — so the window is often down and, beneath the darkness of night, all I hear outside is the wind whipping through the trees and the grind of metal on pavement.
You see, I’m what some people might call … competitive. I never wanted the snow to win.
So to me, plowing snow became, in a weird kind of way, part art form, part game.
“Will I get back around to plowing Elm Street before the snow makes its impassable? Or will I finish my route and make it back in time to make sure it’s clear for anyone who needs to travel it?
“Where exactly is that raised manhole cover coming up again? Shortly after that hydrant … Don’t wanna hit that — again. So I gotta make sure I raise the plow at the exact … right … ahhh, good. Got past it. Phew!
“Is this snow coming down too heavy to make two passes around Brookfield or should I just do one and then swing back later?”
And during the big snowstorms — the 18- to 24-inchers — the question eventually becomes: “I wonder when I should catch some sleep?”
Often though, as in any competition, I’d fall into a routine. And that’s where the nostalgia kicks in.
You know your route, about how much more snow is expected and whether it’s heavy, light or somewhere in between. Maybe, after plowing for the last 18 hours, you have time for a two-hour nap before the morning commute. Or maybe it’s time for another coffee and some more sports radio.
So every year now I’ll wait for Old Man Winter to make his appearance — and, as we’re learning this winter, he always does eventually. These days, though, I’ve got the wood stove burning while the snow falls down outside and someone else worries about plowing my street. Sometimes I’ll see him drive by in the morning as I’m shoveling my own driveway. As he passes, the snow fills up the area I just shoveled, but it’s all good. It has to go somewhere.
Plus, he has a competition he needs to win.
Joseph Pinciaro is the editor of The Suffolk Times. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on Twitter @cjpinch.
Top photo: Old Man Winter made another appearance in the area last week and again on Monday. But despite the cold weather, snowy roads and spot flooding, not everyone — namely, this columnist — was unhappy to see it come. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)