Snow Day, Part II


It snowed yet again the other day, and it was really coming down this time, and every path I’d shoveled was not a path anymore. So, I shoveled again and went to bed with it still snowing, and somewhere in the middle of the night the power went out. I woke up to a cold, dark house knowing most of the food in the fridge was spoiled and feeling absolutely done with winter. Snow had gone from something beautiful to an inconvenience.

I quickly became miserable. I realized I would be a poor hero in a zombie apocalypse. I wanted my comforts and to resume my habits. I wanted to make coffee and write from 6:30 to 8:30, and then answer emails. All I could do was sit with my cat on my lap and wait.

Finally, at 9:00 AM, the power returned. We rejoiced. I exercised and took a hot shower and told my wife I’d brave the slush and ice and forage for food at QFC. It was tough sledding getting out of our alley, but I have four-wheel drive, and the main road was clear, and I made it to the store easily enough. Things, at last, were returning to normal. Until I locked the car and felt first in my coat pocket and then my pants pocket and then looked through the driver’s window and there were my keys in the ignition.

I turned around and began my mile and-a-half walk home through ten inches of wet snow. I was hungry and under dressed – meaning for a normal, goddamned day, not a snow apocalypse. I blamed my old car, whose driver-side door no longer alerts me when I’ve left the keys in the ignition. As I neared the end of my trek, I was also blaming my wife, though I hadn’t figured exactly what she’d done yet. Plus, getting home was only half the job. I still had to get my wife’s keys and hike back to the store, which, for the record, would be entirely uphill.

I made it home and threw my gloves across the living room and began swearing and complaining and told my wife we would be getting a new car. She pointed out I could take a bus up the hill, and I said, yes, fine, a bus, I hate busses, but fine. Out I went into the slush to take a bus to my car, and that’s when I spotted my neighbor, John. He had been shoveling the sidewalk in front of our house and now he was across the street shoveling another neighbor’s driveway.

“That’s okay, John,” said the neighbor. “I’ll get it.”

“You sure?” he asked.

She was sure.

John’s always doing something around his house. He’s always building something, or painting something, or repairing something. I have no idea what he does for a living. But I do know he has a new pickup truck parked on the street. I asked him if he could give me a lift to the store.

“No problem! Let me get my keys, man.”

He got his keys and off we went. As we drove, he told me the truck had belonged to a man he knew who lived up on Hood Canal who’d been a paraplegic, so it could be driven with or without feet. I told him my uncle had also been in a wheelchair for most of his life after getting polio in the navy, and that I never once heard my uncle complain about the wheelchair. The truck was missing one wiper, so John just drove on with the windshield growing speckled and runny with rain.

“You can drive okay like this?” I asked.

“No problem. Just makes you focus more. Makes you a better driver. I love all this, man. I love all this snow and stuff. This is fun!”

He drove me up the hill and right into the QFC parking lot.

“Door-to-door service, man!”

I thanked him, and climbed out of the truck and started for my car.

“Bill. You dropped this!”

He was holding one of my shopping bags. I thanked him yet again, unlocked my car, and did the shopping. When I got home, I realized I’d forgotten bread. My son, who doesn’t yet drive, said he’d take a bus and get it for me. I was about to tell him not to bother, that I’d do it, when I thought better of it. He didn’t normally get stuff for me, but maybe it was time for a new normal. Maybe help sometimes comes without any effort, just as the rain has since cleared the streets of slush and snow.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.