It was 7:30 a.m. last Friday morning when Ivy the Wonder Cat and I were playing chess on the coffee table or at least Ivy’s version of chess, knocking the chess pieces off the table and meowing with joy.
Then I heard it!
You’d think it was the sound of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer” with the speed at which I flew to the window, but no. It was the snow plow… The snow plow I hired to clear my driveway, making its very first visit!
For those who might not be familiar with an Ottawa winter, let’s just put things into perspective. While different sources offer different statistics, I’d say that on average, Ottawa receives about 200 cm (roughly 78 inches) of snow through the fall, winter and spring months.
Of course it doesn’t fall at once. Sometimes it falls as light fluffy flakes, sometimes it comes with ice pellets and sometimes it is wet and heavy. As an added bonus, after the plow (or plough, if you prefer) comes to clear the street, there is always a heavy (and sometimes mountainous) snow bank at the end of the driveway that needs to be cleared as well.
Plus, when you have a winter like 2008 with more than 300 cm of snow, and all of the snowbanks start getting taller than you, where do you put the snow?
For the longest time, I thought that hiring a plowing service might have been frivolous or extravagant, especially since my driveway is barely over one car length. But I had to accept the sad reality that the degenerating disc in my back will continue to degenerate, and that the shoveling is probably not helping it in the long run.
I tried to convince myself that it was good exercise and that it was one of the joys (and responsibilities) of home ownership. But 17 winters later, my positive spin on shoveling is spiraling downward. I’m over it.
After having spent the last two winters experiencing periods of back pain (directly related to the shoveling), and having to make time for more chiropractor visits, was it worth it?
As a runner, I recognize the importance of keeping my body in good shape and that regular stretching (much like yoga moves) has helped to prevent injury over the years. But preparing for shoveling is like training for a sport in itself when every shovel full of wet heavy snow can weigh quite a bit, and the movements involved in snow clearing can be awkward and dangerous if one does not pay attention.
Then came the bitter admission that I just don’t bounce back from back injury like I used to. It’s called getting older. It sucks, but it’s a fact of life.
Plus, while I never considered myself a candidate for a fatal heart attack, sedentary men over 50 are most at risk from the strains of shoveling, so why tempt fate?
As much as I felt like I was being a wimp for not doing it myself, I knew in my heart that it was time to cast aside my pride and to call it quits.
Over the fall, I priced out a few different contractors and found prices to be far more reasonable than when I priced them out 5 years ago, the last time my back wasn’t feeling great. The quotes were in the same ball park as the price of 6 visits to the chiropractor. For the pain I could potentially avoid, the expense now made sense.
I ended up hiring the company that was highly recommended by a good friend.
And on this beautiful snowy morning, here was the plow! The pure joy I felt defies words. I didn’t have to break out in a sweat, I didn’t have to risk my back’s wellness and I didn’t have to worry. Sixty seconds after the driveway was cleared, I knew I had made the right decision.
I laughed a devilish laugh at the realization that I may have partially won the war against Old Man Winter. It was in that moment that I realized that aside from the 3 feet of pathway in front of my house, I really don’t need to even think, plan or set aside time for shoveling this winter. At all… Ever…
That is when I realized how much of an irritant it was, not only for my back, but for my outlook on winter itself.
Maybe if I didn’t have to shovel 40-50 times in a season and risk injury, might I enjoy winter more, from the comfort of the great indoors, snuggled up with a good book, a cup of tea and Miss Ivy purring contentedly by my side?
Now, will I see every new snowfall for its romantic natural beauty, rather than a risk to my health and safety?
Could I put the reclaimed time toward a less risky form of exercise, to stay healthy, fit and happy through the winter months?
In retrospect, maybe hiring a plowing service was a better idea than I thought. Now I wonder why I waited so long.
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Have a great day,