My Turn: The art of plowing winter streets

Posted: Sunday, December 09, 2001

Winter is upon us again, bringing with it the usual accouterments: Snow, ice, freezing rain and darkness to name a few. Everyone gets a chance to become familiar with driving during the worst time of year. Even for those experienced, it can be a challenge. There will be many obstacles on your commute.

Most of us have experienced that "white knuckle" ride at one time or another. Sometimes you lose control just thinking about applying the brakes. Other times we never know why the car broke loose. There are those times, too, when it was not your fault at all! Suffice it to say, if you have not had this type of experience yet, chances are very good you will at some time.

With all that goes on in trying to get moving in the winter, it's usually a relief to see your street is at least plowed. If it's not, it can be a minor irritant at best, or a major event just to get out of the driveway. Generally, if it's done you will hardly think about it at all. Provided of course the kids cleared the berm last night like they were supposed to. On the other hand, though, you may be thinking ill thoughts when you see the grader two blocks down working away.

While we have a chance, before that treacherous ride into town, let's take another trip first.

Just for a moment now, place yourself behind the controls of the grader/plow truck. You have to watch out for traffic and pedestrians, same as anyone else. Now, add the facts that both hands, both feet and your mind are wrestling with controls that are trying to push your grader or truck into someone or something else. Chances are good that it's rush hour, dark, snowing, extremely slick and everyone needs you NOW. You're backing up traffic because you are slower than all the other traffic around you. I won't even mention the power lines and poles, mailboxes, utility pedestals, trash cans, etc. that you had better keep an eye on. What is that in front of you? Simply a pile of snow? Maybe a child's snow fort? (This is one of those "urban myths" that is in fact based on truth. I know I've had nightmares about it.)

No. Someone has left their car on the road or just part of it sticking out. It's not where it should be; you're not expecting it. Thank God, you see it in time. (Trust me, one of these times you won't!) Can you make it past? Maybe, if you are careful. One little bump though and you'll be explaining to JPD and your boss how that 60,000-pound machine moved instantly and tore open the side of a car. Hopefully the grader or truck isn't damaged. Not only are they very expensive, but it's a little hard to do the job without it.

The snow is still coming. You tell yourself you will try to get at least six hours of sleep tonight before your next 12-hour shift. Of course, when you get home you'll still need to shovel out your own driveway and the berm you left in front of it!

Now guess what? It starts to rain, I mean it's really coming down! Someone is now on the telephone because their house is flooded. Did I forget to mention a boat was on top of the drain next to the car? It's not plugged with ice. It sure would have been nice to remove all that snow from the drain before this happened. The new creek flowing through your house is not what one expected.

The point I am trying to make is that a little understanding of what we are actually doing might lead to a better relationship. May not seem this way at first glance, but we really do things for your convenience. Our staff is good at what they do. They try very hard. Their family and friends are out there traveling the roads, too, so you are in good company!

We do see some forms of greetings that leave us feeling less than satisfied. These are rare, fortunately, and the occasional smile and wave can make our day.

Well, thanks for riding along. The flooding has abated, but it is snowing again. Just a few more months and we'll get time to do it all again!

Michael J. Scott is the CBJ Streets superintendent.

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