At the ripe old age of 53, there are still several grown-up rites of passage I’ve never attempted.
One is to make a Thanksgiving turkey. Another is — knock on wood — to change a tire. And the last is to operate a snowblower.
As of last week, I’ve been able to scratch one of those items off this rather lame bucket list. I wish it was something as exciting as “Tammy’s first Thanksgiving dinner,” in which I could share hilarious, Bridget Jones-style anecdotes of trying to bake a 16-pound, fully frozen bird in a toaster oven or attempting to make stuffing from Cheerios and Jolly Ranchers. (Maybe next year.)
Instead, as the proud owner of a new twin home, I invested in a used snowblower. My new place includes a fairly large driveway, a bowling alley-sized sidewalk and a fleet of impressive-looking neighbors who seem to blow out their driveways the minute the last snowflake settles. I was already the weird newcomer who entertained the neighbor by mowing my lawn with an electric mower, which required a full-time co-pilot just to keep track of the network of extension cords.
If I didn’t want to become “that neighbor” — the one who kept their Christmas inflatables up year-round and let their lawn grow into a duck habitat — I needed a snowblower. And not some frou-frou, solar-powered one either. A REAL snowblower, with a powerful thirst for premium gasoline and the ability to fling snow to Wisconsin, if needed.
Fortunately, my friend “Ned” was looking to upgrade in the snowblower department. He sold me his old one — a 4-year-old, two-stage beauty with electric start, hyperdrive, turbo-charged, hydraulic, hovercraft suspension and military ninja laser beam capabilities (OK, so I made most of that stuff up.)
Ned was not only kind enough to deliver the snowblower, but to demonstrate how to use it, too. It looked so easy. He casually strolled up and down the driveway, gently guiding the machine as it adeptly relocated snow from the driveway to the front yard. Anyone could do this, I figured. I was a North Dakota girl, right?
And so, I insisted on taking the reins. I grabbed the handlebar thingies and pushed. Nothing. It was like trying to push a horse.
Shaking his head, Ned stepped forward and pushed down one of the handles, which triggered the automatic drive. So, even though the machine looked relatively simple, there still was a learning curve. I needed to press the auto-drive and snowblowing handles simultaneously, then lay off the auto-drive as I neared the end of the driveway so I didn’t pull a spectacular “Dukes of Blizzard”-style jump off the curb.
At the end of each row, I needed to manually crank the chute so the snow was blown in the right direction. I had to know which gear was best to operate it in and give it plenty of room to turn.
My first few turns around the driveway were spectacularly awkward. I didn’t drive in nice, straight lines, but created more of a chevron pattern. I kept forgetting to crank the chute, which meant I committed the ultimate snow pas: blowing snow into the driveway of my neighbor who was recovering from ankle surgery.
I forgot to lay off the power-drive while approaching the garage, nearly rear-ending my car in the process. At one point, I noticed a bypasser had stopped his car in the street and was actually taking pictures of me. I have long wanted to go viral for a particularly pithy tweet or wickedly witty Facebook post — not for being featured in a YouTube video titled: “People whose snowblowing really blows.”
I turned the job over to my boyfriend, who finished the driveway in no time, also cleared out my neighbor’s driveway and cleared half the sidewalks on the other side of the block.
Oh well. Maybe I’ll be better at making a turkey.
Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at email@example.com.