Friday, January 23, 2009

Let's Get Plowed

     They came through and plowed the street in front of the Worldwide Headquarters today, which doesn't sound exceptional until I tell you that it didn't snow today. Oh, and it didn't snow yesterday either, or the day before that. In fact, it hasn't snowed for six days. So you could imagine my surprise when I looked out the window and saw the crew out there doing their thing.
     What I saw made me want to cry, and not in the good "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" kind of way. It made me cry more in a "I can't believe this is what my tax money is paying for" sort of way. Because here's the deal: I have never seen an organization charged with clearing the streets in a city on the edge of a
snow belt do such a mind-bogglingly inept job. First of all, let me give you my qualifications for judging the work of these people. I do not work for a Public Works Department or a Highway Department and never have. And although I think I would enjoy it I probably never will. But before I moved the Worldwide Headquarters I lived in a town that gets ON AVERAGE 126 inches of snow every year. So if you think about it, if it snows 3 inches every night that's 42 days that it snows. But I lived through like three winters there when we got around 300 inches of snow. Now for you math majors, that is 25 feet. If we use our 3 inch model that means it snowed for 100 days that winter. That's over three months straight. So needless to say I have seen my fair share of the snow removal process. And I know what it should look like, and it shouldn't look like what I saw this morning.
      Granted, I live in the downtown Central Business District of a small Midwestern town where the store fronts push right up to the sidewalk and the sidewalk pushes right up to the parking spots on the street. Fine. But they had that setup where I used to live too. And there, it took three pieces of equipment to make the roads basically free and clear. A front end loader. A dump truck with a plow, and a little wheeled and articulated vehicle with a
snowblower on the front to clear the sidewalks. That was the lot of it. Okay, sometimes they would bring in a semi with a dump trailer on it to haul the excess snow away but that was the lot of it. Nothing more really. And it was effective. Oh, and the most innovative and important part was that they actually CLEARED THE SNOW THE SAME DAY IT FELL! Holy shit. I hope that the public works people in this burg just read that and fell over in amazement, because this concept has apparently not reached this part of the Union yet. Because here's the deal with that business boys and girls...if you leave the snow lying around for a week to get all sand covered and mashed in with shoes and tires and snowmobile tracks and the backs of drunk people who fall down on the sidewalk then it's that much harder to remove. Jesus people, this is not freaking rocket science. Plus, then it doesn't have a chance to turn into hard packed ice that is impossible to remove. Holy shit.
     Then there was the way they were going about it. They had two, count them with me: One. Two. Two different dump trucks, one with a plow, and two front end loaders, one with a plow and one with a traditional bucket. Plus, there was a pickup truck with no snow removal equipment involved. Oh, and they pulled a shovel out of the back of the truck and were using that too. So that's six pieces of equipment. And the front end loaders kept going over the street, and specifically the parking lanes over and over and over and over and accomplishing nothing. At one point they had all of their vehicles in the middle of the intersection doing something in a strange, loosely coordinated dance of heavy machinery. It was like some drunken Argentine visitors decided it would be a really cool idea to do a tango with Caterpillars in the middle of the street. Seriously. Apparently none of those intrepid public servants ever evolved beyond being that little kid in the sandbox with his toy bulldozers.
Because what I witnessed this morning was about as orderly as the moving of those sand piles. And I am not sure but I think one of the guys might have been making those same heavy equipment engine noises with his mouth as kids do when they are playing with their bulldozers in the sandbox. I really do.
     Plus, there was the time element. Beyond the fact that it was six days after it actually snowed, they were being terribly inefficient. During the time that I was watching them they probably spent about a half hour
cruising around and they still had not managed to clear my block of snow and ice. And as I walked away up the side street to go to work they still were not done, so only God and the elderly invalid in the second story apartment over the corner drug store who just sits in his wheelchair and stares out the window all day long know how long it really took them. But I seriously believe that me, equipped with just a 1982 Dodge Ram Power Wagon with a straight plow could have probably finished in a more appropriate amount of time than they did. And I am truly terrible at plowing unless you like inconveniently located piles of snow.
     Plus, they came by and started their work at about quarter after seven in the morning. Well, in a town where most people work 8-4 that's right at the beginning of rush hour. Well, it's more like rush minute, but it's still the busy time. Back in the old town they'd clear the streets at night when only the police, weirdos like me, and the bartenders on their way home were out and about. You know, when they weren't in
everybody's way. I don't know who decided to clear the main drag through town at 7:30 am with an armada of equipment six days after it snowed but someone should get them a Timex and a calendar so they plan their timing a little better the next time.
     Now, I know I have been complaining and I shouldn't be. Because the streets are passable and I can get to all the places that I need to go. And this is just pertaining to the city streets by the way. The highways through town are plowed by the county and in
general they do a fantastic job. They plow like plowing should be. As for the city, I feel that there is much to be desired. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live outside the downtown area back in one of the neighborhoods where nobody goes. I would have to get a dogsled team or something to get around in the winter, and then I would have to get a little bumper sticker on my DykeSedan that says "My other car is a dogsled." Seeing as how they plow around this joint I can see why snowmobiles are so immensely popular. Because the roads are always snow covered and slippery.

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