Last week I learned how to use the new snowblower we finally bought after 13 years of either shoveling by hand or paying some embarrassing fee for a guy with a big shovel attached to his macho truck to come to our rescue and make my husband look like a puny weightlifting failure. “My savior” I would croon as the BMOD, big-man-on-driveway, lifted the barrier between us and the outside world as easily as Superman lifted his damsel.
“You’re not gonna believe how easy this is,” said my husband as he rolled the orange robot out of the garage after the last snowfall. And then with the patience usually reserved for someone paying him money, he proceeded to give me enough directions to make me look longingly at our silent shovels hanging frozen in time -- relics once worthy of custom-created hooks on the dingy garage wall.
The lesson formally began with him saying it weighed 200 pounds which is almost twice my size and ended with a deep pause, a penetrating stare, and an emphatic warning that should I ever find the whirling animal getting further and further away from our home while I am being dragged along like a mound of slush, I should “JUST LET GO AND IT WILL STOP!”
In between the roll-out and the fear of doom, there was something about a choke which sounded like the most counter-intuitive mechanical process ever created and went something like, “Put the lever in the open position for ‘off’ and the closed position for ‘on.’ ” Because I looked like he was speaking an Inuit tongue, he leapt over the machine and grabbed my throat to explain:
“See, I’m choking you and the choke is on but your throat is cut off.”
Since I became too weak to even nod, he kept modeling the action until his handprints became stained on my cold neck like sunburn on an ice cube. Then we both started gasping because he’d forgotten to turn the real choke on or off, I still can’t figure out which, and we were both inhaling balls of gas fumes.
“JUST LET GO,” I sputtered and after we both regained consciousness he swaggered back to the machine like a cowboy to his horse and finally choked or un-choked it instead of me.
It was the look on my husband’s face when I took our new family member out for an inaugural stroll, giving it an encouraging pat on its square bottom, that made me start swaggering myself in defiance because his head was cocked sideways and he was staring bemused like I was a kid learning to ride a bike. He was curious to see if I could keep the thing moving straight ahead, or if I’d lose a finger to the churning shark teeth spitting out pure white and hopefully nothing red or flesh-toned.
He has seen me burned, stabbed, sprained and broken by everyday events so often, that he waited with a mixture of entertainment and fear wondering if this would be my finest hour or my latest trip to the emergency room.
He also knows I need to understand how everything works down to the smallest minutiae and when a giant “a-ha” finally goes off that rivals the big bang, I will begin babbling about why I didn’t become a world-class scientist and perhaps there is still time to rethink my career.
Except by the next day when he suggested I practice my skills, with more snow coming and him going out-of-town, the idea seemed as foreign to me as if we were in the Caribbean and the driveway was underwater. I couldn’t even remember how to get the machine out of the garage. “Do I have to turn it on first? What if it rams into my car? What if I forget to open the garage door and my snowblower and I die from our own respective chokes?”
So what, I wonder, will I do when the next big snow comes? Will I nostalgically reach for the shovel, backbreaking or not, or will I be brave and conquer the orange churner even though the thought makes my fingers and toes curl tightly to my body?
Or, will I climb to the top of my roof and pray -- in a wind-blown dress, high heels, and red lipstick of course -- that with his x-ray vision and big macho truck, Superman is just about ready to round the corner?
January 11, 2011