Outta My Yard


By Elizabeth Peavey
By Elizabeth Peavey

Shovel-ready snow job

“Please just tell me you didn’t shake your fist.”

I had the good wifely sense not to say that until John had kicked off his boots and thrown down his jacket. I knew exactly what had happened without even going to the window. John had been out shoveling after work, finishing the last of what we hadn’t cleared that morning. There wasn’t much left to do — a quick job. Until I heard that sound, that dull grind and growl that strikes dread and terror into the hearts of shovelers across our city’s streets: The Plow.

Prior to buying our house five years ago, the sound of plows on Portland’s streets had an entirely different fear factor: The Parking Ban. In my 20-plus years of apartment-dwelling on the peninsula, I had off-street parking for just a handful of them. What I remember most from my early Portland years was the perpetual quest for a place to ditch my car in winter. And because I was young and often broke, that meant spots that involved neither outlays of cash (parking garages) or getting up early (public lots). Of course, that limited my options. 

When I lived on Deering Street, I was lucky. My friend Lesley, who did not drive, lived in an apartment across the street that had an empty parking space. Except when her boyfriend, who did drive, stayed over. It was hard to be happy my friend was going to spend a cozy evening with her sweetie when I actually took their cocooning personally, like he was coming over just to steal my spot even though he had a perfectly good parking space of his own at his apartment. Fortunately, the relationship took, so at least my grudge wasn’t wasted on some fleeting, deadbeat heartthrob.

 This was also the apartment I lived in when I ripped the ligaments in my left ankle and was on crutches for the month of February. Because I couldn’t use a clutch but could still drive, I borrowed my mother’s giant Lincoln Continental while she was in Florida. This meant I had to deal with trying to park that boat night after night (because I could also still go out), which often entailed ramming it into snow banks blocks away and then hobbling home on crutches on the ice. (Yes, that was me swearing below your window.)

When I lived in my turret on State Street, I woke up one morning and looked out to where my car had been parked, and it was gone. I actually went out on the street, thinking I would see it slowly rolling toward the Million Dollar Bridge. I thought of many things, anything but the fact I had neglected to check if there was a parking ban. 

Then there were the West Street years. I recall desperately grasping onto the last remains of a faltering romance because the fella in question had a lot at his building within walking distance of my apartment. “Can’t we make things work,” I pled. “Just until spring?”

The final insult came when I parked my car (without asking) in the Pine Street Market lot. I was going out of town the next morning and needed to be on the road at daybreak. I figured I could be out of there before anyone was the wiser. What I had not planned on was finding my car and the entrance to the lot buried by an evil plow. And silly apartment-dwelling me didn’t own a shovel. I ran home and started ransacking for the nearest thing I could find, and came up with a garbage-can lid. If you want to understand why something works — say, a shovel — try using a substitute that does not work — like, say, a garbage-can lid.

So, as you can imagine, the idea of having our own lengthy driveway was half the attraction of buying a house. That is, until we realized said lengthy driveway and the walkways that encircle our house required snow removal. By us. 

We felt hiring someone or buying a snowblower would be too bourgeois, yet neither of us were quite prepared for how much labor and heartbreak shoveling entails. After finishing up from our first storm, we were tired, sweaty and achy, but we were satisfied by a job well done and buoyed by the prospect of hot toddies by the fire. “This is fun!” we (OK, I) might’ve even said. Then we heard a grate and rumble. We turned just in time to see that massive blade push a load of Flintstone-sized snow boulders into the mouth of our driveway. And in one fluid motion, John’s fist shot up into the air. 

That was all it took. Every storm hence, we have had a black mark (or bull’s eye) on the end of our driveway. Post-plowing, there’ll be snow up to our shoulders on our side of the street, while there’s not so much as a delicate ridge of powder on the other. It’s hard not to take it personally. That’s why it’s better to just walk away, as John did.

Oh, and keep your hands in your pockets.

Shovelers, take heart. Elizabeth Peavey sees by this year’s crop of thawing dog turds on the street that spring is surely coming.

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