February is here! We are on the downside of winter. In my youth I used to love winter. Snow, snow angels, snowmen, sledding, ice skating, skiing. Loved it, loved it, loved it. We used to regularly get feet of snow. This year, however, our winter has been fairly mild so far for the Midwest. We weren’t socked in with glistening powdery angel dust like they were on the East Coast recently. We have only had to have someone shovel the driveway once this year. The year before last, my last winter before retirement, we were paying about $300-$400 a month for snow removal. In the recent past I used to always shovel the sidewalks and driveway. There was no amount of snow too much or temperatures too cold for me to be a brave winter soldier. How many nights in my life were spent being up most of the night taking hourly turns clearing the driveway and starting the cars in order to make the treacherous drive on narrow dark country roads to work in the morning? I would reckon countless. Being up throughout the night, monitoring road conditions, checking radio and TV weather reports, calling 800 numbers at work to see if there were delays or cancellations, coordinating trips with fellow travelers when possible, gulping through a pot of coffee to stay awake, getting dressed an hour or two or three earlier than usual so as to allow extra time get to the office. Many times the trip was not without problems. Several times sliding into ditches, being out in the frozen tundra praying for someone to come along and help, at times having to walk on solid ice to farmhouses hoping there would be someone home who could help and let me use their phone. Whether we could make the trip was further complicated by school closings and the kids being home, as well as, how long it was going to continue to snow. White-outs are very common out here in the country. There isn’t anything more scary than not being able to tell the road from the ditch from the cornfield where you are forced to try to maintain your bearings at a crawl by sighting telephone polls and calculating how far they usually are from the road. Don’t blink. Once you (hopefully) finally arrive at your destination your hands and arms ache from grabbing the steering wheel so tight. It’s a good thing they make those out of solid hard plastic. Then there’s the whole other issue of the guilt trip that entered the picture from management looking unfavorably on anyone who used the ‘it’s snowing’ card to not be at work. It’s do or die — literally. With cell phones there was a degree of false safety factored in, but before cell phones it was a very difficult decision to make the drive into town. If anything happens you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere in the cold and dark. I say dark because it was always dark no matter if it was morning going to town or evening coming back home. There was a time that if the weather was particularly awful employers might let the people living out of town go home an hour earlier. That practice has since stopped, and it’s now every man for himself. I remember co-workers making snide comments disparaging those who ‘lived out of town’ getting to go home early. Well, I realize it’s not the company’s fault that we live out of town, but for the most part they knew we lived out of town when they hired us. It’s unreasonable to think every employee in outlying areas should pick up their family lives and move to the city. Those who live out of town not only go through the ritual of clearing, checking, diagnosing, factoring in the ‘death’ factor, always getting up earlier than those living in town, always getting home later than those living in town, always having many more things to consider every day getting to and from work. Every day, not just on bad days. The only thing we ask when the weather is horrid is that we not be killed trying to make it there or back home. Is that unreasonable? Guilt was the number one thing always piled on us. Slackers, they’ll use any excuse to not get here. Chicken drivers. Well, after having been forced off the road by a huge plow into a snow-packed ditch and left defenseless, having the Fire Department dispatched only to find out that we were not actually hurt and left us out in the cold in the middle of the night miles from town with no help, spinning into a cow fence hitting black ice, banging into a road sign damaging tires making the car undriveable after sliding through a curve at 5 miles per hour, I feel chicken is a misused term. Wonder Woman is more like it. Feeling like a criminal time after time literally risking my life for the sake of not feeling badly about missing work or being late for reasons totally out of my control are done. The older I got the more consideration I received, but those years were minimal to my whole career. I had reached the point where I didn’t really concern myself with how my decisions were perceived by others. I mean, if they didn’t know by then that I had good intentions and a proven record that would rival Evel Knievel’s in trying to get to work whenever possible, then I couldn’t really worry about it. My boss was very accommodating to me in my later years, bless his heart. I have always, and by always at least 20 years, have felt working from home would be a Godsend for workers. I know more and more telecommuters are coming on-board. It’s certainly good work if you can get it, and in my opinion is definitely the way to go over building mega structures all over the place.
Now that I’m retired, I am so glad the weather this winter is soooo much better than usual, and none of these problems seem to have been an issue for commuters right now. Whatever, Mother Nature, well played. Thanks, thanks a whole lot… Sandy