He caught a little of the Super Bowl on the radio.

Some days, Hopkins said, his neck and back are sore by a shift's end, from getting jostled in the bumpy ride over ruts, and leaning forward to this side and that to check mirrors and watch out for who's coming and going around him.

Watching the road with him - but with only one eye - is Mike Wasowski, the round green character from the animated film "Monsters Inc." Hopkins found the child's toy a few years ago on a roadside while patching asphalt, cleaned the plastic figure and stuck him on the truck's dashboard.

Paying attention is a big part of the job, making operating the truck loaded with 10 tons of road salt not quite like playing with a huge toy.

"I need mellow, calm music so I can concentrate on what I am doing," Hopkins said, his radio cooing smooth jazz.

"In Anne Arundel County, there's a lot of ditches on the side of the roads and when the snow comes, you don't know where they are. You have to figure that out, and you have to concentrate," he said.

On another narrow side street, Hopkins discerns a way to open a cul-de-sac that is barely wide enough for his truck to crawl in and back out. Chunks of salt have just jammed the salt mechanism, so salting the road more is not the answer.

He leans forward, lowers the plow blade down and straight ahead, and puts the truck into drive, then hits the gas, shoving the snow about 10 feet forward. He backs up, maneuvers the truck a little to the right, and repeats, all the while checking mirrors and bouncing around. Soon there's a wall of snow and the truck can turn around in the narrow street.

He mops his forehead. "That was a workout."


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