For teens, winter storms mean no class and invisible shovels


HOW IS it that a teen-ager who can bench press 290 pounds at the gym can't lift a snow shovel at home?

How come when a big snow hits town, kids who are unable to travel a few miles to school in the morning are capable by nightfall of traveling great distances to frolic on the area's steepest sledding hills?

Life is full of contradictions, and I have another one floating around in my brain that I was going to mention. But, I can't seem to recall it right now. It is midafternoon, and my mental abilities are starting to fade. I am nodding out because I was up early shoveling that heavy snow that hit town. I'm tuckered out.

Our strapping 17-year-old, the one who loves to work out, "pump iron" and "get big," was nowhere in sight. He had spent the night at a friend's house. That meant when the snow stopped falling and it was time to start clearing the sidewalks, he and his many muscles were 10 miles away.

So the "old man," the one whose sagging physique is subject to criticism from his "buff" offspring, was the one who was outside yesterday "pumping snow." What good, I ask, are "tight abs," "big pecs" and "awesome lats" if they aren't put to use clearing the sidewalk, the parking pad and the alley?

When snow falls on a sidewalk, do teen-agers see it? I think not. Their gaze is focused on the great beyond, probably on one of those distant hillsides where they like to congregate late at night and careen down at kamikaze speed.

For instance, on one snow day earlier this winter, I arrived home from work just as the 17-year-old and a handful of his buddies were "going out." Earlier that day, they had been excused from school because the roads had been ruled unsafe. But now, in the evening, they were about to drive on those now presumably safe roads to a distant sledding spot.

To my great dismay, the sidewalk and the parking pad behind our house were still covered with snow. No school all day, and yet by evening the snow had not been shoveled! I couldn't believe it. Hadn't I told him repeatedly that when I was a boy back in the Midwest, we shoveled snow, then went to school? Could it be that he wasn't listening?

When I pointed out to my son and his buddies that the snow on the pavement had to be removed, they seemed surprised. It had not occurred to them that this might be something they should do. I handed them some shovels, and thanks to their broad shoulders and their compelling urge to get away from me, they quickly cleared the snow.

There is an ongoing debate around here of whether Baltimore is a Northern or Southern city. It is south of the Mason-Dixon line, but not by much. It displays few of the traditional hallmarks of a truly Southern town - Dr Pepper in the vending machine, iced tea that automatically is loaded with sugar and barbecued pork on every corner.

Yet when snow falls, many folks here behave like they are living deep in Dixie. They seem to believe that since the Good Lord put the snow here, it is up to Him to figure out a way to make it go away. My son and his teen-age buddies, all natives of Baltimore, certainly buy into the let-the-Lord-do-it theory of snow removal.

Yesterday, as I was out in the alley shoveling snow, I met a new neighbor. I watched as she brushed snow off not only the hood and trunk of her car, but also the roof. Then, she walked around to the back of the car and pulled a collapsible shovel from the trunk, and went to work clearing the space in front of her car.

Clearing the snow from the roof of her car; keeping a shovel in her trunk; displaying a willingness to shovel snow early in the morning; these were clear signs that she wasn't from here. Sure enough, I learned, she hails from Minnesota.

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