The Case for Shoveling

I hate mowing the lawn.

Perhaps this isn’t the most pertinent complaint given that it’s January 20th, and I spent 45 minutes last night shoveling snow off our driveway. But it’s been those regular forays out into the winter weather that have gotten me thinking about the chore of lawn maintenance and how, in comparison, I find rolling the dice on my back and a $9.99 blade made of plastic relatively unoffensive.

Notice that I’m not saying I enjoy it; I’m not that guy. It’s just nowhere near as obnoxious as lawn-mowing.

“Why is that?” I wondered out loud to myself and, unfortunately for her, my wife, Jenny. After all, I’ve had to head out multiple times in the last week to shovel, whereas I routinely go a couple of weeks without firing up the old Briggs & Stratton during the summer. Plus, the cold temperatures that are a prerequisite for snow clearance often leave one, if not several, of my fingers feeling numb by the time I’m done.

Jenny suggested that I probably feel more of a sense of accomplishment after shoveling because I can actually see the fruits of my labor. I think she’s right. I mean, this was me after a particularly heavy snowfall last year:

I’m six feet tall, so that should give you a sense of how much this task kind of sucked. But when I was done, there was that mountain of snow bearing witness to my two hours of labor.

What do I have when I finish mowing, on the other hand? A slightly shorter version of some grass that’s patchier than my chest hair. It’s almost imperceptible.

The change in the lawn, I mean, not my chest chair. Believe me, that stands out just fine.

There’s also the whole comfort factor. As unpleasant as temporary numbness can be, I really don’t enjoy feeling like I’m in showering in the armpit of … well, myself.

I sweat a lot. Even when it’s cold. If you’re thinking that’s a great trait to possess, you’re right. But it’s even better when it’s hot enough outside that you can melt chocolate just by looking at it funny.

I like that shovels themselves are uncomplicated. There’s no oil to change or gas to buy or blades to get sharpened. To quote legendary New Mexico football coach Bob Davie, it is what it is, with little to nothing my lack of mechanical dexterity can mess up.

(Sidenote: I know someone who bought an old-school manual lawnmower–yes, the kind that runs on people power–because she said she didn’t want to pollute with a gas engine, which of course means that several months later, she bought a snowblower. Wrestle with that internal logic for a second.)

(Second sidenote: My dog has got some serious gas right now.)

And speaking of the dog, that brings me to my last point in favor of shoveling–namely, she’s the only animal I have to deal with when I’m out there and, interesting smells aside, she’s pretty good company. By contrast, one day I was mowing and saw a really jacked-up bird in our yard who proceeded to try to sell me heroin.

Well, that may only be partly true. He looked pretty well put together up close.

Anyway, my verdict is in: Give me shoveling over mowing any day of the week.

At least until mid-February. Then I’m moving to Phoenix.

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