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Around the House: Slippery Slope

Keeping traction in the storms of life.


Our house is on a little plateau on the top of a little hill.

Side note here: Actually, when we were negotiating with the builder for the house, I tried to say that the price should be lower because the house was on a hill. The builder looked at me like I was an alien from the planet Idiot.

Anyway, we like our little hill. Sure, the driveway is pretty steep, given that the garage entry is not very far from the street. But we drive up the driveway, not walk up it. Who cares how steep it is, right?

Well … as it turns out, during the winter, the sun spends most of its time in the southern half of the sky, granting our north-facing driveway only a brief, glancing dose of light, and then only in the cold, early-morning hours.

Therefore, when we get snow or ice, our steep driveway turns into the kind of icy Black Diamond ski slope that has broken the leg of many a Virginia skier.

Oh, sure, it can be funny. There was the snow storm the night of Super Bowl X?X!, some years ago. Our friend Tommie tried to come over to watch the game, but wound up repeatedly, awkwardly sliding slow-motion to the bottom of the driveway, first on her knees, then her butt, then her stomach and finally her back, flopping around like a fish on a steep frozen driveway. She only got off the slick angled pavement by crab-walking sideways to the snow-covered lawn, finally staggering into our home with her sense of humor intact, if not her reputation for grace.

Then there are the many times we've ignored winter storm warnings from a frenetic John Bernier and parked our cars at the top of the driveway. And in 10 percent of those cases, we've ended up with a driveway so icy-hard, slick and steep that getting the cars down again was more like tobogganing than driving. More than once while descending that icy hill I've prayed that our SUV would capsize on the way down rather than slide uncontrolled out into traffic.

See, it turns out that the longer the snow sits on our driveway, the harder ultimately it is to get off. That's because the bottom layers of snow turn to ice, hardening and melding to the driveway like cooling lava. If I don't get the snow off the driveway as soon as it begins to accumulate, it's there until March.

Back in early December, as I shoveled snow off the driveway only to watch a couple billion other beautiful, unique and infinitely aggravating snowflakes take its place, I thought about how I've had to abandon my maxim of "Don't shovel the walk while the snow is still falling," at least when it came to my driveway. I enjoy a good metaphor as much as the next guy might enjoy a triple banana split. But sometimes in life, that particular maxim misses the mark.

In some areas of life, the longer one takes to clear off the collecting icy problems, the slipperier and more intractable those problems become. Yeah, the snow and ice may still be falling, and you may end up out there shoveling 10 times a day, and even then it may feel like you're always losing ground.

But if you don't get out there in the snow and ice and sleet and crap and keep shoveling, then you will never have a chance, and you'll end up in the SUV of life, sliding down the hill with no steering, no traction and no options, hoping that the thing will capsize rather than take out your mailbox. Metaphorically speaking, of course.


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