Last week when the snowstorm hit, I was fortunate to have neighbors who knew that I had a bad knee, a bad back and a cardiologist on retainer. Paul and Eric shoveled our driveway and Noah (Eric’s 10-year-old son) somehow managed to maneuver the snowblower.
As they finished up about 4:30 in the afternoon, I threw on a coat and went outside to thank them. “Wow,” said Paul, “you are still in your pajama bottoms. You haven’t gotten dressed yet?”
“Don’t be silly,” said Eric, “he’s getting ready for bed.”
This was our third winter in this neighborhood and up until last week we had not had any major snowfalls. But in our previous home just a couple miles away, we did have a few blizzards over the 25 years we lived there. I know because as a TV reporter I covered many of them.
Back in those days, the last thing I wanted to do was shovel my own driveway. After I got home, I’d walk outside and scan the neighborhood. A few of my more fit neighbors were hard at work, but I was looking for teenagers motivated to make a buck (or 40) shoveling snow. Where were those big, manly 17-year-olds whose parents had bumper stickers that said, “My son is a lineman for Lawrence North”? I’ll tell you where they were. They were home posting selfies on TikTok or Instagram.
It’s odd. Kids lined up on my front steps for years looking for free handouts at Halloween. They used to come out on a blustery October 31st dressed like devils and pirates for a lousy Kit Kat. Now, they were old enough to make some serious cash. Not one in sight.
Back in the old days (oh dear, this is a bad sign) when I was a kid in New York, as soon as school was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, my best friend Arthur and I got into our warm coats, armed ourselves with shovels, then set out in the neighborhood by 8 a.m. to make a financial killing. I remember one day coming home with a wad of scrunched-up wet bills in my pocket. I showed my mom the stash of $52.00. “That’s more than your father made today!” she said. She wasn’t kidding — and we didn’t tell Dad.
We never had a set fee for our work. Instead, we did a little glacial profiling. We knew who was desperate. Like the widow Mrs. Abramson, who was snowed in and couldn’t get her l959 station wagon out of the driveway; or poor Mrs. Klaster, who, because her husband traveled, was at our mercy, or Dr. Auer, a big-shot surgeon, who would pay us pretty much anything we’d stick him for, just so he could get his Cadillac to the hospital.
Yes, our pricing structure was downright dishonest. And now 55 years later, I deserve to be taken advantage of. So, I waited at the front doo r— a door I couldn’t get out of, money in hand but no takers.
Many thanks to Paul, Eric and Noah, who saved the day. I want them to know how much I appreciate what they did … mainly because there is more snow in the forecast.
Dick Wolfsie was a reporter for WISH-TV in Indianapolis for more than 30 years. His columns appear in 30 Indiana newspapers. He is a resident of Indianapolis. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.