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On the other hand, I could be ...

Friday, December 6, 2002

There are a lot of things I'd hate to be.

I'd hate to be the guy in charge of snowplows on those frigid nights when we get freezing rain, sleet and snow.

(And why is it these nasty storms come at night?)

If you're the guy in charge of snowplows, you know you're going to hear a lot of griping about this street not being cleared or that street not being cleared first.

As far as I'm concerned, the snowplow crews in our area have done a darn good job. I was able to get to work. I was able to take my wife to work. And we were able to get home just fine.

Yes, I had to shovel my own driveway -- which, by the way, grows to the size of a football field every time it snows. Does your driveway do that?

Fortunately, I've learned to pace myself when I'm shoveling snow. I used to work as fast as I could. Now I look like a slacker out in the freezing weather ambling along behind a snow shovel and casually tossing half a shovelful at a time off to the side. I grunt when I shovel snow. Do you do that? I think grunting keeps me from overexerting myself. If I grunted loud enough for the neighbors to hear, I would be embarrassed. So I take it easy and grunt softly. I think my quiet grunting technique is saving me from a heart attack.

That and Pam -- the spray-on vegetable oil, just so you don't get any ideas.

I coat both sides of my snow shovel with Pam, and the snow doesn't stick. I think it works great. Besides, I couldn't think of any way to use duct tape to make the snow slide off.

I'd hate to be the circulation director of the Southeast Missourian, even though the fellow who holds that title, Mark Kneer, makes it look easy.

Whenever it snows, the phones are guaranteed to ring off the hook in the circulation department. These folks aren't calling to talk about the weather or chat about the Rams game. They're calling to say they didn't get their paper -- even if they did, or even if it's on the way.

Some of these folks admit they haven't even been outside to look for their papers? "Are you crazy?" they say. "Do you know how cold and icy it is out there?"

And then they ask: "How soon will my paper get here?"

Once in a while, though, a thoughtful subscriber brightens the circulation director's day. Like Mike Dillow of Jackson. Mike sent Mark an e-mail after Wednesday's snow. He said he tried to go to work but had to turn back because of icy roads in his area. He started to shovel his drive and found his Southeast Missourian had been delivered.

Mike was impressed -- as, I hope, were all but a few hundred other subscribers whose papers showed up despite the wintry blast.

I'd hate to be on the crew of the emergency helicopters that ferry those in need of medical care to our hospitals.

As the storm got its second breath Wednesday night, I heard the familiar chop-chop-chop of one of the helicopters and said a little prayer for whoever was in such dire need and for the helicopter crew members risking their lives to save someone else's.

I'd hate to be a teenage parent living in someone else's storage shed on a cold winter night.

I thank God that the bad choices I've made over the course of a lifetime have never left me in any worse shape than spending the night on a bench in the waiting room of the bus terminal in downtown Kansas City 40 years ago. On every night since then I've had a comfortable bed.

We assume too much if we think most folks are just like us. The truth is too many young mothers, young fathers and their babies are sleeping in unheated garages, vacant houses and -- now we know -- tool sheds.

I'm grateful for the snowplow drivers, the carriers who deliver my newspaper and the crews of hospital helicopters. I'd be just as grateful to know that no one in my community will ever again have to sleep in a stable.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.


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Joe Sullivan
River City Journal