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Dreaming of shoveling snow in high summer

by Thomas Dillon

Yeah, I know. The thermometer is shooting for the moon and the humidity makes each stride forward seem more like a breaststroke.

So why am I writing about snow? Well, I have to cool down somehow.

In February, I got all hot about snow. Plus Tokyo’s two winter snowfalls hit too quickly. I couldn’t write fast enough.

Besides, snow seems a lot easier to shovel now than it did back then.

For those whose memories have been sapped by the heat, the Kanto area was “blessed” with two monster snowfalls in February, one on Feb. 8 and the other on Feb. 15. Where I live, both totaled about 30 cm, with the second a bigger blessing than the first.

With the first dump, I was away for the weekend and returned to find the street to my home and our miserable excuse for a driveway both shoveled clean.

I mean baby-bottom clean. Snow lay piled one the sides, but the great bulk of the road and footpaths were pristine.

My wife pointed to our son, who pointed to the neighbors … who sat snug in their houses. A silent chain decoded as: All the neighbors were shoveling so my wife felt embarrassed. She thus shoved our boy out to help.

Fine enough. The less dad works, the happier dad is. Words to live by.

And I paid my snow shoveling dues long ago. Midwestern dues. I know snow.

So when the second snowstorm hit, I sat with a hot mug of coffee and let it fall. I also watched one neighbor out there shoveling like a demon.

He freed a path, circled around and then 20 minutes later came back to shovel the first place all over again. I saw his breath and felt the ache of his muscles. He looked rabid in trying to beat the falling flakes.

I shook my head and said, “It’s like challenging God.”

And somehow I bet God would win.

My wife nudged me. She had our shovel. “Go help him,” she said.

“Help him what? Be a moron? More snow is coming. Shoveling now makes a much sense as trying to bail water from Tokyo Bay. With a spoon.”

“He needs help.”

I granted her that.

“But such lunacy is harmless. He can shovel all day and then wake up and do it some more tomorrow.”

I took a sip of coffee and added, “At which point, I will join him.”

She nudged me again.

“Look.” I pointed to the clouds.

“Behind all that is something called, the ‘sun.’ That’s 386 billion billion megawatts of heat that will also be helping. God giveth, but he also taketh away, starting from tomorrow. All we need do is wait.”

Especially as we had the weekend ahead. Plenty of time to be patient. And patience is the perfect tool for handling heavy snow.

A lesson my neighbors had never learned. Soon they were all out there. Who knows, maybe all nudged by embarrassed wives.

And now mine was doing more than nudging. I was punted out the front door.

With the snow still falling in buckets, I watched the maddening crowd.

Where I tactfully tried to communicate that shoveling now was ill-advised.

“Hey!” I said. “This is stupid!”

They replied with their eyes, which said, “Look who’s talking?” And their arched brows added: “Don’t you know this is Japan? Where we do things right!”

Right.

Much later, snow weary, everyone gave up. And an hour later, you would have never known anyone had been out there.

The next day I awoke to the sound of shovels scraping the roadway.

So I dragged myself outside. The snow had stopped, and icy rain had begun to fall.

But OK. Time to shovel before it all froze, and with effort (more theirs than mine).

This doorway freed, that driveway open, our tiny road made passable.

Dripping water and with shoes soaked through with slush, it was time to stop.

Yet no one would. It wasn’t enough to have the way clear for cars and boots. Every passable cranny had to be snowflake free.

Now the sun was out, and I felt like noting: “See? That God’s snowblower. He brought this mess, now let him clean it up.”

But they were far more reverent than I. And the cosmetic shoveling continued.

“Appearances matter,” said my wife. “Especially in how people consider each other.”

Ah, but it might be different if this happened every winter month, instead of once every blue moon.

For the more you live in snow, the less you care about how things look.

“You’re just lazy,” said my wife.

True. And I’m just glad I don’t have grass to mow.

For I would hate to be out there now, trying to keep up appearances in this heat. Three hundred and eighty-six billion billion megawatts worth.

If only it would snow in August. Then I wouldn’t need a nudge.

I would shovel all day.

When East Marries West appears in print on the third Thursday of the month. Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp