February 20, 2010

Searching for a Needle in a Snowbank
Searching for the downspout

I was digging myself into a large hole. Where was that downspout? Click on photo for larger image.

Imagine living through the DC blizzard of “aught ten” (I know that’s not grammatically correct but it sounds good). Then imagine your arthritic back survived the post-storm shoveling of your paths, your driveway, and your car. And you managed not to fall and break your hip as melted snow refroze every night. All the while, you enjoyed watching the longest stalactites ever form off your roof as the temperature rose and slowly, but surely the heavy snow receded. Wouldn’t you want to help it along?

Neighbors were reporting ice dams were causing water to seep into their homes, their frozen gutters unable to deal with the runoff. What would you do? Why dig your downspouts out so they could get rid of the water. Right?

That’s exactly what I attempted to do this morning. Three feet of snow had turned into two feet of snow ten days after the storm. And I wanted to shovel out the area around our downspouts to help nature take its course and to save our home sweet home. Now where was that downspout anyway?

I followed the line of the gutter as it left the house and I positioned myself where I thought the end came up to the surface. After all, I’d been mowing over that exposed PVC pipe for years. I should know where exactly it was. And I was sure I knew. X marked the spot and I began to shovel.

But when I got to the ground it wasn’t there. One of our neighbors stopped by to ask what I was doing. “Searching for a needle in a snowbank,” I replied. And so it went. When that spot yielded no downspout I surveyed the front yard, imagining myself with our mower. Wait, it should be a bit to the left. Where was my GPS-enabled downspout finder when I needed it the most?

More neighbors passed by as I first dug out here and then there. Eventually, I ended up with a big hole about ten by fifteen feet. I had shoveled out 300 cubic feet of snow and for what? Out of breath and concerned about my back, I gave up. When I got into the house and reported on my search my wife said, “Oh, the spout comes out directly in line with the edge of the house.” “Listen,” I replied, I’ve been mowing that lawn for almost 17 years. I should know where that thing surfaces.”

But obviously I didn’t. I can’t believe I don’t know my own front yard.

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