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Posted at 4:55 PM ET, 02/12/2010

The lonely shoveler

By washingtonpost.com editors

By John Mitchell
Mitchellville

The snow had stopped, and the evening’s stars said that tomorrow would be sunny. A snowplow was unlikely to be seen on our street anytime soon, but when it came, we wanted to be able to reach the street. Our driveway, more than 100 feet long, faced the morning sun, and there was no time to lose in lifting the snow so the sun could warm the asphalt and aid our labor.

My family and I went to work, the sounds of our shovels joining the chorus of neighbors’ shovels. As we inched our way down the driveway, the neighbors went in and my family soon did the same. Before long, I was the lone shoveler. Why knock myself out? We weren’t going anywhere on our street, and Sunday would surely provide ample time to finish. But I wanted that sliver of asphalt to welcome the Sunday morning sun’s rays and was determined to press on.

Alone now, I thought, until I heard the sound of another snow shovel wielded by someone in the distance, apparently just as determined as I. Just the two of us. With every shovel-full, I would hear that fellow shoveler keeping time. The sound of the invisible shovel, doggedly laboring on into the night, motivated me to keep up — to not leave that stranger (my new friend) alone. Our shovels spoke to each other as the snow gave way, and on more than one occasion I noticed that when I stopped to catch my breath, so did the other shoveler. I would turn back to the shoveling, only to hear the stranger respond by picking up the distant shoveling work as well. Was the mystery shoveler also aware of me? Encouraged by me?

I shoveled all the way down to the car, thanks to that stranger who kept me company, and whose resolve would not allow me to call it a day. Then I paused — the stranger paused. I shoveled once — the stranger shoveled once. Two quick shovels — two quick shovels in response. For nearly an hour, I had been kept company by the echo of my own work giving me strength into the night.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | February 12, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland, weather  
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