As my snow shovel scrapes across the driveway
in this whopper of a late Fall snowstorm, I hear my doctor talking
to me at my last visit
“Harry, you will soon be 55. Don’t you think you should
have a stress test?”
“You want to see a stress test, come to work with me tomorrow
“I am serious. These kinds of tests are important.”
“I get an annual stress test every time I shovel deep snow
off my 75 foot driveway; dig the car out; and clean my sidewalks
and front stairs. I had 6 stress tests last year. Passed them all.
Can your test beat that exertion?”
“Well no, it cannot. You don’t get winded or have
“Sure I get winded, but I rest and do it all over again
when the snow piles up in a couple of hours. No chest pains, Doc,
just a little soreness for a day or two and then I am my lovable
old self again.”
“Well at least think about the stress test.”
“Oh yeah that’s just what I want, to be caught up
in the medical system where each inconclusive test leads to yet
another, until somebody finds something off by a gnat’s hair;
and then I am immersed in endless uncertainty and worry. Why take
a stress test to get stressed?”
“Now don’t get you blood pressure up over it, just
“OK I’ll think about it. Hey, since my birthday is
coming up and it’s the big double nickel, don’t you
think maybe I should get a gift, like maybe no charge for this visit?”
“Would you like some anesthetic-free surgery? I have a several
specials this week.”
“Doc, ever think of taking a stress test?”
I chuckle to myself as I shovel my way along the driveway toward
the front porch, where our Christmas lights are illuminating the
falling snow, reflecting brightly off it. I was kind of lazy about
putting them up this year, but now glad I did. There is nothing
like a little snow to pump up the Holiday ambiance.
As I pause to rest at the top of my driveway, just before it slopes
rather steeply toward the street, I hear the distant squeals of
kids…. obviously enjoying themselves in a nearby park. Looking
down the driveway, I feel the tug of those Old Newark memories.
Sledding down a hill in Branch Brook park on whatever we could
find around the backyard, now that was fun. An old, inflated, truck
tire inner tube was usually a bouncy, tooth-rattling ride, often
ending with a resounding “Blam” when it finally gave
way. Or maybe it was five guys lying flat on a sled whose runners
were bowed out as it made its uncontrollable way downhill, giggling
youth spilling off along the slope.
You could use an old canvas swimming pool raft too. Get a bunch
of “yahoos” on that baby and push off into oblivion.
Kids bouncing loose all over the place as it wobbles and wiggles
all the way down. No “Blam” with those, usually just
a slow leak and then flat-city. Even used the flat carcass for a
You could always sit straight up on a sled and try and steer with
your feet. I have seen guys get launched like catapults from that
death-wish position if they hit something or stopped suddenly on
a snow worn piece of dirt. Newton’s laws of motion apply in
the snow--- bodies in motion tend to stay in motion.
Every year some kid would just grab an old rusty sled, run and
leap onto it to enjoy the most starting surprise of his young life.
Rusty runners usually don’t slide very well, and the sled
doesn’t go anywhere; but the kid does, straight off the front,
into a face full of snow. Newton again. Happens like that too if
the snow isn’t packed down enough.
Garbage can lids were always good for spinning, whirling, out-of-control
descents. It was usually best to launch an entire armada of “spinners”
at once so as to maximize the potential for collisions and pile-ups….
“Get the little kids off the hill!”
“Here they come!”
Bumper cars on snow. The carnage was always delightful as Newton
once again conserved the laws of momentum. So much physics can be
learned in the snow.
In our quest for downhill speed, no close-at-hand materials were
left unexplored. In a pinch, there was always that old standby.
A cardboard box, or a flat piece of it, could deliver a memorable
ride. But it was rather bruising if the snow had become icy. Just
don’t let it sit in the snow and get soaked, because then
it became like the rusty runners of a sled.
Who needs an Olympic downhill ski jump, or bobsled run? Ever see
a crew of kids get airborne in an old beat up or homemade toboggan?
The landing is never pretty, usually resulting in destruction of
the vehicle, followed by uncontrollable laughing of the occupants.
I remember landing in a ditch one time in just such a contraption,
after the whole shebang rolled over—it was either roll over
or risk zooming across a busy street. We chose the crash option.
From the top of the hill, I am told, that all anyone saw was four
pairs of legs pointing skyward. I laughed so hard I couldn’t
right myself. Our lead man on the team was completely covered in
snow he had accumulated on the downward run. The whole hill full
of kids was laughing as they dug us out. Best run of the day.
After playing on snowy park slopes, I enjoyed the walk back home
to dinner. The Holiday house lights were always on, the stores along
Bloomfield Avenue were all lit up, and the snow might even be falling
again. You could see Christmas trees in front windows, twinkling
For the first time, your hands and feet started to feel cold,
as you walked faster toward home, and mom’s glorious kitchen.
Your old dog would bark and yelp as you came in, stealing gloves
and romping around…..
“You take those boots off outside in the hall mister. Dad
will be home any minute. Get washed up and ready for dinner!”
“Yes mom. What’s for dinner?”
“Spaghetti and meatballs.”
“Jackpot!!” you think to yourself.
The wind has picked up, and the sleet mixed in with the falling
snow is stinging my face.
Who needs a stress test?
The blue plastic garbage can lid will do just fine.
I’m feeling lucky.
I can take this driveway.