The Gates: Monitoring Day 3 - Piled High and Deep

February 25, 2005

I had never shoveled snow in my entire life before today in spite of the fact that I have lived in New York City for more than five years. I made up for that in one day. I shovelled snow all day today. I got my PhD in snow removal--Piled high and Deep.

Thursday night and Friday morning New York City experienced a "Major Snow Event." This is something between "getting some snow" and "a freaking blizzard." Everything I did and everything I went through was worth the 15 minutes I spent in the Park this morning at sunrise. I was in the area of the Park near the Boat Basin, near 72nd and Fifth Ave, and there was eight inches of fresh snow on the ground. The Gates were magnificent in the golden early dawn light. They were framed in white, just brushed now by the brown-grey of the tree limbs, every surface, including the tops of The Gates and the tops of the tree limbs, was coated in brilliant white. It was awesome. I walked around in a cricle shouting "This is AWESOME" until a woman came up behind me and broke up my solitude with a quiet "hell yeah."

I ran into a young couple in the Park who asked me for a swatch. I didn't have any, I had not reported to work yet, and I told them that they were seeing the project in the most beautiful context I had every seen it, and that this was probably the most beautiful it was ever going to be. The three of us just looked around and drank deep. I told them to come back for a swatch later in the day and they told me that they were going to catch a train and this was their only chance to see it. I told them they were lucky, because it wasn't probably ever going to look any better than it did right then. I was right. It didn't. That was awesome.

I have never been a property owner in New York City. I am a renter. The landlord was responsible for shoveling the snow. Until recently, I have been too out-of-shape as well. A couple of years ago shoveling snow would have been dangerous. Until today, I had never shoveled any snow at all. I was a complete beginner.

Because I started off the day as a novice, I was unaware that I was missing an important tool as I reported to my area to shovel. I only had an inexpensive, plastic, snow shovel. Thousands of people were walking over the snow I was trying to move. It got compacted. I had no way to break it up. I didn't know I needed to break it up. I was on a steep hill and a steep learning curve at the same time.

I was supposed to be sharing the snow shoveling duties with another worker, but my partner was a woman of retirement age. She was remarkably energenetic for any age, but I was not going to trade off shoveling with her unless she admantly insisted on it, and she did not. So, I shoveled snow all day.

In the morning, because I lacked a way to break-up compacted snow and ice, mostly what I accomplished was levelling off the compacted snow so that it was a relatively flat surface upon which to traverese. This did make the walkways safer, it wasn't a complete waste of time, but it didn't feel like much of an accomplishment.

Then, as I applied intellect to the problem, I noted that the snow on the periphery of the walkways was still shovel-able, so I cleared all of that down to the tarmac so the sun could make it's contribution by heating up the pathway. This accellerated my progress, and I went to the early lunch at 11:30am.

After lunch I saw an ice chopper, which is really just a simple hoe, a paint-scraper looking blade on the end of a stick, outside the Boat House. Immediately I knew that was what I needed, so I took it. It wasn't mine, but it belonged to the project. I had work to do, so I took it.

When I got back, I had all of the ice and snow cleared from all of the steep hills on the pathways in less than 90 minutes. In the next 90 minutes I cleared the rest of the snow from any incline, and I almost go the the rest of the snow from the flat areas cleared, but not quite. If I had started off with the proper tools I could have spent the second half of the day walking around. Instead, because I was new to snow removal, I worked half a day very inefficiently, even if the results were very pretty.

I am now a seasoned journeyman when it comes to snow removal. I have some things to learn, but I've got some game. I've also got some sore shoulders and arms. That was pretty much Day 3. I shoveled snow.