Let’s get this out of the way first: shoveling the driveway offers an immediate, satisfying payoff that’s hamstrung by inconvenient timing and poor conditions.

That might sound damning, but as with most things, it’s about perspective. I’ve been experiencing this activity for going on 25 years now – since I was old enough to hold a shovel and have some idea of what to do with it – and in that time, the mechanics have largely stayed the same. You push the snow onto your shovel, lift it, and launch it into the yard or, preferably, onto an unsuspecting significant other.

This level of consistency over multiple decades might spell the death of many other things, but shoveling admirably sticks to its strengths year after year. What are those strengths? You may ask as you’re standing in your driveway long before the sun comes up or long after its come down, every breath leaving icicles on your chin.

Namely, shoveling boasts the necessary advantage of being able to leave your house. Few other activities can argue such a direct benefit, as leaving the house gives rise to a host of other options, like avoiding starvation, cabin fever, and evicting guests that have overstayed their welcome.

Departures are just one of shoveling’s strengths, though. Like many activities, shoveling boasts exercise as a secondary benefit, and building up a sweat when the thermometer’s on the wrong side of zero adds some visceral thrill, as though you’re defying an angry god.

Shoveling also clears your driveway and sidewalk for passers-by, reducing the odds that one of these random walking lawsuits will happen on your property. There’s also, apparently, laws against leaving month’s worth of snow and ice on these pathways as a barrier to pedestrians, like a Winter moat.

So shoveling’s not all bad, but it does bear with it some significant drawbacks, ones that may make the whole experience worth avoiding if you can.

The first, and worst, is that shoveling refuses to conform to a schedule. Unlike the gym, or calling in sick for the company potluck, snow comes at random during Winter’s hold on the world. You’ll often be coerced to shovel at times wrong for existing, much less for actual activity. Worse, you may not have any choice in the matter – even hiring a service may not guarantee the snow’s removal when you need it gone.

When the snow comes, you gotta shovel. That’s it.

The other major drawback, depending on your bone structure and ability to properly wield a shovel, is the dreaded back pain. Like a menacing demon haunting your every waking moment, the soreness from an extended shoveling session makes the hours and days following your victorious conquest of the driveway a long moan of regret.

Still, what’re you gonna do?

The aforementioned service option can be unpredictable – if you’re flexible, throwing money at an onslaught of people to commit war crimes against the powdery stuff on your walk is an option.

Another alternative is the mythical snowblower, a beastly thing that engulfs the fluff and launches it on neighbors with magnificent force. However, this beast is hungry, requiring both preparation with gasoline and the space from your driveway to actually launch the snow. This also removes that sweaty sub-benefit of a workout, along with its evil twin, the dreaded back pain.

Ultimately, I plan to continue shoveling for the foreseeable future. Our driveway lacks the wide plains necessary to feed the snowblower beast, and services have proven undependable in their execution, especially with the wife’s need for witching-hour workout sessions at distant studios. In such a situation, shoveling’s constant presence is a comfort – an unchanging solution in a changing world.

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