I bought a snow shovel. It is my first one. Snow has revealed a hidden cost of living in northern Virginia. The apartment I was renting required residents to be a member of the homeowners’ association in order to park in the building’s parking lot. As a sub-leaser I couldn’t actively participate in the association so I chose not to join, costing me one Woodlake Towers Homeowners’ Association t-shirt but sparing me the $500 annual membership fee. This meant I was a street parker. While street parking appears free, it is not free. I had to buy a snow shovel and it cost me $23.99.
Snowplows do an excellent job of clearing the driving lanes of streets and parking lots. However, the snowplows don’t eliminate the snow they just relocate it. Where is all this wintry majesty relocated? It is piled in a continuous berm parallel to the roads and driving lanes. So while the roads may be passable, the relocated snow sequesters the cars parked along the sides of the road. In order to drive your car anywhere you must relocate the snow a second time. This second relocation is what sells snow shovels.
I was stir crazy from being cooped up in my apartment for four days. I had missed my Sunday church service due to this wintry menace. And I needed to go grocery shopping. I needed a shovel.
I spent considerable time awkwardly loitering in the lobby of my apartment building, wandering the hallways and parking lot in hopes of encountering one of my neighbors to ask if I could borrow their snow shovel. I was willing to offer to dig their car out if I could borrow a snow shovel to dig my car out. I found no one so I called a non-street parking colleague and asked for a ride to the Home Depot so I could buy a snow shovel.
The Home Depot -- "...the world's largest home improvement specialty retailer with stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, 10 Canadian provinces, and Mexico" -- was sold out of snow shovels and traditional (square) transfer shovels. I was disappointed but not defeated. Standing in aisle #3, it occurred to me the snow shovel supply had succumbed to the same market demands as the milk supply, duct tape, plywood, and plastic sheathing.
We left "the world's largest home improvement specialty retailer" and, with the help of our smartphones, found Ayers Variety and Hardware, a small, locally-owned hardware store with exactly one location: Arlington, Virginia. Ayers Variety and Hardware is tucked into a quiet neighborhood in what felt like a small town far away from Target, PetSmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
They had about a dozen snow shovels in stock. There were 2-3 different types. I chose a Garant Nordic Series shovel featuring a “stained ash handle for strength and moisture resistance”. Ayer’s also had, in keeping with their name, variety. I believe they had one of everything anyone could want. My snow-shoveling debut waited so I suppressed my temptation to explore the store. The store had a homey, comforting feel and it was pleasant doing business with Ayers Variety and Hardware. In addition to the snow shovel, I splurged and bought a snow brush/ice scraper tool to allow mr clear my car windshield.
Arriving at my snowbound car, shovel in-hand, I was able to create a path of egress for my car in a matter of minutes using an amateur but effective technique. Unfortunately Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton did not have this option during his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914–17) aboard the Endurance.
I now own a snow shovel and I’ve shoveled snow for the first time. I have adopted street parking and I have learned that snowplows are effective at making streets passable. I have also learned street parking is not free.