Saturday February 9, 2013

DISCLAIMER: The following is an act of fiction in some parts, reality in others. The irresponsible and immature parts are the fiction.

We know when we’re going to get a good one. You can smell it in the air a few hours before it starts. When it does, the consistency of the snow flakes and the rate of snow fall can pretty much tell you what we are going to get. Snow is just wonderful in my opinion. It keeps the ski areas busy, and that in turn keeps stores and restaurants and hotels busy, and Mr. Shumlin likes to see those rooms and meals revenues pouring in. The downside for those of us who live here is removal of the stuff, and negotiating the roads in it. I have a nice all wheel drive rig that goes great in snow , so the driving part is actually quite enjoyable. The part that is so unpleasant is the snow removal. I’ve just grown tired of it after a lifetime of shoveling, raking roofs, and walking behind a snow blower or sitting on a tractor. You can make a game of it for just so long, then it becomes drudgery. That hassle is multiplied by 10 when the town plow truck takes out another mail box.

I will admit to clipping one with my tractor, but the other three that I’ve lost in the past 11 years are due to the guys who keep our roads passable. Yes, they do a tireless, thankless job, but part of rural living is knowing full well that you are going to lose a mail box or two over the years.


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I seem to be averaging roughly one every three years, give or take. What can you do about it? I’ve seen all sorts of apparatus employed to avoid mail box loss. Folks put a five foot by two foot piece of plywood on the side that would get hit, all in an effort to diffuse the energy of the plow so it doesn’t rip the box off, leaving a naked and forlorn looking post. I suppose it works, but it is mostly an eyesore. I know, you’re thinking "I’d rather have a gray, weathered ugly hunk of plywood getting whacked every snowfall than have to spend the money and effort for a new box every so often" and you’d be right. It’s just not for me, personal preference.

Each time I lose one I have to go through the mourning process. That includes disbelief, anger, sadness, and a whole lot of plotting against the plow truck. One of the ideas I had to avoid mail box loss was to use an old engine hoist I have out in a shed. The gist of it would be to hang the box off the lift arm, keeping the arm high enough to avoid the truck, and the metal frame would be set in concrete. Esthetics aside, I still think it would have worked. Another mail box fantasy was the use of a steel beam buried vertically in a 12 foot hole, then filled with concrete around it, thus making the post immovable to anything but a rampaging Caterpillar bulldozer. The mailbox I would fabricate from quarter inch steel plate, have it powder coated, and bolt, then weld it to the steel beam post. I pity the fool who tries to hit that thing with a baseball bat, and the plow truck would certainly find it challenging.

Another idea would be to take the approach those rampaging Viking guys on the credit card ads on TV use ... devise a medieval Rube Goldberg visual deterrent by attaching a rope to the mail box. Then bury a forked pole adjacent to the mailbox that hangs out into the road higher than a plow truck, with a big old rock tied to the end of the rope strung through the fork. When the plow hits the box, it rips the mail box off the post, the rock falls, putting a big old dent in the truck’s hood, creating almost as much monetary damage as I have suffered over the years from the truck. No, scratch that ... the idea is dumber than the TV ads. Forget I ever mentioned it.

Why not employ modern technology to rat out the driver? Just train a security camera on the area where the truck could hit your mailbox, and if it ever gets clipped again, email the resultant video to your Board of Selectmen with a bill for damages.

In the end, plotting to exact revenge on the plow truck is simply a placating mental coping mechanism, not anything more than that. The guys who drive those trucks do a real good job, and they deserve to catch a break for the occasional mistake. After all, we’d be up the creek without ‘em. We could try putting a couple of donuts in the mailbox with a sign in front of it: "FRESH DONUTS FOR THE PLOW DRIVER INSIDE BOX. THANK YOU!"

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.