The Joy Of S


I have never been much of a swimmer. Only once in my life had swimming ever been a part of my regular exercise routine. That once was 20+ years ago when I figured that I could finish a triathlon as long as I didn’t drown during the first leg since I was running regularly and I knew how to  ride a bike. Over the past few years I would get in the pool once every few months.

The last 4 weeks I have made it to the pool each week. So where is the Joy you ask?

The first time,  I was barely able to swim a lap. After every lap I had to stop and catch my breadth. For me, swimming a lap is equivalent to out-and-out sprinting — even though I am and will always be the slowest swimmer in the pool. (Old ladies, 4 year olds and people working on their dead man float all pass me.)

So where is the joy?

Four weeks later and I am up from 10 laps to fourteen. I still have to catch my breadth between most laps but I twice went 1.5 laps and once completed 2. The beginning of Joy.

Then came today. In case you don’t know, it is cold and full of snow in Chicago. But today I swam outside. Fourteen laps. All it took was a 4 hour plane ride and an hour in a car. I am just outside of Key Largo. I will be here for less than a day. It is a business trip. I will then have a 6 hour trip back home.

However, for 30 minutes I got to swim outdoors in the middle of February.

The Joy of swimming.

Help From Above

No not that high above. I am not that religious a guy. Let me explain.

Snowmagedon: Day Two. Two to three feet of heavy snow on the ground. Get up early (reasonably) and get in 30 minutes of shoveling before a day of work calls commences. Just enough time to shovel my way out the back and to clean off the stairs by the front door.

Late afternoon and work finally pauses. My wife has partially shoveled the walk but it has snowed since the morning and most of what I had done was covered with 4 more inches. I know that I need at least a shovel-wide path the length of the house and then I have to tackle the snow in the alley. Why clear the alley you ask? Because our garage faces the alley and with a small car with little clearance either the alley snow goes or I do not get to work tomorrow.

The length of the house takes an hour. I am cold and wet, tired and my back is killing me. Yet the alley awaits. The city plows do not even do a first pass of the street in front of my house until 4 pm. That pass clears one lane down the middle of the street. It also leaves a snow bank four feet high and 5 feet from the end of the alley. My driveway is another 15 feet behind that. The math is far too complicated for me but I estimate approximately one million cubic feet of snow needs to be moved if my car is to be set free. I regret letting my teenage son, wait make that my recently turned 20-year-old son, go away to college when he could be doing this instead of me.

I hold out little hope that I can clear all this but it is just me and the snow and I have little choice but to try. Away I go. As I work, another snowplow passes, widening the path on the street but moving that snow in front of my alley. Damn. Keep shoveling, just keep shoveling. I feel like those people on The Biggest Loser. The trainers are in their faces, urging them on to work until they drop. I wish I had a trainer. I would hand him my extra shovel.

But wait, help comes from above. O.K. not really above but the height of a truck seat. More specifically a snow plow seat. The driver sees my plight. Now I know he probably has several more hours of work and has been going at it since early morning. He just want to go home. And yet…

I am not sure but I believe that he catches my eye. At first he just clears a wider path in the street but even that shortens the distance I need to remove snow. Then he backs up. Pushes more snow away from the alley. He backs up again. He points toward my garage as if to say “is that one yours?”  I nod. I am the house on the corner so the one closest to the street. He turns off the street and plows through the alley. Not once, not twice but three times. He gives me a thumbs up . I nod and say thank you. And then like the Lone Ranger he heads off into the sunset.

This maneuver helps only me. No other car will be able to get through the pile of snow he leaves in the middle of the alley. Even I have another 40 minutes of shoveling to clear the snow he had to leave up against my garage, However, without this gesture of kindness I would realistically never finished. I complete my second hour of moving heavy snow from one place to another with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Every once in a while someone does something nice that makes your life easier. I will find a way to pass this forward.