It seemed all but impossible to clear the walkways at Highland Community College last week. The combination of a wind chill at minus twenty, winds at plus twenty and ten inches of powdery snow created quite the challenge for Barry and his ground crew. While the rest of us stayed in our warm little homes last Wednesday, they were out in the cold fighting the snow. They began their fight at two in the morning, worked for eight hours or so and came back that afternoon to resume the battle.
They shoveled out basement entrances, cleared paths and parking lots to a surprising degree and yet, thanks to the powder and the wind, there were still places where an inch or two of snow drift still covered the walks. With daytime highs below twenty for a week, there wasn’t much melting. On this Wednesday, with a slight warming and some salt at the bottom of the pile, there was enough loosening that a heavy-duty scraper would work perfectly for loosening up the packed crust.
Feeling a bit like I was throwing starfish back into the ocean, I decided to do my lunchtime workout on the sidewalk around Yost Hall. Instead of doing intense interval training on the elliptical machine, I did non-intense on the concrete. In about forty-five minutes, I managed to semi-clear about two hundred feet of walkway. The scraper worked great for breaking up the ice and packed snow, not so well for clearing it off the concrete. A shovel would have been nice but I hadn’t thought to bring in a shovel.
While I was doing my bit of scraping, several students moved around me to walk in the street so they wouldn’t interfere with my effort. A couple of other employees thanked me for doing what I was doing. One teacher asked, “Is this what they mean by ‘other duties as assigned?'”
Another quipped, “I bet we’re the only college in the country that has a PhD out shoveling snow today.” In fact, we had at least one other one on our campus later that afternoon when Dr. Mosher decided to do a bit of clearing around the Administration Building. I’m pretty sure there were lots of others across the country, doing what they could to help out at other places where the severity of the storm exceeded the usual capabilities.
Whether that’s true or not, I do know that I got a pretty good workout. Even if it wasn’t the usual one, I’m pretty sure that I increased my respiratory and cardio rates. I also helped make a small area of my world a little safer and a bit more comfortable. Sometimes, a bit of selective exercise on our part can help more than one heart.