With a massive blizzard bearing down on the East Coast this weekend, America’s snowplow drivers will likely once again be the unsung heroes of the whole shebang.
While the rest of us are holed up in our apartments enjoying the 17-23 frozen pizzas we stocked up on during the week, brave men and women across the region will somehow, some way, clear our roads and driveways.
How do they do what they do?
I spoke to Jason Kaye of K&S Property Management in Westchester County, N.Y. He’s a snowplow driver and manages a team of all-around winter-weather removal ninjas.
Here are seven things he and his crew wish you knew about how the true snow heroes roll.
1. They’ve been preparing for this moment for months.
Contrary to popular belief, snowplow crews don’t just work when the flakes start coming down.
“Our season starts in August,” Kaye said. “That’s when we start with all of our maintenance, upkeep on snowplows, salt spreaders, loaders, backhoes, anything like that that would come in handy once November or December hits.”
Without that maintenance, the crews wouldn’t be adequately prepped and there wouldn’t be plows to plow with.
“We’re actually pretty much working all year round just to make sure everybody’s safe for the four to five months that we actually see snow fall,” Kaye said.
2. They often work inhuman hours.
Your snowplow driver doesn’t get up early. Matt Lauer gets up early. Your snowplow driver gets up biblically early.
“Sometimes we start at 4 a.m. Sometimes we start at midnight. Sometimes we start at 8 in the morning, and we finish 36 hours later,” Kaye said.
3. Their jobs are a lot harder when you’re out on the road.
While you might be tempted to trail your neighborhood plow driver in your Acura shouting motivational poems out the window, basically the best thing you can do to actually help out is stay home, enjoy a nice, warm cup of cocoa, and watch “SVU” reruns until your eyelids freeze in place.
“We’re out here trying to do a job, and the more space we have to do it safely and not have to worry about other people, the quicker it can start and the better it gets done,” Kaye said.
4. If your job is saving people’s lives, then OK. Feel free to drive.
“Some people are doctors, nurses — they need to get to the hospital on time,” Kaye said. He and his crew work especially hard during major snow events to make sure emergency professionals — medical workers and first responders — have a clear shot to their place of business.
If you’re not an emergency professional, however, crank up the heat, fire up Call of Duty, and stay home.
5. If you lost something really important in the snow on your way to work, chances are they’re going to be the ones to find it.
Every year, thousands of wallets and keys fall out of America’s pockets into the snowy abyss, never to be seen again. But if you’re not a jerk to your snowplow driver, they just might help you dig out your lost item.
Kaye recalled finding a client’s credit card buried under a pile of snow.
“I waited around for him and gave him his card,” Kaye said. “It’s just little things like that that make a difference in people’s lives.”
6. They actually care about when your driveway gets plowed and making sure their routes are fair…
“Someone’s gonna be first, and someone’s always gonna be last,” Kaye said. “Any snowplow crew will give you the same speech on that one.”
It’s probably not random, however. Chances are if you were first last time, you’ll be last next time — and vice versa. According to Kaye, most responsible snowplow crews mix it up to make sure that, within a given season, all of their clients get roughly equal treatment.
7. …unless you’re dating the driver, in which case, you’re probably out of luck.
“[My] girlfriend … is always wanting me to make sure I get her driveway done, but she unfortunately finds herself being last on the list, and that’s the one I hear about most,” Kaye admitted.
It happened last month to a snowplow driver in Canada. In Canada, of all places. By a rival snow-shoveler.
It can get real serious real fast out there.
9. They have people at home who are really, really hoping they get home safely.
“I have a mother who worries about me being out there,” Kaye said.
When he’s out on the road, Kaye said he hears from his mom and girlfriend roughly as much as he hears from clients. Conditions get slippery, black ice is a menace, and inexperienced drivers on the road can cause trouble, even for snow-removal professionals.
While the job can be treacherous, however, those closest to the people on his crew learn to take it in stride, even as they worry.
“At this point, they’re used to the job we do.”
Bottom line: When you see a snowplow driver — and this weekend, many of us probably will — thank them from the bottom of your heart.
Then get the heck out of their way.