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Because I’m a talk show host on a Portland radio station (WGAN, 560 on your AM dial, Saturdays & Sundays 6 a.m.-10 a.m.) people think I should know everything, since some of my colleagues in the business claim to be know-it-alls.
Comments like: “What do you mean you don't know? You're supposed to be a talk show host, aren't you?” are common.
After that big storm we had recently, several people wanted me to explain why their mailboxes keep getting plowed over by the town plow trucks. It's like I'm supposed to know what's going through the average town plow guy's head when he accidentally takes out your mailbox post, with mailbox attached.
One person the other day said: “Can anyone explain why some country mailboxes remain standing after a bad snowstorm and others are buried in a snow bank, deader than a doornail?”
Of course you can't explain it and it’s a waste of time trying. No one can explain things like that. There are too many of what they call "variables." Stuff just happens.
Yet people affected by the wiped-out mailbox always want reasons. They want to know why their mailbox got mowed down like a dried corn stalk, while their neighbor's mailbox a few feet away remained untouched.
I’m told that's the number one question the person in charge of a town's plowing operation gets after a particularly bad snowstorm. Why me? Why mine? Why not someone else's
The answer could be any number of reasons including "bad karma," although 'karma' - bad or otherwise - is not a word you often hear among plow people in Maine’s small towns.
Those more familiar with the subject than I am say a mailbox can get wiped out by a town plow because it's in the town's right of way and probably shouldn't have been where it was in the first place. Or, maybe your mailbox is too low to the ground and the pole your mailbox sat on was unseen and just got snapped off. Sometimes an oncoming vehicle can force the town's snowplow driver too far over to the right where your mailbox sits and, well, there goes your mailbox.
My neighbor had his wooden mailbox post sheared-off last winter, which he wasn’t too pleased about. So, this past summer he put a 4-inch steel pipe deep in the ground beside the road and then filled it with cement, which I thought was a tad excessive. Another neighbor rigged a pole contraption out to the road and then put his mailbox on chains.
The men who man the plows say the questions are always the same and all revolve around wanting to know things like: why can’t the town’s roads be plowed while leaving the mailbox posts standing? Another favorite question is: Why can’t town roads look like the Maine Turnpike after they’re plowed? Maybe if towns could charge tolls, they would.
I was talking to a town plow guy recently and he said most people have no idea how stressful a town plow job is or how many miles of road the average Maine town has to plow. I agreed I had no idea and, come to think of it, had never given it much thought.
“The town I plow has over eighty miles of roads we’re responsible for clearing and when you figure both sides have to be plowed it’s double the mileage. It sure can get pretty tiring at times,” he said.
I didn't know what to say except that spring training will be here before we know it and all the aggravations of winter will be forgotten.
He said a town plow guy can never forget winter.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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