"Get up, Justin."
"Want to sleep some more."
"Get up. Hurry. You don’t have all day."
It was the morning of the first big snowfall of the year–Winter Storm Jonas, they were calling it. I don’t think the Jonas Brothers had anything to do with it, although I wondered if someone at the Weather Channel had maybe read Infinite Jest. (Not that I was ever able to finish it myself, but still.) Anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to be doing any campaigning that day, so I’d turned my alarm off.
"Just a while longer," I said.
"No," Emma said. "Now."
"They say to catch up on sleep ahead of time so you’re rested when the baby comes."
"Justin Trudeau-Fairchild, I am going to give you five seconds, and then I am going to put my cold hands on you."
"You wouldn’t."
"I would."
"Fine. I’ll get… HEY! Stop that."
"Five seconds means five seconds. Get. Out. Of. Bed."
I got out of bed.
"Get dressed. Bundle up. You’ve got to run the snowblower."
"What are you talking about?" I said.
"There is snow on our walkways and driveways and sidewalks. That is to say, about two feet of it. I’m not going to deal with that much snow while I’m pregnant, so it’s your job."
"Do we even have a snowblower?" I asked.
"It’s out in the shed," Emma explained. "The previous owners left it there; they were moving to Longboat Key."
"I don’t know how to run a snowblower," I explained. "Or at least I’ve never done it before. I’ve never even shoveled snow."
"You are kidding. I thought you were from Connecticut. What did you do when it snowed?"
"Dad would call the landscaper, and they send over a crew."
"We don’t have a landscaper," Emma said. "Remember? You wouldn’t let me hire one, because they wouldn’t provide the carbon impact statements that you wanted."
"We have to make our commitment to opposing climate change personal," I said. "That means not running big, huge, gasoline-powered snowblowers. I’m perfectly willing to shovel instead."
"So get your personal self out there and start shoveling," Emma said.
*
I thought I knew a lot about snow, but it turns out that most of what I know about snow is wrong. I always thought that snow was light and fluffy. It turns out that the snow that you get in Hanover County is actually quite heavy, at least when you have to shovel two feet of it off of your circular driveway. It also turns out that building your body through yoga, vegetable protein, and reading the occasional Mother Jones article on the treadmill doesn’t build up your stamina and endurance for shoveling wet, heavy snow off your circular driveway. After about an hour of concentrated effort in sub-freezing weather, I went inside for a cup of fair-trade cocoa.
"Are you ready to listen to reason yet?" Emma asked.
"I am always ready to listen to reason," I said. "Do we have marshmallows?"
"No. What we do have is a gasoline-powered snowblower."
"Why don’t we have marshmallows?"
"We used them for Rice Krispie treats."
"I don’t remember making Rice Krispie treats."
"You’re changing the subject," Emma said. "You’re never going to finish today if you don’t run the snowblower."
"I’d rather be stuck here another day than to run a dirty, polluting machine like that," I said.
"The snowblower does emit carbon dioxide," Emma said. "It also gets rid of all that snow that’s still on the driveway."
"I’ll go back out there and finish," I said. "I just need some cocoa, that’s all. I am enjoying the exercise."
"I have an appointment with my OB on Wednesday," Emma said. "I can’t get the car out of the garage. You have got to run the snowblower. I am asking you nicely."
"What if a media truck pulled up and saw me using a snowblower? I’d be exposed as a climate hypocrite. I’d rather shovel."
"So shovel," she said.



*
"And we’re LIVE, in Hanover, New Jersey, where local environmentalist Justin T. Fairchild has some tips for dealing with today’s record snowfall in an environmentally conscious way. What are you doing about the snow, Mr. Fairchild?"
"Well, thanks for asking, Cooper. I am out shoveling. It’s a great winter day, and shoveling is great cardiovascular exercise. I’ve been at it all morning, and I’ve almost made it halfway to the curb."
"It looks like you’ve put in some real effort, there," Cooper said.
"I have. Running a snowblower is so inefficient and wasteful of our planet’s resources. As you know, I’m considering running for Congress this November. I want to make environmental concerns the key plank in my platform."
"We thank you for your concern about our planet," Cooper said. "Back to you in the studio, Mike."
I smiled at the camera for a long moment. Then Cooper said "We’re clear," and she bundled herself back into the WHVR-TV news van. Polly, who had brought the news crew, gave me a big wave and got back in her car. I shoveled for another minute or two, and then got back in the house.
"You were right," Emma said. She had a big cup of cocoa in her hand and gave it to me. "There was a news crew out there."
"And who called Polly to get the news crew here?" I asked.
"You’ve got to hand it to her; she’s very diligent. I think I am starting to like her. Finish your cocoa, and then I’ll show you how to start the snowblower."
I looked out at the circular part of the driveway, which I’d shoveled first, and which was now covered by two or three more inches of fresh snow. I could barely feel my fingers, even with the hot cup of cocoa in my hand. My lower back was on fire.
"I can finish shoveling," I said. "Really, I can. It’s no big deal."
"No," Emma said. "You’ve done your bit for the planet, so now do your bit with the snowblower for me, okay? If you finish before sundown I’ll show you where I hid the Rice Krispie treats."
I nodded my head and bowed to the inevitable. I had done my best for the planet, and the planet had responded by making me cold and making my muscles scream in agony from all the shoveling. Sometimes going the distance involves knowing when to stop.
*
See next week’s episode: The Coin Flip
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust