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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: Snow is coming, start up your complainer

FILE - A city plow clears deep snow on Dearborn Court, Feb. 4, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - A city plow clears deep snow on Dearborn Court, Feb. 4, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

You know the old saying.

“Be careful what you wish for.”

That comes to mind as snowfall looms and the annual Spokane question blows in on the north wind: Will the city get its act together about plowing the streets this winter?

We’ll know soon enough.

What we don’t know is this. What would it be like around here if we didn’t have snow plowing to complain about?

OK, I can imagine your answer. “I’d be delighted to find out.”

But would you really?

Sure, sure, everybody wants the streets – all of them – cleared five minutes after a blizzard. And maybe the city of Spokane and all the other local snow-plowing jurisdictions will accomplish some reasonable version of that this year.

But where would that leave us?

Grousing about snow-plowing inadequacies is such a built-in part of winter in Spokane that I’m not sure we would recognize ourselves if we had to forgo the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth.

You think I’m kidding. I’m not. Well, not entirely.

Complaining about plowing of the streets animates us in winter. You could argue it gives our lives meaning.

Didn’t one of the great philosophers say, “I complain about snow plowing, therefore I am.”

Or something like that.

Of course, it’s not all just generalized kvetching. We have in our midst specialists.

There are those who focus their dyspepsia on the notion that their particular subdivision hasn’t been plowed since shortly after Lewis and Clark came through the Northwest.

Then there are the homeowners who can be counted on to point out for a TV news crew how a snow plow created an impenetrable wall of snow and ice at the end of the driveway.

A corollary of that often features someone who has just cleared his sidewalk and then witnessed a passing plow roar by and fill the newly shoveled path with tons of snow from the street. Imagine being in a wheelchair and facing that.

To be sure, all are legitimate gripes. And those doing so are not just complaining for recreation. No need for a show of hands.

Let’s face it, though. Some complaining about the vagaries of street clearing in Spokane takes a somewhat generic approach. The hallmark of this is the often repeated expression of belief that it was handled much better back in the old days.

Full disclosure: I have said that exact thing myself and believe it. The Spokane “old days,” in my case, being the late 1980s.

OK, I’m not quite sure I would totally subscribe to the theory that complaining about plowing gives my life meaning in winter.

But you have to admit, we have gotten pretty good at it. (Complaining, not plowing.)

Some people here ski. Some ride snowmobiles. Still others go to hockey games.

But way more grumble about snow plowing. It is Spokane’s true winter pastime.

So I ask again. What would it be like around here if we didn’t have plowing to complain about?

My guess is that we would experience a sense of emptiness, a certain lack of fulfillment.

Yes, it would be nice to navigate our city’s thoroughfares without feeling like a trail-breaker or a musher without his dog team. But what about the satisfaction derived from venting our seasonal exasperation?

Hasn’t that become something of a common bond for us? After all, nothing unites a community like a shared struggle.

They say people are pretty much the same everywhere. So maybe it’s my own Spokane booster instincts that make me believe we are more attached to robust complaining than residents of other cities where snow days, berms and high centering are part of the winter vocabulary.

Still, I’m hoping the streets people will give it their best shot this winter. I hope they succeed in making everyone happy.

We can always find something else to complain about.

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