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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: With a dry winter comes the loss of a time-honored tradition – snowplow grumbling

A snow plow carefully drives down Cliff Drive to Monroe Street in Spokane on Dec. 27. 2018. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
A snow plow carefully drives down Cliff Drive to Monroe Street in Spokane on Dec. 27. 2018. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

A lot of people in Spokane have been out of sorts this winter because something in their lives has been missing.

It’s this. We’ve had negligible snowfall, so we haven’t been able to complain about snowplowing.

Oh sure, this weather has led some in our midst to rejoice about the relatively easy winter. But for many others it has left an existential void. It has created a sort of emotional constipation.

You see, people here like to complain. It’s one of our more popular forms of recreation. And grousing about the inadequacy of the city’s efforts to clear the streets is a seasonal favorite. It’s a time-honored form of release.

One reason this rant-worthy subject gets traction every winter is there are multiple categories of complaints about plowing. Those inclined to gripe about this topic have several ways to go.

For instance, there’s the “Affluent neighborhoods always get plowed first” argument.

Then there’s the “Snowplowing in this city isn’t what it used to be” line of attack.

And let’s not forget the classic: “The primary goal of the city’s snowplowing efforts seems to be the creation of an impenetrable berm at the end of my driveway.”

The list goes on. Some of these charges have more merit than others. But as you might have noticed over the years, a person’s tendency to get all worked up about a perceived injustice is not always dependent on a well-informed grasp of the facts.

Oh sure, there are other things we can complain about. We can adapt. We can adjust.

Spokane’s complainers are nothing if not versatile. There is no shortage of subject matter. Just scan the paper.

But there’s something in grousing about snowplowing that seems like a satisfying version of shaking your fist in the face of a howling wind.

Of course, eventually it will snow. Right? Then we can get disgusted looks on our faces and rail about the performance of the snowplow crews.

Don’t let that grumbling fool you. That’s the sound of Spokane enjoying itself.

A minority view: Snow-shoveling lovers

Another group frustrated by our lack of in-town snow is the hardy band of locals who actually enjoy snow shoveling.

Within reason.

I’m not talking about repeatedly digging out after a conga line of blizzards. But there’s no denying that there are those who enjoy shoveling the driveway and sidewalk after a few inches have fallen.

Once in a while anyway.

For one thing, getting some exercise out in the fresh air can feel good. And surveying your work after you have carved a clean path through the snow can provide a satisfying sense of accomplishment. It can look like you have just cut a birthday cake.

No, it doesn’t necessarily make you a rugged outdoorsperson. It does not merit comparisons to the Donner Party or Lewis and Clark’s winter camp. But it’s something that doesn’t involve a computer.

Then there are those with brand new snow-throwers who have barely gotten to break them in this winter. But that’s another story.

Making the great indoors even greater

Many in the Spokane area take considerable pride in not letting winter force them to stay inside. I needn’t remind you of the list of outdoor recreation possibilities here.

But sometimes you’ll want to stay in. And if you aren’t reading, playing games or looking at this or that online, you might decide to watch something on TV.

Here’s the thing though. Many of us feel as if it is more enjoyable to view movies or favorite shows in the company of loved ones. You can laugh together, make knowing eye contact or ask “What did we just see that guy in?” Then you can discuss afterward.

As activities go, it might be passive. But it still feels like doing something together.

Which is fine, except for one little problem. Not everyone likes to watch the same sorts of programs.

So what do you do?

I have a short list of options. (But I would be interested in hearing how readers address this dilemma.)

Take turns selecting what to watch.

Compromise, after determining in advance how many times each person gets to veto the other’s selections.

Pick two possibilities and then flip a coin.

Ten-minute rule. (If, after 10 minutes, one of you wants to bail, you choose something else to watch.)

No sports or HGTV. (There is a reason many people have more than one television in their homes.)

Agree on what to watch and then spend the whole time it’s on looking at your phones.

Columnist Paul Turner can be reached by email at

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