A Southerner Meets a New England Winter
“Mistah Tinkah?” I heard from the other end of the line.
“Ahm John Jones at 12 Valley Road and ah want y’all ta quit plowin’ ma drahv-way.”
I asked what was wrong, as he sounded a little upset.
“Well ahm jes thinkin’ y’all’r chahgin’ too much fer what y’all’r doin.’” He hesitated before continuing his complaint. “I see y’all out he-ah plowin’ all the tahm, an ah think y’all’r gettin’ away wi’ too much.”
I kept talking with him to find out what was really bugging him. I explained that I was only charging for the original plowing, and the extra cleanup was to make it easier and less dangerous for the next storm. It also made it a lot easier on my equipment. He kept expanding on his original complaint, getting more and more irritated, and irritating. I finally asked, “Mr. Jones, I can tell by your accent that you’re not from New England. You’re certainly not from Connecticut.”
He indicated he was from Alabama. He had lived there all his life until his recent move to “this gawd-forsaken place.”
“Mr. Jones, I’m sure you may not ever have seen snow anywhere near what you’ve seen around here.”
“Well ah might not have seen snow, but ah know a snow job when ah see one.”
“Sir, I am taking into account that you really don’t understand what I have been doing, and maybe you think you can do better. You don’t really have any idea what’s ahead for you, this winter, or any winter. I’ll accept that for your lack of experience. Unless you find somebody else to do your plowing [snow blowers were not yet around], you will need my services at some point. If you get stuck, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. I will be glad to help out.” With little further conversation, we said our goodbyes and hung up.
Over the next ten days, we accumulated well over two feet of snow from a total of three storms. Being March, all the snowfalls were wet and heavy. In between storms, it was bitterly cold. All the snow froze solid. I plowed for each storm, bypassing Mr. Jones’s driveway. Mr. Jones just drove in and out of his driveway, packing the snow with his tires. I think he must have had over eighteen inches of hard packed snow and ice in his wheel tracks. I debated whether to take pity on the poor man, but I figured he should learn by himself.
As I walked into my house after I’d finished plowing from the third storm, the phone was ringing. It was Mrs. Jones. She was hopeful that I could help her out. She was stuck in her driveway. I asked at which end of the driveway was she stuck. I was hoping she was either at the very top, close to her garage, or at the very bottom, where I could hook a chain to her bumper—in those days, bumpers were a little more solid than they are now—and snake her out. She said she was stuck halfway up, and could I please get her car out, then plow the whole driveway.
When I got to the house, I took one look, put chains on all four wheels of my truck before attempting to do anything. I got her car out, and the driveway cleaned up, then went home and made out a bill.
I thought I’d have a little fun, expecting to get a loud round of complaining when they received the bill. I really didn’t expect to be paid in full. But I certainly didn’t expect the reaction I got.
I’d itemized the bill, charging for each of the three storms that I had plowed out their neighbors, and an additional charge for dragging Mrs. Jones’s car out of the driveway. I charged extra for having to put chains on all four wheels of my truck, extra for putting the car back in the garage, five bucks for wear and tear on my equipment, and fifteen bucks for the aggravation. With tongue-in-cheek, expecting to be paid far less than the billed amount, I sent the statement.
Three days later, I received an envelope from Mrs. Jones with this note:
Dear Mr. Tinker,
It sometimes takes us city folk a little time to become used to and to appreciate you country folks’ ways. My husband and I both think you are doing a wonderful job. Please continue taking care of our driveway. Thank you,
I laughed for some time after I finished reading. I knew the woman meant what she said. Then I looked at the check she’d sent. She’d paid ten dollars above what I had billed. I still have that note tucked away somewhere in my old papers.