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Snowplow Drivers In Boston Anticipate Another Dreadful Winter


A blizzard warning begins for the Washington, D.C., area tomorrow with up to two feet of snow predicted. People in Boston are watching this forecast closely to see if this system will bring any more snow to New England. After the brutal winter they had last year, some plow drivers there are having trouble getting motivated for whatever this season may bring. Adam Reilly of member station WGBH sent this report.

ADAM REILLY, BYLINE: If Rob Drake lives to be 100, those sounds will be etched into his consciousness. Drake runs a landscaping business in Sharon, Mass. And in the winter, he plows snow for 125 clients. Last year, that work took a toll.

ROB DRAKE: You're not you. You change. It's like doing the graveyard shift 24/7. I mean, those graveyard people, they're not the same person they would be if they did the day shift.

REILLY: Ordinarily, Drake packs on a few extra pounds in the winter. Last year, he actually lost weight. And his mental equilibrium shifted.

DRAKE: It makes you, like, a little shaky, on edge.

REILLY: Once, Drake confesses, he stopped plowing mid-storm to confront a woman he thought was driving recklessly peering out of a tiny hole in her snow-covered car.

DRAKE: And I got out and I put my arms up in the air and I said, really? And she looks at me and she says, oh, my God, you're Rob Drake.

REILLY: It turned out she used to be a teller at his bank.

DRAKE: And I had my broom, I brushed off her entire car. And she said, will you now come and plow my driveway? And I said, no.

REILLY: The grind of last winter is still fresh in Bruce Maurer's mind too.

BRUCE MAURER: It's - the toughest part of plowing is between 2 and daylight. Your eyes are completely tired 'cause there's snow coming at you. That really tires you out.

REILLY: Maurer co-owns a landscaping and construction firm in Sudbury, Mass. He recalls huge storms that stretched on and on, working 28 hours straight. And then when it was over, total exhaustion. He went to Florida to recover.

MAURER: Me? It took me two days. I just wanted to sleep. I didn't want to go on the beach. I didn't want to do anything. I just wanted to sleep.

REILLY: While Maurer and Drake both hope this winter isn't quite as intense, they say they're ready to plow whatever snow falls. But some plow drivers are ready to walk away.

JASON GARDNER: If it snows again like it did last winter, I will quit. You will find the truck on the side of the road running, and I will be done, never to be seen again.

REILLY: Jason Gardner is one of Drake's employees.

GARDNER: Plowing is awful. It's absolutely awful. People out there, they think you're out there getting rich, and you're not. You're out there - you're making an honest living, but try sitting in one of these trucks for 35-40 hours at a time with no sleep. I like to tuck my kids in at night. I have two beautiful little girls and then not seeing them for a couple of days stinks.

REILLY: Of course, if the Boston area gets another winter like the last one, residents will need every plow driver they can get. So here's a gentle request from Rob Drake.

DRAKE: Everybody likes attaboys - just a wave, a smile, a thank you. I can be your hero on one storm, and I can suck the next storm. I can only get there so fast. So, yeah, any attaboy is good. We all like to feel appreciated.

REILLY: For NPR News, I'm Adam Reilly in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adam Reilly is a reporter at WGBH-TV's Greater Boston. Before joining WGBH, he covered media and politics for the Boston Phoenix. He is a graduate of Carleton College and Harvard Divinity School.

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