When it snows, stay home

Last Saturday night, I was at my brother’s house in Philadelphia, happily eating a pulled pork burrito and watching Winter Storm Jonas do its worst to the East Coast when a man appeared at the dining room window and rapped on the glass.

I, having seen far too many episodes of Dateline, jumped to my feet and was about to run right out the side door, burrito in hand, when my brother waved me off.

“It’s just Aaron,” he sighed as he got up from the table.

Aaron. My brother’s best friend from high school. The eccentric genius who was always building computers or fixing them or maybe just writing programs for them. The lovable kook who, on my brother’s wedding day, drove my grandmother to the reception while wearing a chauffeur’s hat and pair of white gloves. (That his costume may have been what caused him to arrive to the ceremony, for which he was serving as Best Man, a few minutes late was never discussed).

The point is, Aaron is good people. And now he was on the front porch in the middle of a blizzard holding a steam cleaner.

“What are you doing?!” I yelled. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to be on the road?”

“Oh, I love going out in storms,” he replied as he stomped the snow off his boots. “It’s such an adventure!”

snowI suppose an “adventure” is one way to describe his traction control-disabled, brake-deficient, traffic signal-defying jaunt from West Philadelphia to the suburbs. Another phrase that comes to mind is “undue risk.” Or, perhaps more simply, “crazy.”

Especially when you consider what made Aaron venture out in the snow in the first place.

“I wanted to borrow a shovel,” he explained. “In case my car got stuck.”

“Ah, I see,” I said. “So you drove across town to get a shovel in case you got stuck driving across town to get a shovel. Makes perfect sense.”

He held up one hand. “I also need to fix my dryer.”

“And?” I asked.

“I figured I could borrow those tools too,” he answered.

And he did. Another friend – who he visited before coming to my brother’s house – had what he needed. He might have gone about things in the riskiest way possible and at the most inconvenient time imaginable, but he got it done. And I can’t argue with that.

But if I had an opportunity to have give him some advice yesterday, it would have been, “If ever you find yourself whipping a standard four-door sedan around the corner of 3rd and Girard and coasting to a stop in an ACME parking lot, please just go home. You’re going to hurt yourself.”

But Aaron didn’t get that advice – nor would he have followed it if he did – and now he was in my brother’s dining room eating a burrito and telling the tale of snow drifts and borrowed shovels and illegal parking spots at a nursing home down the street.

“So once I got what I went out for, naturally I came here,” he said.

“Naturally,” I agreed.

And since Aaron’s other friend is apparently everyone’s go-to for home improvement, she suggested that he deliver the steam cleaner that my brother and sister-in-law wanted to borrow for their project. If there’s a true hero in this story, it’s her, this other friend, the lender of extra shovels and small appliances and owner of an improvised dryer repair kit. We should all be more like her.

In any case, by now you’re probably thinking two things: 1. Aaron sounds like a bit of a nut. And 2. Aaron sounds kind of like you, Nova.

You’re right. And to prove it, the next morning I wasted no time at all getting my hands on that steam cleaner. I, too, was in the mood for an adventure.

“I think you should let me use this to strip the wallpaper in your kitchen,” I said to my sister-in-law. “I mean, if you’re going to do it anyway.”

She shrugged. “OK. That sounds like a good idea.”

steamerAnd it was a good idea. Or at least it started out as one. But then I got carried away – as I often do – and lost track of time and space and common sense. So much so that when my brother returned home a few hours later, he found me straddling his kitchen island and a wall-mounted oven, straining to reach the ceiling with the steam cleaner.

“Oh, hey Nov,” he said, as casually as when Aaron arrived mid-blizzard.

“Oh good, you’re back,” I said. “Could you put that steamer up here on the counter? The hose is too short to reach up there.”

My brother’s look seemed to say, “The steamer shouldn’t be on the counter and neither should you,” but he did it anyway.

“Be careful, would you?” he said. “That’s all we need is you falling off the island.”

I rolled my eyes.

“Serious question,” I said. “Do you think I can stand on the oven to get all that space up there?” I asked, motioning to the few odd feet above the opening in the wall where his new oven would be installed.

“You probably could,” he said. “But I really don’t think you should. You might fall through.”

I considered it for a minute.

“OK, fine,” I agreed. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Yes, Nova,” he said. “Like they always say, ‘Better safe than in the oven’.”

And that’s a perfectly logical way to look at it. But his attitude leaves a little something to be desired. After all, no one playing it safe will ever have a good adventure.

I guess that’s what he has me and Aaron for.


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    • Thank you. I’ll put it on the list of possible book titles. Right now, “Well That Didn’t Work: Lessons in Perseverance” is at the top.

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