Hannah Berman - That's The Way It Is


Each time a major snowfall is expected, my mother’s words ring in my ears. I can still hear her admonishing my dad; “Willie, you are not going to shovel snow. Don’t even think about it! Do you want to have a heart attack?” It was often a source of a major battle between them.

As a result, remembering my mom’s reaction, when I got married I would say to Hubby, “Arnie, you are not going to shovel snow. Don’t even think about it! Do you want to have a heart attack?” It was often the source of a major battle between us as well.

One thing that continues to puzzle me is the following: do Spanish-speaking men have stronger hearts than English-speaking men? Immediately following any major snowfall, I stare out of my front window, watch the comings and goings on the street, and wait until a car pulls up and discharges three or four men. One by one, the men pile out of the car, head to the rear of the vehicle, open the trunk, and pull out shovels. That done, they then head off in different directions and begin to ring doorbells. I don’t walk as quickly as I once did, so knowing that my doorbell will soon ring, I immediately head for the front door and wait. The last thing I want is for one of the men who are offering to shovel snow to think I am not home and walk away.

As I pull open the door, I know I am going to see one of those men and he will be holding a shovel. Inevitably, it will be a Spanish-speaking male standing there and, despite knowing what he wants, I wait for him to ask me if I want my snow shoveled. I always say yes and then I follow up with these words: “How much?”

The first order of business is the negotiating. Sometimes it is “easy-peasy” and at other times there is a bit of haggling or, as hubby used to refer to it, “hondling.” I don’t do much “hondling” with the man because, while I have the good fortune to be standing in a warm home and holding a cup of hot coffee in my hand, this guy is out in the cold and I recognize that shoveling snow is hard work. Especially a few days ago, as it was a very heavy wet snow. But there is another thought at play. I have sincere concern for the man standing in front of me. What about his heart? Why was shoveling an unsafe activity for my father and for my husband, but not unsafe for this guy who probably has a family to support?

Since the man who is asking to shovel my snow is Spanish-speaking, does that make him immune to having a coronary? Does he have a stronger heart than my dad and my husband had? Or might it mean something else? Could it be that they and their wives are less concerned for their well-being? Both of those thoughts make no sense since most people care about their own health and the well-being of their spouses. But while the entire situation remains a mystery to me, there is good news. To the best of my knowledge, not one of the men who have shoveled snow for me over the years has ever suffered a coronary.

I do not know their names, do not have their phone numbers, and have never spoken to any of them other than those times that they have come to my door. It is obvious that they have all remained well since these same men continue to come to my door after each snowfall.

Nevertheless, while I have concern for these men, apparently I am not as much of a humanitarian as I would like to think, because once I accept that their asking price is fair, I never turn the men away. Despite my concern for their welfare, I always say yes and allow the men to shovel. I’m not particularly proud of that fact, but that’s the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-295-4435.


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