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About this shoveling thing there are only two ways to look at it. One: It's going to snow again later, so why bother? And two: It's all going to melt eventually, so why bother?

This isn't, I grant you, everyone's approach. A midnight or two ago, in fact, and from right next door, came the soothing sound of metal scraping concrete. The first flakes had started falling, and there she was, the little woman with the big shoulders, clearing a path back to the garage for her late-shift hubby.An inspiration to us all. And just out of snowball range - a pity.

There is absolutely no reason to shovel snow.

There is only one reason to shovel snow: You've got to get the car out. Which assumes there's something you need to do that's more important than what Mother Nature has decided you need to do: Stay in. And chill out.

In the town I last called home (you've heard of it, the president lives there), they knew how to handle snow: The place shut down. At the first hint of it, long lines at the grocery, desperate people laying in emergency provisions - milk, bread and eggs, one from each of the major snow-removal groups. Then they'd race for shelter.

In the Great Middle West, they're used to snow. They actually expect life to go on while it's falling and even after it's landed. And they expect you to clear away your share of it.

I do what I'm supposed to do. I've got the heave-ho (a two-step dig and toss), the ho (a one-step scoop-toss), even the over-the-shoulder-ho (watch the wind gusts). And my favorite, the no-ho, where you don't toss the stuff at all, but just push it in front of you, snowplow style, faster and faster until the shovel catches a crack in the sidewalk and you swallow the handle.

There is only one other reason to shovel snow: You want your mail. "Neither snow, nor rain, nor bunions, nor . . . " however it goes, our guys and gals in uniform are determined to make it to your mailbox no matter what, and you're supposed to give them a decent shot at it.

Fair enough - but how decent? There are people in this very house who feel that if the sidewalk is 4 feet wide and the path to the front steps is 4 feet wide and the front steps are 6 feet wide, then you shovel 4 feet wide and 4 feet wide and 6 feet wide.

Do you know any 4-foot-wide mailmen? I don't. For my money, you carve out a path that's exactly as wide as your widest carrier, maybe a couple of inches extra for the mailbag and to turn around in. If that means 22 inches total, with 8-foot-high walls on either side, fine. They're doing important work, those people; they should be proud of themselves. Standing tall. Standing straight. Especially straight - I don't want any cave-ins.

I'm not winning this argument. Instead of the Tunnel of Mail, I'm supposed to come up with Paths of Plenty, in case the carriers decide to square-dance their way to the door or something.

I do what I'm supposed to do. And - I admit it - when it's all finished, when it's bare pavement sea to shining sea, I stride back to the house, a warm and tingly feeling growing inside me, the satisfaction of a job well done.

Or the first signs of cardiac arrest.