It turns out that certain psychological states are simply unavailable to me when I positively REEK of Bengay, the first being any sort of inclination to engage in social interaction, even interaction via an unscented forum like the web. Another is the belief that I can write anything worth reading. No, when my skin and my clothes smell so strongly of Bengay that my cat won’t come near me, all I really want to do is lie down.
The smell of Bengay is weird, right? Most people will agree with me on that. And I might be the only one who feels this way, but I don’t find the smell unpleasant--I don’t think it out and out stinks--but I also don’t find it attractive. And it’s not just because I know it’s medicine often marketed to old people; it’s because it’s such a strong smell, from a substance that really freakin' HURTS if you get it near any mucus membranes, and because it makes you want to lie down. Seriously: I put it on, and I want to lie down. I suspect there’s some real physiological process going on there; something about how it increases blood flow, and makes your skin feel sensations ranging from mild tingling to out-and-out burning, and makes your muscles soften a little, and assaults your nostrils and tear ducts. I don’t know. I tried to find out what the side-effects of Bengay are, if overwhelming albeit short-term fatigue is one of them, but an entire series of google searches only turned up this bizarre story about a teen athlete who died from a Bengay overdose.
You might be wondering why I smell like Bengay, and the reason is: we had a blizzard this weekend. I’ve already done the “shoveling lots and lots of snow really SUCKS” rant, so I won’t belabor that point. I’ll just state that between about 10 a.m. on Friday and 2 a.m. on Sunday, or a period of slightly less than 48 hours, we got 24 inches of snow, and unless I wanted to stay put until April, the snow couldn’t stay put. Hence the shoveling, which, as I’ve already explained, is accomplished more efficiently if you start it before the last of those 24 inches has fallen. I started going out Saturday morning and kept at the sorry business until Sunday afternoon.
Having to clear a driveway has helped me understand some of the processes behind the melting of the polar ice caps. It’s easy to melt snow and ice even if temperatures are below freezing, provided you have two things: sunshine, and an exposed surface that absorbs heat. If you leave even a thin layer of snow--say, an inch--covering your driveway, it will stay there. But if you clear a patch, even a small patch, and the sun comes out, the sun will warm the concrete, which does a really remarkable job of absorbing and radiating heat. So the light of the sun on top of the snow mixed with the heat from under the snow does a good job of melting stuff, and, provided there’s a way for the water to run off or that there’s not so much that it won’t just evaporate, you’ll have a clear driveway with a minimal amount of work, provided also that you’re willing to wait a while, because it doesn’t happen instantly. However, if there’s nowhere for the water to go, you’ve got to get rid of it yourself, or it will turn into a layer of ice as soon as it’s no longer getting direct sun. Anyway, apparently oceans warmed by climate change work as well as concrete in helping to melt ice from underneath. And the periods of re-freezing are getting shorter, so stuff melts more quickly, and stays melted.
OK. So I know that was a diversion but I’ve wanted to write about it for a long time. It’s just interesting to me that at least some of these processes scientists are telling us we should worry about aren’t arcane or difficult to understand; they’re actually quite logical and observable in our own lives.
But back to my driveway. Because the sun was out, I managed to get sections of the driveway completely clear, but I knew better than to tackle the mouth of my driveway, because there’s that thing that happens to a shoveled surface near the street after the snow plows come by.... And sure enough, Sunday afternoon, the plows came along and packed all the mouths of all the driveways with a bank of chunky, dirty, icy, compacted snow almost four feet high and six feet wide. There was no way I could manage that on my own.... So I paid a neighbor with a snow blower to cut through that. And even with a machine, it took him almost half an hour. it was serious business.
Clearing the part I did myself took many episodes of many hours, all requiring much lifting. After about the second foray out, I rubbed Bengay all over my neck, right arm and shoulder. It helped. It helped enough that I began applying it prophylactically, BEFORE I went out, so that so that my muscles got heated up before I had to heft that stinkin' shovel full of snow up over the drifts.... And while I felt a certain sense of pride that I managed to do so much hard manual labor, I also felt sore and exhausted--I’m neither athletic nor known for my upper-body strength. I am sure that somewhere there are people who can shovel and such for hours and feel smart afterwards, but I felt downright mentally incapacitated. I couldn’t do much for the remainder of the day but watch TV and knit. Even now, I feel sort of foggy. And I really hope that this was winter’s last hurrah and I won’t have to do it again for a good long while.