Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 14, 2014

The life of a snow plow driver

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Snow plow drivers are people, too.

It’s easy to forget that in the throes of winter – especially a winter as hard and unending as this one. You see roads that are snow covered and suddenly those drivers are Public Enemy No. 1.

I set out last week to ride along with a snow plow driver after Mother Nature dropped a few more inches of that ugly white stuff on Kokomo. I wanted to tell the story of what a driver’s life is like when the snow just won’t quit.

Here is what I found.

It was 10:55 p.m., and the newest crew was waiting for its assignments at the Kokomo Street Department building on Boulevard. Men filed in and out of the office I was waiting in, filling up on coffee before another 16-hour shift.

One turned to me as he walked in.

“Good morning,” he said. “Oh, it’s evening.”

I asked him if he was losing track of hours. No, he said.

“I’m losing track of days,” he said. “It’s rough.”

Another shook his head and said people can be hateful. Someone once threw a shovel at him while he worked, he said.

Shortly after 11 p.m. the men climbed into their trucks. I’d be riding with Marc Mishler. I shook his hand and introduced myself.

We’d be heading to Indian Heights, where there are nine miles of streets and 70 intersections to clear. That neighborhood alone would take him nine hours to finish.

Marc used to be a farmer before being hired on by the City of Kokomo. He drove a trash truck for years but prefers his gig clearing roads, even if it’s sometimes exhausting.

“All you do is work and sleep now,” he said.

Work is piling up at his house. There’s never any time to catch up. He missed the Super Bowl because he’s worked the past three weekends.

People don’t care about how hard he works, though, he said.

“After all these years, you figure out we’re a target,” he said. “People want to vent their frustrations, and it’s usually at us. I try not to let it get to me.”

People most often complain that he’s pushing snow back into their clean driveways and in front of their mailboxes.

Marc said that does happen. He can’t help it. The snow has to go somewhere and unfortunately that’s to the sides of the road.

He does help people when he can.

At midnight, someone stopped him in the street inside Indian Heights. It was a man wondering if Marc could clear the snow away from his mailbox. It was almost completely buried.

That’s not Marc’s job, but he said he’d do what he could. He spent a few minutes digging it out.

When you learn to tune out the sometimes incessant complaints, the job is actually pretty relaxing, he said.

He prefers the overnight shift when people are sleeping and the streets are quiet.

The job is best in December when he gets to see everyone’s Christmas lights. But even when it’s dark and so white everywhere that the world starts blurring together, he likes what he does.

Marc turned the radio up during my ride along. It was set to 100.5 WWKI.

Toby Keith’s “I’m Just Talkin’ About Tonight” came on.

We got lucky and found a song instead of a radio show, he said. He gets tired of hearing the same Taylor Swift interview over and over at night, he said, with a laugh.

How he even focused on the radio was beyond me. When he’s clearing roads, the truck is loud, so loud, and bumpy. Even with my seatbelt on, I was shifting around in the seat – lurching forward and backward when he stopped and started.

It made me a little motion sick and made my back hurt. He insisted it didn’t bother him.

In fact, he said the nights pass quickly. It often feels like he hasn’t worked at all, even during 16-hour shifts.

Nothing seemed to shake Marc, not even the endless winter and constant snow.

“I’m actually still kind of enjoying this weather,” he said.

Well, not me Marc. Spring can come anytime now.

It’s clear I wasn’t cut out for the job of a snow plow driver. After two hours, I asked him to take me back to my car.

Marc, on the other hand, seemed to be in the right place. There’s no other explanation for his positive attitude – especially with all the complaints and the prospect of 14 more hours of clearing snow.

— Lindsey Ziliak

[friday] editor/ amateur snow plow rider