On Monday, I had the exciting opportunity to ride in the front seat of a city of Portland snow plow, escorted by Jay the plow driver through the snowy streets of the West End. The ride was much more thrilling than I anticipated and I learned some valuable lessons about the invaluable role of the snow plow driver.

 

1) Memorize the Manholes

If anyone knows where all the manhole covers are in the city, it's snow plow drivers. Why? Because every time they come across a raised manhole, the bottom edge of their front blade hits the bump in the pavement, makes a horrific sound and kicks the blade up, traumatizing the driver and forever saving the location of that manhole in his or her mind.

2) Be Ready on the Sand Button

Jay told me a handful of blood-curdling stories about coming a little too close to clipping mirrors and trailer hitches, sliding around corners, and driving in white-out conditions without knowing where the edge of the road is. One of my favorites was the time his truck started sliding backwards down a hill toward a parked car and Jay planted both his blades down and hit the sand button like crazy to try and provide his own traction on the road before the collision. He succeeded!

3) Don't Challenge a Plow; The Plow Will Win

Nothing makes you realize the straight-up stupidity of everyone on the road like riding in a snow plow. Why do people start to turn around the corner, see a snow plow clearing the road, and continue to proceed toward the plow?! Stop where you are (pull over if possible) and let that plow go wherever he needs to go. Don't try to sneak past him; he knows where he's going and you can wait 15 seconds.

4) You Shall Not Pass

However much it seems like the snow plow driver in front of you is driving in the middle of the road so you can pass on the right, they're not. Plows start clearing the road from the middle outward, so they can move snow from the median to the edge. It often takes a few run throughs to cover the whole street. STAY BEHIND THEM!

5) There's a Right and a Wrong Way to Shovel

When shoveling or snow blowing your driveway, it's illegal to shovel snow into the roadway. Just pile it high off to the side in your own personal snow berm. And while you're at it, avoid the dreaded second shovel by anticipating which way the plow will drive down your street and hollowing out a cavity before your driveway so their snow load deposits into that pocket instead of going right in front of your just-shoveled driveway.