Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Story 71: Snow Shoveling Extortionists

(A shot of a cookie-cutter development)
Documentary Host: (Voiceover) There is a shadow cast over this ordinary-looking neighborhood.   Whenever it snows, all tremble in fear as they await the dreaded moment when their home is targeted by: THE SNOW SHOVELING EXTORTIONISTS.
(A shot of two men in their 20s, swaggering down the street carrying shovels over their shoulders)
Homeowner 1: (Sitting in a living room chair) I go to sleep at night, it’s snowing out, a white blanket everywhere, beautiful.  I wake up the next day, and the driveway has been shoveled.  And these two guys are standing there expecting me to pay them for clearing it.
Host: (Off-screen) And had you asked them to shovel it?
Homeowner 1: No sir, I had not.  It was shoveled without my knowledge or consent.
(On a street corner)
Shoveler 1: I don’t understand; we are providing these folks a service –
Shoveler 2: A valuable service.
Shoveler 1: And all we’re asking for is appropriate compensation.  That’s ingratitude for you.
Shoveler 2: I mean, we are entrepreneurs; this is the American way.  You do work, you get paid for it – that’s the definition of capitalism right there.
Shoveler 1: Sure, do people hire us to do this?  No.  We used to do the “courteous” thing and go door-to-door asking people if they needed their driveways shoveled – they clearly did –
Shoveler 2: Clearly.
Shoveler 1: And we kept getting told “No thank you”, “We’re going to shovel it right now”, “I’ve already got a guy who does it”, and “Get off my property!”  Well, guess what?  A driveway is eminent domain!
Shoveler 2: Eminent domain!
Shoveler 1: You can’t trespass on public property!
Shoveler 2: Is a driveway eminent domain?
Shoveler 1: The point is, people should be thanking us for saving them the trouble of shoveling two feet of snow over 20 feet of driveway.  Especially this neighborhood: there’re a lot of old people here, ambulances are always coming by for somebody.
Shoveler 2: Every five hours.
Shoveler 1: You know, they shouldn’t be mad at us for shoveling their driveways – they should be mad at their grandkids for not shoveling Mee-Maw and Pop-Pop’s driveway!
Shoveler 2: Hold on, maybe they can’t get over here `cause they’re snowed in, too.
Shoveler 1: That’s an excellent point – we should offer our services to them as well.  Whole new market.  When we’re ready to expand, of course.
(In a kitchen)
Homeowner 2: Well, they did shovel out our driveway, it’s not as if they’re asking for money for doing nothing.
Homeowner 3: (In the background) I’ll shovel my own driveway!
Homeowner 2: Of course, dear.  (Sips coffee while raising eyebrows)
(In front of a house at 2:00 a.m.)
Shoveler 1: On a good night, with light snow and such, we can get about 10, 20 houses done.  When there’s ice, though, that cuts our progress at least in half.
Shoveler 2: (Shoveling in the background) I hate ice!
Shoveler 1: Gotta watch out for the plows, too, they ruin the end of the driveways; we usually have to redo those a few times.
Host: (Off-screen) And then you go to each house when the sun rises to collect payment?
Shoveler 1: Oh yeah, we have a formula and everything.  (Pulls out a piece of paper) Square footage of driveway times volume of snow removed plus any reshoveling, minus any sections covered by parked cars.
Shoveler 2: We’re honest – we don’t take credit for snow we didn’t shovel.  We will charge extra for clearing off your cars, so that makes up for it.
Shoveler 1: Yeah, the last part is plus snow brushed off cars then shoveled off the driveway.  It’s a good formula.
Host: Have you ever considered using a snow blower?
Shoveler 1: Nah, we’re old school.  Plus it would wake up everybody.
(Lights turn on inside the house and the shovelers beat a hasty retreat)
Host: (Facing the camera) As if these businessmen were not enough, the neighborhood was then afflicted with their competition.
(Five 8-year-old girls carrying shovels go door-to-door)
Homeowner 4: (Opens the door to see the girls standing there and the driveway having been barely shoveled) Aren’t you the sweetest things!  (Gives each of them money) Come inside and have some hot chocolate!
Girls: Thank you, ma’am!
(Shovelers 1 and 2 are staring in disbelief from the street)
Shoveler 1: That’s low, man.
Shoveler 2: You can’t come into our territory and play dirty like that!
Shoveler 1: I’ve got an idea.
(Homeowner 5 opens the door to see Shovelers 1 and 2, crouching to appear shorter and wearing blonde pig-tail wigs)
Shoveler 1: (Speaking in a high-pitched voice) Hi, sir, we’d like to shovel your driveway – (Is punched in the face)
(On a street corner, Shovelers 1 and 2 are standing, slumped; Shoveler 1 is holding a snowball against his bruised cheek)
Shoveler 1: I think we’ve gotten all we can out of this neighborhood.
Shoveler 2: Bled dry.
Shoveler 1: I do like the prospects better across the highway: circular drives.
Shoveler 2: Ooh.
Shoveler 1: And houses at the tops and bottoms of hills.  Don’t know why you’d want your house where all the water collects or set that far back from the street, but the bottom line is, those driveways are long.
Shoveler 2: At least a mile.
Host: (Off-screen) And what will you do in the spring, summer, and fall when there is no snow?
Shovelers 1 and 2: Landscaping!  (They high-five each other)
Host: (Faces the camera) There you have it: a perfect example of free enterprise played out before our eyes, with homeowners living in fear of whom will be targeted next.  Thank you for watching, and keep an eye on your property.