Celebrating Unsung Heroes

Posted: March 22, 2014

The Friendly City Files

Our neighborhood is usually pretty quiet at night. Except from the occasional shrieking fox (I know, they’re not actually screaming, but it sure sounds like it), only one thing ever wakes me up at night.

And I’m cool with it.

You know how some sounds, while technically unwelcome, can actually be comforting? That’s how I feel when I hear snowplows grinding and scraping and beeping during the middle of a cold winter night. The noise isn’t irritating; it’s a signal that the city is taking care of us.

I’m always surprised by how quickly the crews get to our neighborhood. Our dead-end street has about 25 houses and is far from a key throughway. Yet only in the worst snowstorms is it past 9 or 10 in the morning when our road gets cleared; most times it’s been plowed before we wake up.

The same is true outside of town.

My wife drives to Farmville to work because she likes the hospital and the people in the community, so she’s willing to accept a two-hour, one-way commute. She leaves around 4:30 in the morning, so snow is the last thing she wants to see.

Yet, every morning this winter she’s called from the interstate and said, “I love VDOT!” Why? The interstate is always in good shape. Even Afton is always passable in her (way) less than snow-capable car.

Many people work in extremely important — no, scratch that, absolutely vital — fields that often go unrecognized: electricity, water and sewer, police and fire.

These and more serve a vital purpose, yet we only notice them when something goes wrong. We don’t think about electricity until the power goes out. We don’t think about water unless the tap runs dry. We don’t think about police- and firemen and women, unless there’s an emergency. Then, they matter a lot, sometimes even making the difference in life and death.

Road crews are out in the middle of the night, in terrible weather, doing a difficult job. Yet, like most people who perform thankless jobs, the only time they hear from us is when we have a complaint; for example, if we think it took them too long to clear our street. Or, maybe if they pushed some snow onto the sidewalk and we have to spend a couple extra minutes shoveling.

That’s too bad, because ultimately, they’re just trying to keep us safe, and there are few higher purposes or more noble intentions.

Like everyone else who does a vital job, the city and county road crews are unsung heroes who do their jobs extremely well; if you don’t think so, check out the roads in, say, Richmond after it snows. They’re not just important; they’re vital, because they make our lives safer and better.

They deserve our thanks — and, in the middle of the night, a symbolic tip of the cap for a job always well done.

Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg. He is a ghostwriter and Inc. Magazine columnist. He can be reached at blackbirdinc.com.

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