Being Prepared Isn’t Always Enough
Reflections on Snow Blowers & Good Neighbors
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
It snowed yesterday. I guess you should expect that during winter in New Jersey. I have a snow blower –– a pretty big one too –– that’s about 10 years old. I checked it a couple of months ago, and it started and the blades spun around. I needed it today with 18” of snow on the ground, plus three-foot drifts. I made it out to the shed, pumped the gas a few times and pulled the rip cord and Brrrrrrrrummmmm…she started, one pull!
I looked to the heavens and said thank you. Then as I pushed the handle to engage the two stage auger on this 30”, 12 hp blower, nothing! No snow blowing. My guess is that the drive belt broke. Great. After I muttered a few words like in a Popeye cartoon, my wife Joanne (pictured at left with me in front of a frozen fountain) suggested it might help if she called our neighbor Cliff. Wonderfully, he came over a few minutes later with his snow blower, gave me a crash course in its operation, told me not to freeze to death, and away I went.
My Boy Scout Motto says “Be Prepared” and I thought I was. You know how it goes, though: You don’t need these things to work until you need these things to work! Of course, I think it’s some variation of Murphy’s Law that dictates that it’s when you really need them that they’re more likely to fail. It makes sense. If it’s not used, it can’t break!
Among the lessons I pull from this is to be a good neighbor. I’ve found it better to try to get along with everyone and play nice. While not needing to actually “love” all of your neighbors, it certainly helps to at least love the right ones. If you do good things, the hope is that’s returned sometime when you need it. Years ago, I remember cleaning off Cliff’s driveway when he was away. Thank goodness for Cliff and his wife Laura and for being there for us when we needed them.
Thinking of that, I watched one of my favorite movies last night, It’s a Wonderful Life. I guess George Bailey was rewarded for all of his good deeds when he really needed it.
Another lesson is to be prepared…but how prepared can you really be for something that may or may not happen? I have the snow blower in case it snows. There were years that went by when I didn’t use it at all. There have been other years when I used it two or three times, others just once. You’d think that something that cost $1,200 should work more than 25 times over 10 or so years, wouldn’t you? After all, how many total hours of use is on that machine?
I pondered the thousands of games I’ve repaired over my years in this industry. I know the games that break the most are the ones that get played the most (or sometimes the ones designed and built the worst). Games that don’t make money, usually don’t get a chance to have parts wear out or break down. I still wondered more about how many hours I could have possibly used this snow blower. In fact a few years ago, one of my friends changed the two belts in it as a preventative maintenance measure and I had bought the factory replacement parts, too.
It’s basically two weeks into winter and my snow blower is dead. My distributor in Australia tells me about global warming since it’s 107 degrees there today and we have just come through some bomb-cyclone blizzard with sub zero wind chill in New Jersey. Location, location, location.
Before I buy another blower or fix this one again, I searched online for troubles with my model. Sure enough, scores of people reported that the auger belt gets chewed up prematurely, a problem the manufacturer says is a “normal part that wears out.” It seemed almost everyone writing to complain told them the same thing I said: “It snowed. I started the blower and it would not blow snow…” Makes sense.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.