In the middle of the night, in the middle of a blizzard, the patronage at the local big box discount store changes from its normal freak show. The deadly freezing temperatures and impassible streets keep all but the most dedicated and most insane shoppers from the store.

Such it was when I slid and spun through the icy roads in search of a snow shovel to replace the one that was about to collapse under the weight of five passes over the sidewalk and driveway in preceding 24 hours. I needed something sturdy, and I still had to clear the walkways two more times before the storm ended.

There was plenty of parking, but not nothing had been plowed. Mounds of snow marked the locations of workers cars and long-abandoned broken down vehicles.

Inside, the floors were lined with big cardboard boxes for the nightly restock. A woman and her two elementary school children propped themselves up against one of the restock boxes watching the latest Ice Age sequel on the array of dozen almost-synchronized giant flat screen TVs. They looked like they were settling in for the night.

A coworker walked past after picking out a mat for the company’s Blue Zone initiative exercise class and then meandered toward the liquor section.

Surprisingly, the one thing that couldn’t be found anywhere in the store — in the Midwest, in the middle of winter, in the middle of a blizzard — was a snow shovel. “We just can’t seem to keep them in stock. Every time we get a shipment, they get snatched up right away,” one employee told me. I didn’t want to argue with the guy. The higher ups in some warm southern state were probably calling the shots when it came to inventory. Besides, this guy risked his life to drive through a blizzard to make minimum wage with crummy benefits.

I glanced at the seasonal section, which was brimming with grass seed, lawn mowers, weed trimmers and fertilizer and trudged back out to my half-buried car.