winterAs soon as I heard the noise, I knew what it was.

The sound of something slipping from my Pontiac as I reached 55 mph could have been any number of things, most likely a chunk of frozen something or another dislodging from the snow-covered roof. 

But I knew better.

I knew it was my ice scraper/snow broom. I had placed it on the roof after dusting off the freshly fallen powder from my windshield and starting the engine. It stayed up there as I started shoveling the driveway in the pre-dawn darkness, then carving out a path down the sidewalk. I hacked through the wall of road snow the city plow had shoved across the driveway entrance when it passed. Next, I dug out my wife’s minivan and plowed a small trail back to the house. After that, I hopped in the car and fought through the sort-of-cleared residential streets until I got to the highway and could start making time.

Then whoosh and clatter. And that was the end of the ice scraper.

Later in the day, after work, I doubled back, but there was no sign of it in the chest-high snow banks lining the highway.

The loss was both practical and sentimental. My wife bought the scraper during our first winter back in the frozen Midwest after several years in the warm South. It took some looking, and ultimately shopping online, but she found exactly what I needed. The eggshell white high-impact plastic stock was a about two feet long with a hard bristle brush. It was the perfect gaffi stick to wield in the brutal six-month battle that is winter. The long handle gave needed leverage, but the ultimate source of its power was the metal blade at the business end. Where plastic scrapers do little more than massage the ice, the metal blasts through in a single pass.

Sure, I’ve used plastic blades in the past, but they’re futile tools when it comes to freeing cars that are encased in ice.

Since moving back to the Midwest, I’ve occasionally glanced at snow tool assortments in stores and noticed the lack of metal. So, the day after my scraper slid from the roof into frozen oblivion, I found myself at a national chain auto parts store looking for a replacement, hoping to find something beyond the big box discount store offerings. The place specialized in car parts and accessories, so it seemed the logical choice.

The stand near the door had nothing but plastic — small fit-in-your-pocket scrapers with plastic blades, long snow brooms with plastic blades. It had a nice assortment of colors.

“Do you have anything with aluminum tips?” I asked.

The clerk said he didn’t and went on to guess the government had banned them because he hadn’t seen any in a long time. It had something to do with people scratching up their windshields, he continued.

I explained that I had been using metal for more than 10 years and never had a scratch. He said the government was overstepping its bounds.

I left with a plastic scraper, price about $8, as a stop-gap until I could find something better. If nothing else, I could drive by the scene in spring when the highway snow banks melt.

That night, I searched the internet for any sign of the government meddling in metal scrapers and found none. Big Brother wasn’t behind it, just lazy retailers. What I did learn was the metal scraper blades are brass, not aluminum, according to several online hardware stores selling them. Asking price was $8 with another $10 for shipping.