A Treatise on the Length of Handles

I am not a particularly tall man, as men go.

According to Uncle John's Monumental Bathroom Reader (a book that my sister purchased for us to keep in the bathroom because, you know, you've got to have reading material in there, and Reader's Digest these days most emphatically ain't what it used to be), 25% of American men are over six feet tall. Even if the precision of this statistic is in doubt, the general principle is undeniable: there are a lot of men out there who are taller than, you know, the short people.

Well, 25% of American men may be over six feet tall, but I'm not. I don't know my exact height, but my father, who is significantly taller than I am, is still a couple of inches shy of six feet. So presumably more than 25% of American men are taller than my father, and I can tell you for certain that a good deal more than 25% (perhaps as many as 50%) of American men are taller than I am. I'm not shrimpy short, but I'm not especially tall either.

Which brings me around to my main topic of snow shovels, and specifically, the length of snow shovel handles. Apparently the entire snow shovel industry is run by eight-year-old children and/or four-foot-tall women, because it is difficult to buy a snow shovel with a handle that comes anywhere near shoulder height on me (let alone on a tall man). Waist height is more typical. (Okay, so my waist is a little higher than average for a man my height. Still.) By the time you angle the shovel at the thirty-five degrees (from horizontal) or so that you need in order to get next to the sidewalk and separate the snow from it, this means the handle is at, approximately, knee height. (Okay, so my knees are a little higher than average for a man my height, and maybe you could make a shovel work at forty degrees, forty-five if it's got a well-angled edge in good condition. Still.) Even if we assume that twice as many women shovel snow as men (which seems unlikely to me), and that 100% of women are shorter than I am (which is definitely not true), that still means a double-digit percentage of the snow-shoveling population is WAY too tall to use the shovels that are commonly available.

WHY should I have to bend over (or, worse, kneel) until my head is barely above the level of my waist? Is there a good reason for this? (Hint: No, there is not.) I'm not yet forty years old, so I can do that for a couple of minutes, but if I have to shovel any _significant_ amount of area, the bending over gets old. Fast. My back and waist and knees get tired *way* before my arms do, even if it's heavy snow. And my arms are not exactly what you'd call the athletic sort, as anyone who knows me can attest.

And heaven forfend I should want to shovel my way *down* the stairs, starting from the top, from inside the house. (Apparently, it doesn't ever snow at night in Snow Shovel Design Land, or something.) In that case I would have to be enough of a gymnast to bend over until my elbows are level with my ankles. Haha. While that would admittedly make an amusing cartoon short, I am in practice not nearly that flexible, so I generally have to step on the snow I'm about to shovel (which, if it's the kind of warm wet snow we tend to get most of the time around here (albeit, not today), makes it rather harder to shovel afterward) to get to the bottom and work my way back up.

I can sort of understand why shovel handles, when measured from the tip of the blade, might only come to three and a half or four feet, if you were only concerned about selling the blessed things in Japan, where the idea that a man might be six feet tall is simultaneously silly and yet also somewhat terrifying. But in the Western world, where it's *common* for a man to be six feet tall or more, and we have entire chains of clothing stores that cater exclusively to men who are over six and a half feet all, why does nobody sell a snow shovel with a longer handle? I'd buy one. I bet a lot of other guys would too.

Incidentally, there are other things I'd like to have with a longer handle as well. Garden implements, leaf rakes, brooms, mops... one could imagine an entire product line based around this simple concept. But the top of the list, as far as I'm concerned, is the snow shovel.


Chris Bernholdt said...

Thank goodness you have tackled this problem. The same thing goes for anything with a handle, namely strollers which I cannot walk behind without stepping on. I am 6'7" so I long for a long handled shovel as well.

Michiel said...

So true.. Can't find a decent shovel.