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What's Your Line? Everyday WNYers with offbeat occupations A man who can move mountain -- of snow

Sam Grossman, a veteran truck driver with the Buffalo Streets Department, is a guy people are happy to see in the winter.

Well, maybe after the first snowfall.

Here's what he says about the rest of those snowy days:

What was the worst storm you've ever worked?

A few years ago, we got 7 feet of snow in 10 days. It just kept snowing and snowing. Some of the streets that you were struggling with one day, you couldn't even get into the next day, you needed high-lifts, those big machines with the buckets on the front. If they're parked on both sides, you can take the center out, but you bury the whole line of cars, and now you're not making any friends.

There's an e-mail about snow in Buffalo - Day 1, everybody's waving at you. Day 2, everybody's kind of grinning at you. By Day 3, the shovels start flying. Just about the third day, people have had enough of you burying their driveways and their cars. First day, you're a big hero. Then after that, you're on a downhill slide.

Some people are really good - most people are. I'm surprised at the amount of cooperation. You're going to get a knucklehead here or there, but you just ignore it. If you can help somebody out - you see an old person out shoveling, I'll swing and make sure that snow pops out of their driveway for them. There's still a lot of old-timers who live on their own.

What's the longest shift you've ever worked?

I've done 24 hours straight, but that's really pushing the limit. We're allowed up to 16, unless it's a state of emergency.

Do you always plow the same area?

Yeah, unless it's needed somewhere else. Generally I run from Broadway and Herman around the Broadway Market all the way out to Bailey from William, as far as Delevan. Usually there's two of us in there, but with the manpower, sometimes you're on your own.

That seems like a complicated area to plow.

You've got a lot of small streets, but the main problems are cars. A lot of times people come out and move cars from one side to the other. If a neighbor knows whose car it is, they'll go get him, or get the keys and move it for you.

And if you do go around a car like that, he's plowed in good and solid, isn't he?

Yeah, sometimes. (Laughing.) That does happen, but you have to get a path down a street. We've led police and fire engines down streets because they can't get down - there is a need for us, and it is a tough job. A lot of times you're not going fast enough for people, and they'll pass you on the left, they'll pass you on the right, which is the most dangerous thing for them to do. They just have to slow down and let us do our jobs.

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com

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