Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tell Renate I shoveled out the path

Our neighbor made an unfortunate mistake when we announced that we would once again spend the winter in Belarus: She didn’t appear to be interested in much more than knowing who would shovel our share of the snow in the courtyard we own jointly. (We had already arranged for help, but we did hope that she might have some additional interests.) I thought of her today as I shoveled out a footpath beside our driveway.

Our main entrance is on the side of our building facing the yard, not the street. Most commonly then, we walk up a wide driveway to reach our door. During the winter, however, the driveway gets narrow. There is one crew responsible for plowing out space for cars to drive on, and there’s another crew responsible for clearing off our sidewalk. Unfortunately, there’s an awkward area where the sidewalk ends and the pedestrian gate stands on the inside edge of the driveway. Since cars can’t drive there but it’s not a sidewalk, neither crew considers it a part of their job to clear from snow.

When we got our first snowfall, I went out with a dustpan to open a clear footpath. The snow kept falling and after a few days I fell so far behind I gave up on the dustpan and smoothed out a narrower path with my shoe. As the snow accumulated more the footpath got farther from the pavement, but sandy footprints suggested that our neighbors also used my path.

I wanted to get it dug out properly and tried to sweet-talk the sidewalk crew into doing it for me with their shovels. They smiled pleasantly, did a very nice job on the sidewalk, and left the path for somebody else. I kept meaning to buy a shovel if I could not borrow one from one of the crews, but did not manage either until today.

Somebody left an old-school plywood shovel in front of our house this morning. Maybe its user finally got upgraded to an aluminum shovel, or maybe somebody finally discerned my plight and just left me a tool. In any event, I used it as soon as I came back from the university. I’m surprised at how light it is. And it worked a lot better than an aluminum shovel for hacking out the frozen crust at the bottom, but I’m afraid the wooden blade may be even shorter now than it was when I found it. Anyway, I’m proud to have a fine footpath cleared.

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