Friday, February 1, 2008

Team Shovel, On Your Marks

Anyone else hear tiny tinkling bells? Last night the biggest winter storm of the year buried Chicago in about eight inches of dusty white. It's the kind of snow that sticks to your eyelids and rests before it melts.

We live in a city, like most, that uses public resources to clear the streets for drivers, but leaves sidewalks to the mercy of property owners. This is not an ideal system (especially for the injured or infirm, who can't be expected to manage the job). Nothing gets my ire up like buildings chock full of the able-bodied, who will dig out their own personal vehicles but leave the sidewalks to hope of a sunny day. It makes for some treacherous walking. I've surrendered my delusions of fashion for boots that would make a mother proud: fuzzy lining, thick soles, waterproof exterior.

We're fortunate, though, to live on a block where a covenant has emerged. No one shovels just their own walk anymore. You take care of your neighbors, and rest assured they'll take care of you back. What started with just one or two adjacent houses has turned into a regular charm bracelet: add as you go. Our territory now extends from Eugenio's house to the southern end of the block, where the sidewalk dips into the street. We'll catch every house, probably 700 feet across once we've cleared the last patch. A couple of hours later we might be in the living room, getting ready to walk Inez, and hear that telltale sound of metal to concrete: there's one of our neighbors, buried under parka and fleece, tackling the next round of snow.

There's something pretty majestic about getting up before dawn and heading out to shovel, yet again, after the snow has continued to fall through the night. And there are your morning comrades, sporadically working their shovels up and down the block: some in silence, some shouting greetings to each other in Spanish, and some, like our neighbor two houses down, just getting home after the night shift and taking care of business before heading to bed.


leslie said...

What a pretty photo. Your house looks so sweet.

Stove said...

What a coincidence! We were talking about this on the train this morning. Then, I thought about it again as I was walking Diamond. I'd rather pay for sidewalk maintenance than road.