The economy's in the doldrums, and the weather outside is frightful - as I write this, it's bitter cold and last weekend's double-whammy storm means that what's really frightful is the footing outside.
As they do every year, a spokesperson for the city has been on TV warning that residents who don't shovel their sidewalks down to the pavement will be fined $50, and businesses who don't the same will be fined $200. This message doesn't seem to have trickled down to all the residents and businesses quite yet.
So, you can walk a ways on clear sidewalk, then hit a width-of-a-building patch that's hip-breaking ice. So, all I want for Christmas this year is a personal sander to lead my way whenever I step toe outside of the house. That or another 300 square foot worth of condo so there's room for both me and my husband to spend 24/7 together, thus making it bearable to stay put when the walking is slip slidin' away.
The condo building I live is in flanked by people who do a half-assed shoveling version on one side, and a no-assed version on the other.
While I was cleaning our sidewalk the other day - while we do have a "professional" shoveler this year, i.e., someone other the me, we had a bit more unexpected precip after he left on Sunday, so I did the final cleanup - the no-assed shoveler on the one side stopped by to give me his philosophy on not-shoveling his sidewalk.
He told me that he is from Buffalo, and, thus, is an expert on how to act under winter conditions. He pointed out - quite correctly, I'll admit - that it's easier to walk in snow than it is to walk on just-shoveled bricks. Although I don't have Buffalo Peter's authority, I do hale from Worcester - the Buffalo of Massachusetts - plus I've been living in a brick sidewalk neighborhood for a good long time. So I was able to point back out to Buffalo Peter that this is true as long as the snow stays deep and crisp and even. Once it gets tromped on by pedestrians, and does its normal settling in, that nice, crisp, good-grip snow turns to ice. Buffalo Peter acknowledged that I am, in fact, correct, but I noticed that - as of Christmas Eve Eve - his frontage remained uncleared and had become, in fact, an ice pack that one can easily imaging Little Eva trying to make her way across.
The half-assed shoveler on the other side does at least have someone shovel, but whoever it is must work mid-storm. There is always a bit left over to turn into ice cap. Plus they cut such a narrow swath that when I walk in front of their house I feel like aerialist dare-devil Phillipe Petit* as I make my way down the sidewalk, gingerly placing one foot in front of the other.
But my real gripe with the half-assed shoveler house is that whoever they get to shovel doesn't shovel a curb cut at the corner, nor does that shoveler clear out the storm drain.
Thus, when you get to the corner, you have to negotiate a hard, steep, crusty snow mound plowed up by the City of Boston. Once you crest the mound, the general course of events is slipping down the other side and landing knee deep in a frozen water puddle.
This is not unique to this particular curb cut. Curb and storm drain shoveling are no one in particular's responsibility. Instead, we rely on, if not on exactly the kindness of strangers, then on the decency of some citizen to come forth and clear. On my block, I have emerged as a co-captain of corner clearing, a title I share with Dick, who I would guess is well in his 70's, perhaps even 80's.
I haven't seen Dick out shoveling and clearing yet this year. Perhaps he has retired to Florida.
Before I had a chance to clear out the curb and storm drain mess from the latest storm, the lady of the half-assed house emerged, and, as I watched, slowly made her way down her partially icy stairs, and minced along her sidewalk a la Phillipe Petit as far as the corner. There she stood for a moment - apparently deciding whether or not to turn back - before electing to hazard the snow mound. She nearly missed falling on her mink coat covered keister.
I do wonder whether she asked herself whether she might not want to have her shoveler lend a hand next time there's a storm.
You never know how someone else is fixed, but I'm guessing they can afford it, since the house she lives in is a single-family, occupied by an empty nester couple, and far larger and more swank than the six-unit condo building I live in.
As for the city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style, in the downtown, shopping area, the situation is much the same as it is in the 'hood. Mostly shoveled areas, broken up by ice patches, and some exceedingly treacherous corners to negotiate.
Silver bells, silver bells? No way. What looks like silver is really just ice.
And with warmer weather and rain predicted for today, I'm sure people are thinking, why bother at this point, it'll all wash away.
But they may not have heard that Santa Claus is coming to town.
Yes, he mostly gets around on the rooftops, but if he has to set boot on the sidewalks of Boston, he may well be in for a fall. (And what if one of the reindeer has to set hoof on a sidewalk and breaks a skinny leg? They shoot horses, don't they, and I'm guessing they shoot reindeer.)
As for Santa, I'm sure that, while he may not be a particularly litigious old soul, this has probably been a slow year in terms of revenue, and, in case of a fall, he may well decide to sue the bastards.
This snappy fellow was one of my parents' first Christmas decorations, and has, thus, been around since sometime in the late 1940's, serving our family well, Christmas after Christmas. He's riding a reindeer with one broken leg - I think the piece of leg is around somewhere. The broken leg is not, however, the result of a fall sustained on an icy sidewalk but was, instead, just snapped off. (No one has owned up to the breakage.)
*In case you've forgotten Phillipe Petit, he's the guy who, way back in the 1970's, walked a tight rope between the World Trade Center Twin Towers.