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JANUARY 28, 2009   

A path through the snow

View up 32nd St. showing shoveled and unshoveled sidewalksI have this theory that I apply whenever I walk down the street after a snowfall:

Houses with walks that are shoveled are city people. Even a skinny path through the drifts is acceptable.

Houses with driveways shoveled clean but sidewalks untouched are transplants from the suburbs. They don't understand that in city neighborhoods people walk places.

Unshoveled sidewalks mean people are oblivious to the needs of those who choose to walk to the store. Or maybe they don't care about anyone who can't afford a car to drive to church. This attitude just isn't neighborly, dammit. If you can afford the time and energy to clear an eight foot wide driveway you can spend five more minutes making a path in front of your house.

View down 32nd St. with mostly unshoveled sidewalksI grew up on Cleveland's East Side, near E. 93rd and Union. As soon as I was old enough to handle a snow shovel my dad would send me outside as often as necessary to keep our sidewalks clear.

Of course this was in the 50s and 60s when people still walked places: to the bus stop at the corner, to the store, to church. Most families had only one car which dad took to work. Everyone else was on foot, at least as far as the bus stop. Having walkable sidewalks in the snow was important to you and your neighbors.

I remember that dad would make me shovel the walk of the Plastines, our neighbors to the west. They were old folks, so it was my job to keep their walk clean too.

This memory hit me like a ton of bricks last week when I looked outside and saw that our sidewalk had been shoveled. I guess it was our new neighbor feeling sorry for the old folks. Saved me some work, but there was a big psychic price to pay.

Still, I appreciate the gesture. That's what neighbors do. That's what living in a city should be about.

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