I live in an 8-unit condominium building on a fairly major
street in Cambridge Massachusetts. The condo rules state that
each owner is responsible for clearing snow from the area in front
of their door. Cambridge law allows the police to ticket a
homeowner who has not cleared the snow within a day of the
snowfall stopping. This has been on the books for some time, but
this year is the first I’ve heard of anyone actually getting a ticket.
I interpret the condo rule as meaning that everybody is
responsible for getting one eighth of the snow shoveling done.
There are storms big enough that I can’t do that much in one
outing, because it causes the arthritis in my hands to act up.
I’ve told people this, and both the owner downstairs and one of
the ones next door have responded that they don’t mind doing my
share. And in fact, they frequently do do the area in front of my
door as well as the one in front of theirs.
I really can’t figure out how people came to this conclusion
that they should do the area in front of their door, and no more
and no less. Maybe they never walk anywhere, and don’t know that
two well-shoveled doorways separated by an area of unshoveled snow
is just as useless as no snow being shoveled? Maybe all they’re
trying to do is avoid a fine, and they don’t care about making
walking easier for the pedestrians?
At the condo meeting before Christmas where we discussed this
issue, I tried to go on after my speech about not always being
able to do my share of the heavy lifting to explain that therefore
I tried to do more than my share of putting down salt and sweeping
the steps clear. This fell on completely deaf ears. I don’t know
whether it was the idea of doing anything in front of anyone
else’s door, or the idea that the job of dealing with the snow was
more than just the initial shoveling that was too foreign or
complicated for them.
When I’m one of the first people out shoveling, I try to do a
complete one-shovel path across the entire lot before I go on to
clear more of the section in front of my door. Nobody else does
this. If I hadn’t done it yesterday, there would be a section
with no shoveling, because one owner didn’t do any. He may be out
of town; he usually shovels his doorway.
If we were really public-spirited, we would not only all
contribute to clearing the whole of our own sidewalk, but also
assist the people on either side of us in cutting an outlet to the
street at the corner and at the neighbor’s driveway. This is much
harder than just shoveling the sidewalk, because the stuff the
plow leaves at the side of the road is much harder work to move
than the snow that falls on the sidewalk. Also, it has to be well
timed, because if you do it too early, the plows come and plow it
up again, and of course if you leave it too late it turns even
icier and harder to deal with.
I haven’t even tried
explaining the part about helping our neighbors at a condo meeting.
For a while, I was grumbling that it would be easier for the
city to buy little plows for the sidewalks and just do it for
people than to go around ticketing people who don’t do it and
having a complicated system of exemptions for people who shouldn’t
get tickets. But then I had lunch one day in downtown Haverhill,
where they do have the little plows. For some reason the little
plows hadn’t gotten to the block I was on before the snow turned
into ice, and nobody had shoveled or put salt or sand down either.