I have this neighbor who shall remain anonymous, but he knows who he is. We happen to share a driveway, which is neither here nor there, except when it snows. Then, as often as not, the neighbor is nowhere to be found. I actually believe he sometimes leaves town in order to avoid shoveling his half of the driveway. Last year, it got so bad I could barely see his house behind the mountain of snow. Which is fine, I guess, except I always wind up having to shovel at least some of it myself so that I can move our cars in and out. And does he thank me? Not that I've noticed. He did shovel our sidewalk once, if you want to call it shoveling. He just kind of cleared a path wide enough for one person to get through. The rest of the time, he doesn't even get around to his own sidewalk, let alone ours. People have reported him, and I know he got at least one ticket, but he just doesn't seem to care.
What can you do with a guy like that?
Frosty: There oughta be a law! Wait a minute, there is a law, except I'm not sure it covers driveways. It definitely covers sidewalks, though, because a neighbor of mine who had to drag her cockapoo through a foot and a half of fresh powder once recited the entire ordinance to me from memory, and I know she mentioned sidewalks because she went on to explain how they're public thoroughfares, not unlike streets and highways. Since she was standing in a public thoroughfare at the time (albeit with a frightened pooch clinging to her coat like a little white fur ball), I resisted the urge to tell her to get the hell off my property. But you can bet I gave her a piece of my mind. "Sorry 'bout that," I said. "We've been meaning to get around to it."
And we had been. It's just that snow removal can be so...laborious. I understand there are people who like doing it, and I'd be happy to supply my address upon request. But for the rest of us, it's a chore at best, at worst a herniated disc followed by a heart attack followed by this vision of walking toward the white light, which turns out to be a god-damn cockapoo, yip-yipping like a...like a god-damn cockapoo. Hence, the need for an ordinance, which regrettably omits any mention of how to split things up with the neighbors. I've lived next to people before who were so good at shoveling the sidewalk right up to the property line - but not an inch beyond! - that I simply assumed they were land surveyors, that or psychopaths.
Alternatively, I've had neighbors who stopped a little shorter of the property line with each successive snowfall so that by late-January I was essentially shoveling their sidewalk as well as mine. Another variation: neighbors who go whole hog early in the year, shoveling the whole driveway, sweeping off all the cars, sprinkling salt where needed, filling both yards with ice sculptures cast from old yogurt containers, then disappear right around Christmas, leaving you with months and months of karma debt to work off. And I'm not even going to mention the neighbors - I saw you with my own binoculars! - who pile up all the snow at the curb so there's no place to put the garbage and recycling cans except in the street, which I believe is illegal, maybe not.
I don't know what to tell you, Frosty. Have a talk with the guy? Report him to the authorities? (cityofmadison.com/reportproblem/ snowremoval.cfm) Bury him under an avalanche? Whatever you decide, keep in mind that the ground we share with our neighbors is sacred. Nobody owns it. Nobody lives alone. We're all in this together. Well, it's getting pretty deep around here. I better start shoveling.
To test out your new snow blower on my sidewalk, write to: Mr. Right, Isthmus, 101 King St., Madison, WI 53703. Or call 251-1206, ext. 152. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.