Saturday, February 17, 2007

East Coast Etiquette

Here in Urbania, we're finally getting used to the aftereffects of the snowstorm. Senor Fluff and I spent the better part of Wednesday (yes, while the snow was falling) and Thursday and even a bit of yesterday digging out our driveway, sidewalk, and the two cars. NOTE TO SELF: park closer to the damn street so you don't have to dig out those extra 5 feet of driveway.

Aside from that crucial, back-breaking mistake mentioned above, I think the two of us are getting used to this whole living-in-cold-weather-country gig. After all, between our time in the Midwest and on the East Coast, we've booked about 10 years away from our balmy points of origin. It's been a rocky transition, however, and I'm still not sure that I get all of the finer points of living in snowy climes. Y'all have very particular cultural norms and expectations that are not always clear to us furriners.

One of the experiences that Senor Fluff and I share is that of being berated by Midwestern neighbors about our lack of community mindedness during snow season. Independently (in fact, before we ever met, when I was but a lass and Senor Fluff was well on his way to maturity), we were each taken to task for the venal sin--oh, the horror!--of failing to shovel the sidewalk in front of our respective domiciles. In my case, my wizened neighbor, who looked a lot like an elderly Ichabod Crane (not of the Johnny Depp in the Tim Burton movie, unfortunately) marched up to my door at 9 a.m. to inform me that I had better watch myself. For Senor Fluff, it was a similar dressing down, although carried out by his roommate at the time. In both instances, we were utterly floored. WHO KNEW?!! It's not as if, when you move to places with snowy winters, someone gives you a handbook. I thought I was doing my civic duty by not trying to drive in the snow. No one told me that I was responsible for my 12 feet of sidewalk! Contrary to popular Northeastern beliefs, this stuff is not common sense!

Let me give you an example from my corner of the country. It's summer. When do you water your lawn?

If you answered "after 7 p.m. and not every day" then you're at least within the legal range. You get extra points for saying "I shouldn't have a lawn as the West is going through a historic drought. I have xeriscaping." If, however, you responded with "whenever the hell I want and is convenient for me," you've proven my point exactly.

So, with that in mind, snow country natives, answer me this. Where is the polite and appropriate place to aim your blown snow? Unlike us, the neighbors on both sides of our house own snowblowers. with one, we share a driveway, and the other has a small parking area behind the house that directly abuts our backyard. As the two cleared their driveways, they directed the arc of snow not into their own small strips of yard, but rather into ours (which, to be fair, is probably twice the size of each of theirs). The result of this? They have about two feet on their strips of lawn, and we have 5-6 piled up in our backyard. [I should post a picture. The snow field has eclipsed the fence.]

Is this common practice?! It seems rather presumptuous to me (since when the snow melts, were going to be re-enacting Titanic back there), but I'm willing to be told that this is a typical neighborly duty.

Give it up, Northeasterners. Write me a handbook.


Blogger Flavia said...

Dude, I have no answers for this shit, but I'm here to say that I feel you. Luckily I'm just renting (and my landlord contracts with someone to plow our parking area), but it's all still a big mystery. I *think* some municipal entity plows our sidewalks (lil' tiny snowplow, apparently), but I have no idea. Sometimes it's nicely plowed, other times, not. My friend who bought a house has found herself plowed into her driveway, every single day, by the snow that the plower has nicely *relocated* from the ends of all her neighbors' driveways. Is she supposed to pay him not to do that? Bribe him with cookies? Who knows?

I also suspect that I'm being a Bad Renter for never having shoveled off my back (second-story) porch, which now has about three feet of snow on it, or the long steps leading down from said porch. . . but seriously, who has the time?

And anyway, it'll all melt soon, right? (Right??)

Saturday, February 17, 2007 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

The snowblower thing is definitely rude. But I have to admit that I've done my share of complaining (today, in fact!) about folks who don't shovel their sidewalks. In my town, in fact, you can get fined for not doing it. And you can be subject to being sued if someone slips on your sidewalk or driveway. It never even occurred to me that it wouldn't be obvious to shovel these things, because my mother has sent me out into the cold to do it ever since I could wield a shovel without toppling over! Guess I need to adjust my worldview to be more sensitive to non-native New Englanders :).

Saturday, February 17, 2007 3:30:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Clearly I've been here too long, because I also find myself momentarily cursing unshoveled sidewalks too, Kate. [I wonder what the Western equivalent of childhood sidewalk clearing is?] But all it takes is a moment like the one Flavia describes (back porch--does it matter? Do I have to?) and I'm right back in my West Coast brain.

Flavia, I love how this subject shifts your linguistic center. Dude. :)

Sunday, February 18, 2007 10:48:00 AM  

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