Thursday, January 06, 2005
Pedestrian Road Rage
You may have heard that it's snowing in Chicago. As of this writing it has been coming down constantly since 8:00 Tuesday night. Remember when you were a kid and you looked forward to the snow, skipping school and making forts and snowmen?
Boy, I sure don't. First the weather turned our trip to Ohio for Christmas into a nightmare, trapped in the frozen hellscape of I-70 for hours with no way out because none of the exits had been plowed. Now I've spent two days clearing the same little patches of sidewalk and street over and over again. For grownups, snow brings hard work and the risk of death.
I have to admit that I enjoy the exercise somewhat. But the whole thing makes me grumpy, because I also consider it a social responsibility to clear one's sidewalk to prevent injury to the young and old who try to walk down the street. Walking to the El this morning was treacherous even for me, and I'm fairly able-bodied, because so many people and business have neglected their civic duty.
Now I don't mind helping out. In a city neighborhood we only have about 15' of sidewalk a piece, and I'm glad to pitch in for someone who's not home. But when we're getting something like 14" of snow over a few days, and going over the same ground again and again, I could use a little help.
The people who annoy me the most are the young people who are renting apartments in Pete's 3-flat across the street. Perhaps it's a diffusion of responsibility type situation, where everyone expects someone else to do it and Pete should step in and make it clear whose responsibility it is. But I suspect they come from a background where Daddy always did it and they have never had to take responsibility for anything. They won't even shovel the front steps (which are steep and high), they just keep stepping in the same footprints on the way to their cars. If somebody slips and falls on the inevitable ice they should sue these cretins.
I bring this up in part to weigh in on the subject of "Dibs," the citywide system of street clearance under which if you shovel a parking spot, you get to hold it with a chair until the streets are cleared. Eric Zorn opposes this practice on the grounds that it's somehow barbaric. But I figure, if most people won't come out and shovel, the people that do the work deserve dibs on the space cleared. And parking might be an incentive to get more people out on the street who would otherwise be content to let me do all the work, "tragedy of the commons" style.
Yesterday I waved off Pops when he tried to park in a spot I'd just cleared for my wife - I actually was trying to wave him forward because there are three spots between 3-flat's curb cut and the alley, not two, and he was taking two spots. But Pops doesn't speak much English and I couldn't explain the problem to him, so he parked across the street. I felt bad about this momentarily, but I don't now. He hasn't shoveled his 15' of sidewalk either. Now it's true he's not such a spring chicken anymore, and I'd be glad to help him if he asked (assuming we shared a common language). But I did all I could last night and this morning, and none of you lazy cretins better take our spot.
Winter can bring either haunting beauty or injury and inconvenience to the neighborhood, depending on how selfish and lazy people are. And this goes for institutions such as banks, churches and private schools, too. Just because you built a fence around your parking lot doesn't mean you're not responsible for clearing the sidewalk on the other side of it. It's been two days. In a perfect world, tomorrow there would be an orange $50 ticket on the door of every negligent household or institution who didn't live up to their civic responsibility. How's that for a budget-balancing idea, Richie?