Inches From Doom




How I survived hip-deep sidewalk snow piles.It seems to me that, in the last couple of winters, the sidewalks in my fair city have become more difficult to traverse.

Perhaps the passing of the years has something to do with it, as I have become increasingly less agile. (“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick. Jack beware, the ground is slick.”) But it seems more sidewalks than before are left frozen over with ice and snow until it all finally melts.

I recall crossing a bridge last year where the snow on the walkways was about shoulder deep. I had to walk on the road, carefully keeping as close to the curb as I could. I met a pedestrian coming the other way and I mentioned to him that the city didn’t seem to be paying much attention to its sidewalks.

“No,” he said. “They don’t care if we get runned (sic) over.”

Perhaps his former English teachers wouldn’t care, either. But he seemed like a good fellow and it would be a shame to lose him or others like him to motorists who brake for cats and squirrels, while ignoring the plight of human pedestrians.

On another occasion I was making my way home along a two-lane, one-way street, where the accumulations of snow on the sidewalks were merely hip deep. The conventional rule is that, where there are no sidewalks, the pedestrian should walk facing traffic. But since I was going in the same direction as both lanes of traffic, I would have had to walk backwards to follow the rule. I thought the going was difficult enough.

The motorists neither slowed nor made much of an effort to miss me as they went whizzing by, sparing my life by a matter of inches. I might have been safer in the middle of the road, disguised as a dead raccoon. But it seemed to me that at the cost of about 10 seconds or less of their precious time, the motorists could have slowed when they saw me and maneuvered carefully over into the other lane until they passed me. But few, if any, did.

So I started yelling at them, often in a language that the angels do not know. One of them stopped and yelled back at me, wanting to know why I didn’t just “get the (bleep) out of the road!” I hollered back that the sidewalks were impassable, but he, being a motorist, didn’t care. He wasn’t “into” sidewalks.

When I turned off the road and into the alleyway leading to my home, I noticed a police car had stopped at the entrance and the officer driving it was staring at me.

“Something wrong officer?” I inquired.

“Why are you swearing at the motorists?” he asked.

I explained the situation to him and he seemed understanding of my plight. So he offered me a compromise I couldn’t refuse.

“Well, you can’t swear at the motorists,” he insisted. “You can yell at them, but you can’t swear.”

Well, I thought I was doing a pretty good job of it. But if the officer says I can’t swear at the motorists, then by Jove, I can’t swear at the motorists. But if just one pedestrian, out on the road because the sidewalks are impassable, should be struck by a passing car, chances are the city will pay a pretty price to settle the resulting lawsuit. And when the mayor and the aldermen get the bill, my guess is someone will be calling on the name of the Lord.

I’ll bet the name won’t be “Jove.” NH

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