Opening Letters

Slippery Sidewalks Make Me Cross

I have become the cantankerous neighbor that frightened me as a child

Jodie Arnold, illustrated by Ryan Carpentier |

My husband and I moved into our first house back in October. Since we moved in, I’ve become hyper-critical of things like poorly shoveled sidewalks and lawns that never get mowed; not to mention bicycles that get left out overnight, providing me with unexpected agility lessons while I’m running in the morning.

I have taken to shaking my fist at homes, and swearing under my breath, as I walk my dog across patches of ice requiring me to literally shuffle my feet, slide, and hope for the best. I have been known to sit at the dining room table and say things like, “Oh look. The neighbors are leaving AGAIN without shoveling!!!!!!” I’ve even scowled at these people as they pull out of the driveway. And, yes, I know they can’t see me. It’s just satisfying to get my frustrations out in a way that won’t get me arrested.

I have officially become the neighbor I used to be afraid of when I was a kid.

Before I became a homeowner, I used to live alone in an apartment on Galloway Street. Sure, I was supposed to shovel the sidewalks within 24-hours of a snowfall. But did I? Not always. (I really hope that the City of Eau Claire can’t retroactively fine me for this admission of guilt) I had more important things to do. These things escape me, but I was 22 at the time. I’m sure they were all purely selfish and completely insignificant.

When I did shovel, I pretty much didn’t do the greatest job of it. My dad would’ve been very disappointed in this. I distinctly remember getting “shoveling lessons” as a kid. I suppose that’s because it wasn’t “my” house, I felt no real duty to any of these responsibilities. Therefore, just pushing the shovel a few times along the sidewalk and creating some kind of a pathway seemed a sufficient job. In my mind, I was creating some kind of “sidewalk” carpet for people to walk down when they passed my apartment.

Man. I really hate the 22 year-old version of me.

    Fast-forward to the present. Now things like shoveling are a huge deal. Not only is it a safety issue, but having a nicely-shoveled sidewalk has somehow become a reflection of me. (Of course, I’m not the one shoveling, as this one area of my life where I’m more than happy to succumb to traditional gender roles. I figure that doing the laundry and the dishes balances it all out.)

When I pull up and see that our sidewalks aren’t shoveled, I realize that I’m temporarily living in a house that someone else might be swearing at as they struggle to trudge through the snowbanks covering the sidewalk. I am the reason why people stomp into their homes with wet pants and annoying marks all over their formerly black shoes. That ringing in my ears is probably profanities I can’t hear.

The weather lately has afforded us with many “opportunities” to get outside and take care of our sidewalks. Unfortunately, there are several people in Eau Claire who aren’t taking advantage of these opportunities to snow-blow in sub-zero temperatures.

As a former offender, I beg of you. Please start taking care of your sidewalks! If you don’t, you’ll pay for it somehow. If you’re lucky enough to avoid a fine, karma will find its way back to you in the form of flying face first into a snow bank on a very busy neighborhood street. For example. (Not that I know anything about this personally)

In the meantime, I’ll anxiously anticipate warmer temperatures and more fist-shaking opportunities during my morning run, as I trip over bicycles and toy trucks left in the middle of the sidewalk.