It’s not often that I advocate breaking the law, as well as shattering the social compact that binds Minnesotans together in our most perilous times, but the alternative is shattering your hip.
Here’s the heresy, as hot and straight as I can serve it: Don’t shovel your walk. Everyone will be better off.
Now, let me qualify that a bit before the Minneapolis Snow Police SWAT team shows up at my door.
As you may have noticed, we have been provided, free of charge, with a generous ration of snow, courtesy of the Thanksgiving Snow Nightmare Crisis of 2019. We’ll be talking about that one for years, right?
“Well, they started warning us about the Death Storm a few days before, and I didn’t pay no mind until the TV stations sent reporters to the airport to interview people who had changed their flights and were leaving a day early. That’s when I realized our lives were at stake.”
No, we won’t say that. It wasn’t a bad storm. And, yes, I went out in advance for bread, milk and toilet paper. But something in my bones said the storm was oversold, and I’d be fine with a baguette, a school-lunch carton of skim and a single roll.
The storm had a few phases. The first ration of snow I removed with the snowblower, which is a one-stage machine. (The difference between a one-stage and a two-stage is that no one with a two-stage ever wishes they had a one-stage.)
Then came more snow, which was either a heavy dusting or a light coating — you need a meteorologist’s license to know the difference.
It seemed like overkill to gas up the Toro to snowblow a dusting, and if you understand that sentence, you are a true Minnesotan. But you have to shovel the walks, right? It’s the law.
I made one quick pass with a shovel. Then it snowed again, so I fueled up the hard-precipitation rearranger, and if you understand that sentence you are a true Minnesotan with a thesaurus.
Under the snow … was ice.
Ice is our enemy. A month ago we walked the sidewalks with a carefree stride; now we look for those shiny patches that spell treachery. One moment you’re striding along, next moment you’re thinking,: “So my tailbone is made of peanut brickle. Who knew?”
Sure, you can attach to your shoes those metal grippy-things — I hope I’m not getting too technical for you — and walk along with confidence. But sometimes you forget you have them on. You’re listening to the news as you walk the dog, you get all het up about something and leave them on when you get home, only to discover deep bright gouges in the floor all over the house an hour later.
“Honey, I think we need to trim the dog’s nails,” you shout, but trust me, that works only once.
Here’s where I start to run afoul of the law. If we don’t shovel the dusting, it provides protection from the ice. A thin layer of crunchy snow gives you traction. Besides, we’ll never get the sidewalks down to bare cement for the rest of winter, and we all know it. If the compacted dusting is slickery, strew some grit — another sentence Minnesotans understand without explanation.
Along with “it’s too early to be tired of this,” but that’s not something only we say. Aloud.