Cast your mind back to the cruel hard days of January, when winter ruled without challenge.

There were minor thaws, refreezes, dustings of snow. The sidewalks were silicone-slick; a bare patch of sidewalk hid a slight stratum of ice that would upend you in a second if the dog bolted on the leash. The world was treacherous. We moved like soldiers through a mine field.

And then you got out the grit. The grit was good. The grit was the homeowner's way of saying: "I know, I know, I didn't shovel, there were reasons, OK? I did shovel, but then it snowed again, and I was watching 'The Crown,' and I got really interested and I watched, like, three episodes in a row, unaware that the snow on my sidewalk had melted and reformed into ice as the temps fell. It happens!"

To which someone might note: "Well, I like 'The Crown,' too, but I managed to keep my sidewalk shoveled."

"OK, jolly for you and pip pip, old chap, but my block has a slight incline, and that means that melted snow from the neighbors' yards flows down and refreezes overnight. So if I'm watching 'The Crown,' and I pause the Netflix and go to the window at, say, 10 p.m. and look out at the sidewalk, it looks bare and safe. Now, if I set an alarm and got up at 3 a.m., I might see the streetlights reflected in the newly formed ice that reminds one of Gillian Anderson's chilly impersonation of Margaret Thatcher, but I didn't."

So fast-forward to the thaw, when the snow left and we had the usual delusions about imminent spring. The grit remained on the walk. I wondered whether I should sweep it up. A dog could step on it and suffer momentary discomfort. No, wait, they have thick pads that deal with things like this. If there's someone out there who moisturizes Fifi's paw pads so they have the quality of a tender grape, that's not a reason for me to sweep off the grit.

Still, it nagged me. And by "it" I mean my better half, who said I should sweep it up.

"I am lazy," I said, taking care to pronounce the words, "Besides, it will snow again." I added that I don't think barefoot runners will be racing through the neighborhood anytime soon, so we're good.

Then she pointed out something I had never considered, because I am a man. She scans the world for problems to be addressed; I scan the world for situations to be explained.

The grit, she said, was so thick in some spots that it actually was a hazard. It was now possible to slip on the sidewalk because of an excess of loose grit.

Let me get this straight: To keep people from slipping on the sidewalk, I put down grit. Then, to keep people from slipping on the sidewalk, I remove the grit. Fine.

Before I got around to cleaning up the excess grit — which I probably never would have done, anyway — it snowed. My shovel blade made a harsh raw sound that told me I was scraping up grit, which of course I tossed on the boulevard, which of course will be picked up by a lawn mower in two months and sprayed into the side of a passing car like bomb shrapnel.

These are the things you want to tell a new neighbor who just moved here from Georgia, but really, you don't know where to begin. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •