Dear Urban Diplomat: how do I deliver a snow shovelling etiquette lesson to my delinquent neighbours ?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
After a snowfall, I shovel the sidewalk in front of my house fairly early in the morning. I usually do my neighbours’ walk, as well. I’ve never received a thank you, which is fine, but recently they pushed my generosity to the limit. I was laid up with the flu for a few days, unable to leave the house. In my feverish delirium, I thought my neighbours might step up and shovel my walk, in a sense to return the favour. Instead, they piled the snow from their strip onto my sidewalk. The devil on my shoulder is telling me to issue them an earful, while the angel is telling me to take the high road and let it go. What should I do?
—Oh, shovel it,
That’s not an angel; it’s your inner coward. Foisting their snowy refuse in front of your house is downright bellicose, and I forbid you to ignore such a blatant breach of civility. You live downtown, which means that if you were in bed for over 12 hours, you could have landed a $125 fine from the city, a fine that you have likely spared your neighbours many times. Don’t wait to bump into them on garbage day; knock on their door and explain your side of things, with an added cough to emphasize that they’re being especially un-neighbourly considering your weakened state. Proper Torontonians would feel intense guilt, apologize profusely and shovel your walk until the spring thaw, but don’t count on it. These people sound either ignorant of or indifferent to the complex system of unwritten rules that enables urban coexistence. Expect to be greeted with a confused look and a quizzical “You’re totally overreacting, dude.” The lesson: provide good deeds for needier and more grateful parties. Do not come crying to us when your neighbours fail to rake your leaves this fall.
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