Dear Urban Diplomat: I cleared my neighbour’s snow last year just to be nice. This year, he expects the same again. Am I obliged?
Dear Urban Diplomat,
I have a snowblower, so as a favour I did my neighbour’s driveway a few times last year. In the spring, he thanked me with a nice bottle of Scotch. Great, right? Well, last week he dropped off another bottle with a card thanking me, in advance, for doing his driveway this year! It’s shockingly presumptuous, but did I ask for it? What can I do?
—Winter Is Coming, Cedarvale
Your neighbour’s pre-emptive strike changes the arrangement from an occasional favour to a regular duty. By accepting the Scotch, you are, in a sense, accepting the terms of a contract, and that’s problematic. What if you don’t feel like clearing his driveway? What if you go away on vacation? You have every right to leave the bottle on his doorstep along with directions to the snow shovels at the nearest Canadian Tire. But I’d try something a little more subtle: knock on his door and say that while you’re touched by the gesture, the gift is way too much for “a now-and-again neighbourly nicety.” He should get the message loud and clear—and will more than likely respond that that’s all he had in mind and insist you keep the bottle. In both ways, you win.
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