I’ve been surprised to discover this winter that I’m a demon with a snowshovel. That’s right. I keep the sidewalks clear around here, and I do it with a certain innate talent. I’m not a superhero, like William Macy. But I’m good. I’m consistent. And I get the job done.
Until I look at the neighbors’ driveways. I think I’ve mentioned before that this town is a little Scandinavian ghetto. So every old farmhouse has a fir tree planted on either side of the door. Every third Christmas tree is festooned with little paper Norwegian/Danish/Swedish flags. Far too many cars sport “Uff Da!” bumpstickers. Coffee-drinking is measured by the pot, not the cup. And our sidewalks, driveways, and front porches are always clean.
Keeping your concrete snow-free is pretty much the Lutheran equivalent of the mezuzah. Cherished snowblowers make a prompt appearance after each flurry, and there is much ado about what part of the sidewalk belongs to what homeowner. Of course, there is also the commitment to the common good, which means that those of us who have only shovels can count on a reasonable amount of help from more fortunate neighbors.
The Viking Confraternity of the Snowblower has been good to me, clearing shared sidewalk after each snowfall. (I’m pretty sure there’s a rota posted in someone’s garage, so that everyone has a turn, and no-one’s blower gets overworked.) I really, really appreciate them, even though they make me feel slightly inadequate.
Today at dinner, I was admonishing Tuxedo Boy to eat like a person, like a mensch. (As opposed to the wild beast he was imitating with his face in his plate.)
“What’s a mensch?” asked Little Sunshine.
“A person,” I said. “A civilized, courteous, compassionate, thoughtful, grownup person.”
“Oh,” she said. “A Canadian.”