A couple of weeks ago we got a pretty big snowstorm, big for New York anyway. I’m sure the people of Manitoba or Vladivostok have different definitions of pretty big snowstorms, but this was enough that I had to go down to the basement and find the old snow shovel. So yeah, it was snowing, the snow was accumulating, there was a lull, and I went out to dig. And then a few hours later it picked up again, I had to go out again a few hours later, I sprinkled some salt, and I called it a night.
And then the next day it was this gross, warm rain, everything sort of melted, but not really, the whole city turned into this charcoal gray slush pit. The next day while I was at work, apparently there were a couple more inches of snow still floating around in the clouds, and that eventually made its way to the sidewalk. Then the temperature dropped.
It was so cold that, by the time I made my way home from work at like two in the morning, there was a giant lumpy sheet of ice covering the sidewalk in front of my house. I immediately recognized my civic duty, to at least try to clean this stuff up so that no pedestrians would take a tumble in front of the property, but I was tired, I said to myself, I can do this tomorrow. Besides, I pulled out all of these rationalizations, how I’d already shoveled the day before, twice, how all of that shoveling proved to be a huge waste of time, seeing as how the rain melted everything not even twelve hours later.
I left it. And the next day was even colder, so I left it again. A few of my neighbors had left theirs, I figured, all right, as long as I’m not the only one, whatever, I’ll get to it soon. Which, and at this point in my life, I’m even more than halfway conscious of the fact that whenever I say that I’ll do something soon, it really means that I’ll never do it.
When I got home from work that night, I found that it was just me and this Greek guy next door that were the last two houses on the block that hadn’t even made an attempt to clear out a path. But it was still so cold, I told myself, even if I wanted to shovel right now, I wouldn’t be able to. It was pure ice. I made a plan to do it tomorrow, as soon as the sun was out, maybe there would be a little melting to make everything easier.
And it was significantly warmer the next day. Unfortunately I got up pretty late, late enough that the Department of Sanitation had time to write out tickets for both my neighbor and me. It basically amounted to, you guys didn’t even try to clean up the sidewalk, so pay up, a hundred bucks.
All I could think about was the hundred dollars that my grandfather had just given me for Christmas. Come on, it’s like why does the universe always have to take away just as easily as it dishes out? I had plans for that hundred bucks. Well, not any concrete plans, really. But I did plan on keeping it in my pocket for as long as possible, trying to hold off on spending it until I had no other money left in there, and then I’d break it and I’d use it guilt-free on all sorts of little purchases until there was nothing left.
So I made up my mind to actually attend the hearing and mount a defense. They’ll let me off, I thought in my head as I stood before the city official in charge of hearing these cases, “Come on,” I told the guy, “I’m really sorry. I work nights. It was so cold. This is my first offense. I definitely won’t wait next time.” Halfway through I realized that I probably should have planned out my defense a little better, none of whatever I was saying sounded any better than a little kid trying to weasel his way into explaining to the teacher why he didn’t do his homework the night before. By the time I caught myself about to use my grandfather’s hundred dollar gift as an excuse, I gave up. But not before saying, “The defense rests.” I thought it would be funny, but nobody laughed, and I immediately felt like an idiot.
“Sorry pal,” the guy told me, “Better get up earlier next time.” And that was it. A hundred bucks for Christmas, a hundred bucks to the city for not shoveling my sidewalk. And I’m stuck here thinking, wondering if only I had made up a really good sounding excuse, like if I pretended to have the flu, or if I just left out that idiotic joke at the end, maybe I could have gotten out of it. Whatever, I’m going to buy a ton of rock salt and I’m just going to blanket that stuff outside at the first hint of snow. I’m not even going to let that stuff have a chance to accumulate. That’s what I’m going to do, soon, I’m going to go to the Home Depot and get a better shovel, one with an ice pick on the other side. Definitely soon.