Philadelphia Metropolis


The Pavement Brigade

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By Nancy DeGregorio

Recently Philadelphia experienced something rare - two blizzards within a week that amounted to nearly three feet of snow. It caused a big headache for those of us who are normally used to the small headaches of living in a dense rowhouse city.

When you live in Philly, you must learn to share a small amount of coveted space. Neighbors normally have a fair amount of tolerance for one another, having learned to peacefully coexist and respect the unwritten rules of the neighborhood. Following this snow, however, all social conventions got lost in a snowdrift. Whereas the first blizzard brought out the ugly side, the second blizzard evoked a new level of lunacy among my usually agreeable neighbors. I started to ask myself "Just who are these people in my neighborhood? And do I really want to meet them each day?"

As a neighbor, I'm not without my faults. My anti-social tendencies keep me from engaging too many neighbors in conversation out of fear that they will ask me for a favor. I'm also not a big fan of people with pets, particularly those who let their pets crap outside my house. And I'm quickly becoming that lady who yells at the kids to stop making so much noise while they innocently play stickball. After this latest round of snow, though, I've learned I may be the sanest person on the block.

Following the blizzards, my husband and I began the process of shoveling our pavement and digging out our car. Shoveling the sidewalk was easy since we dug a path just wide enough to avoid being sued. Then we walked along the street to our car. I figured that removing four feet of snow from our car would be physically challenging. I never expected it to be psychological warfare.

As we began to shovel, a neighbor came out of his house to instruct us not to track any snow onto his pavement. We also had to ensure that the drain in his pavement remained clear at all times while we shoveled our car out of its mound of snow, which included snow he had thrown from his pavement onto our car while shoveling his walk. Feeling my blood start to boil, I decided to ignore him and keep shoveling. He continued to supervise our efforts.

Not long after, another neighbor decided to get into the action, yelling at us to keep the snow away from her pavement because her 80-year-old father needed clear access into her house. It was then that her husband rolled up in his SUV with three cases of Coors Light. I saw a lot of beer but no old men hobbling into the house. My blood pressure continued to rise.

Apparently, our shoveling became something of afternoon entertainment, because soon after that, a few old ladies ventured out of their houses to stare, point, and comment on the snow hitting their pavements.

I'm relatively new to this particular neighborhood. For all I know, the obsessive concern about snow and pavements could have been some kind of weird initiation ritual. But I had reached my boiling point. Unfortunately for the neighbors, they didn't know that I happen to be a graduate of South Philadelphia "charm school". If you are reading this, you're probably familiar with the unloving city of brotherly love. It's a city that boos everyone. It pelts Santa Claus with snowballs. It would probably slap Jesus if he got out of line. As a Philly native, I have learned how to be a loud, aggressive, foul-mouthed bitch when the situation arises. And this situation was definitely one for showing my South Philadelphia charm school diploma.

Eventually my husband and I came away with a car free of snow and some new enemies. When I finally had a chance to reflect on my argument with the neighbors I realized that maybe snow on the pavement was a bigger issue than well...snow on the pavement. This is a world where we have little control over our lives. Wall Street controls our finances. Politicians control our government. The state controls our unemployment checks. But there is one thing that we can control: the amount of snow on our front pavement. So if my neighbors go mad obsessing over the amount of snow on their pavements in a attempt to exert some control over their lives, then I'll have to let them.

Unfortunately for me, it's been a snowy winter, which means I'll probably have to dust the snow from my car at some point in the near future. It's too bad because I'm not sure I can afford to make any more enemies in this neighborhood.

Nancy DeGregorio is a writer who shovels her snow in South Philadelphia.



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