The Shovel-Ready Sherlock

Deducing personalities based on the winter condition of your sidewalk

I’ve had paths on my mind recently.

Part of it probably has to do with the fact that I’m slowly making my way through a collection of Robert Frost poems. There’s also the fact that I generally walk around downtown and, given the snowfalls we’ve gotten this year, I’ve found that the path I take is dependent on others.

I’m still taking the same routes to the police station or City Hall or a coffeehouse or any number of day-to-day stops. But while I can stroll along the sidewalk as usual for most areas, in others I have to slow down to account for slippery conditions or even venture out to the edge of the road because the walk remains buried.

I’ve heard that the Sherlock Holmes methods of deduction aren’t so farfetched and that you can tell a great deal about a person by a number of seemingly innocuous factors. The dirt on their shoes, the way they stand, and so on. So does snow shoveling fit into this equation? Probably. And I’m no sleuth, but—from the pedestrian point of view, in more ways than one—here’s the impression that I get:

No shoveling at all

Wow. You are really lazy. It stopped snowing, what, a day ago? Do you want me to come back with a shovel and clear the walk for you? Fine. But I’m going to pile it up at your front door.

The sheet of ice

Look, I appreciate the effort to give me a free skating rink. But I can shell out a few bucks to go to Parade Plaza for that. You’re either too cheap to buy salt or you’re a lawyer who is just waiting to laugh in the face of anyone who slips and threatens to sue.

The ski trail

Well you’re the kind that starts a job and then leaves it half-finished or cuts as many corners as possible, it seems. Look, you got it down to a groomed layer of snow, maybe tossed some sand on there, and called it good. This is certainly passable, but it’s the C+ of snow shoveling jobs.

The islands of ice

Never mind, I’ll take the ski trail over this. You like introducing a little bit of randomness into life. And while I normally do like that, this kind of work—with its partial clearing and swaths of haphazardly salt-melted areas—is just perfect for tripping up passerby. Congratulations, you win the C- of snow shoveling jobs.

The narrow way

You own a snow blower and consider one pass to be enough. You’re efficient and consider your time to be valuable. You might also be a little selfish; have you seen two people try to negotiate a path like this?

The immaculate

You’ve cleared the entire sidewalk? And bombarded it with salt? And hey, you even shoveled out the fire hydrant. Well, maybe you can be a bit of a perfectionist but you're a hard worker and think about others. But I’m going to give you a heartfelt thank you.

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