Sunday, January 6, 2008

How to Build Community, One Shovel at a Time

Urban dwellers habiting northern climes are familiar with the phenomenon of snow piles that are built between cars as the cars are dug out during or after a storm. In really congested areas where on street parking is some of the most valuable real estate, the cumulative effect of these piles is the disappearance of several parking spaces, depending on the size of the piles and how long they take to melt. The erosion of spaces contributes to that petty and anti-social practice of
parking piggery.

The dense mountains of snow remain days and days after the streets themselves have cleared. So how surprising is it to find neighbors digging not a space but the abutting pile of filthy, space hogging ice? Pretty surprising, yet it did happen. I was stunned to watch a mother/son neighbor team hack away at a big pile of snow that could become a space for a small car, if removed. They already had parking spaces. Digging out that particular pile of snow would serve them no immediate personal benefit (cardiovascular improvements aside) but it was of benefit to the entire car-parking street. More space was cleared which meant more people could park. And once they cleared the space did they install a chair or cone or trash barrel as a marker of ownership? No! They left the space free for anyone on the street to use! Did I ever love those two at that moment. And now.

Could it be they learned their lesson of community caring and social responsibility in Cambridge, where they used to live? Maybe. Maybe they’re just decent people who had a little time to kill on a snowy weekend morning.
How do I bottle that and distribute it to all the other shit-for-brains in this town who believe cause they've dug a space, they own it?

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