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Seeking Higher Ground: The long arm of the law

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“I’m kinda discouraged.”

Today, that was how Mason responded to my daily “How are you?” question. My query isn’t just a routine. Every morning we both awaken to find ourselves in one another’s company is a blessing.

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The cause of Mason’s discouragement was a Town of Carbondale flyer reminding us that our sidewalks must be cleared within 24 hours after snowfall.

Mason, who is 89 and has had spine surgery, has tried to help me stay on the right side of the law. Some days, he can’t walk to the mailbox; other days, he might amble a whole block. He can sweep powder with a broom, but that’s it for snow removal. So for three years running, he’s hired helpers, stressing the need to show up the morning after a storm.

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Not one of those contractors has ever shown up!

Thus, snow removal usually falls to me. Usually, I’m up to it. I’m 67, but I ski, skate and go to Zumba at least once a week, in part because it’s fun, in part because I’m working to maintain my mobility. Twice this year, I have pulled my back while shoveling, rendering me a hunchback for days at a time.

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We live on a 150-degree corner and our lot is shaped like an ice cream cone. There’s a pointed yard in back; the ice cream comprises the front. Our walk curves around the top of the scoop with a two-car driveway crossing it where you’d plop a cherry on top.

I do get some snow-removal help from my kindly east-side neighbor. Bill Cotton often drives his snow blower past his property and over to my driveway. I also get a little help from our blue spruce, which partially shelters the west walk, lessening the snowfall. But it’s still a helluva a job. If I don’t get to it before Mason needs to drive somewhere, the car compacts the walk crossing driveway so hard I’d need an ice pick to make a dent.

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Thus, our snow-removal not only demands more energy than an hour-long Zumba class, it takes me about three times as long.

Of course, Zumba doesn’t occur in near-zero temperatures. It doesn’t require heavy lifting, and my size isn’t a problem. Even before getting the town’s flyer — which I trust went to everyone and wasn’t a dig at my occasional inability to dig out from under — I knew that scooping into the street was verboten. But to avoid that, I need to chuck it up and over drifts that are at least half as high as I am! That’s a tall order, one that has left me not just discouraged, but also sore.

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I’m not mad, just baffled as to how to achieve the town’s worthy goal.

I’m a long-time accessibility advocate. Just weeks after moving in to my house, I attacked the 80-foot-high blue spruce tree in front of it with a reciprocating saw. I worried about what the neighbors would think as I hacked and heaped up the boughs, but kept on slashing until I could walk under the tree and along the sidewalk. Given the spruce’s former down-to-ground undergrowth, I’m sure that Rock Court’s dog walkers, pram-pushers and seniors hadn’t used that sidewalk for decades!

Back when Mason and I were both spry and lived in San Francisco, we often chauffeured the indomitable Lucille Lockhart to church. A four-and-half-foot-tall powerhouse who walked by dragging herself along on two arm-brace crutches, Lucille shamed the City of San Francisco into making thousands of wheelchair cuts in the sidewalks that line its 1,260 miles of streets. Years before the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Lucille warned everyone, “You had better care about disability. Because if you live long enough, you’re going to have one.”

She was right. I have now acquired four-ADA-worthy disabilities, enough that I sometimes envy Mason with his one-off issue with mobility.

Still, I spent weeks last summer pondering how to avoid marooning Mason when I take the car out of town. Between Carbondale’s iffy sidewalks and Colorado’s convoluted vehicle-licensing laws, neither golf carts nor on-road electric runabouts (like those used by the Aspen Music festival) proved practical.

I wound up buying Laurie Loeb’s venerable 2005 Toyota Prius. “Snowball” has moved about a mile. Instead of being parked in front of the (not-actually-actionable) “senior citizen parking” signs that Laurie has posted (to ensure she can consistently get from her car to her porch), it’s now parked in my damnable double-wide driveway.

“Snowball” is perfect. Even most of Laurie’s trademark bumper stickers fit me. The one thing I worry about is barricading Snowball in while trying to burrow out from under the long arm of Carbondale’s snow-removal law.


Trustee work session

What: A chance to discuss the Town’s snow shoveling policy

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19

Where: Town Hall

(511 Colorado Ave.)

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