Good Life

Centre Life: Fair- or foul-weather neighbor is no ordinary Joe

Chris Arbutina
Chris Arbutina CDT file photo

On a recent Monday, I opened up the front door and stretching between me and the start of my work week were several inches of snow that had fallen overnight. Again.

Like some gallant Arctic explorer on an expedition, I stared unflinchingly at what covered the path ahead. I had on my roly-poly down-filled coat, the one I’ve worn every frigid day these past two months. I had managed to practically strangle myself wrapping a fleece scarf around my neck and beneath my nose. Earmuffs gripped my neck like a vise. And when I pulled up my hood, I could barely see through a fringe of fake-fur trim.

In one hand I had an oversize purse could easily be mistaken for a small suitcase — big enough for keys, a wallet, a thermos of coffee, assorted papers and notebooks from the office, a glass case, a pair of shoes, a plastic container of leftovers for lunch, three clementines, highlighters, pens, a change purse, aspirin and a small quilted bag with makeup. I also clutched a travel mug of coffee.

Let the expedition begin.

My free hand, swathed in two pairs of gloves, reached for the plastic snow shovel that had been leaning near the front door. I took a step and pushed the shovel. The blade filled with snow. I lifted the shovel up and tilted a few meager cups of snow off to the side.

My ears, buried beneath layers of fleece, down and fur picked up the muffled sputter of a snow blower. I took another step, shoved a few more inches of snow, heaved them onto the eight-inch trench that was my sidewalk. The sputter got louder.

I had probably only gone eight feet before my neighbor, Joe, pushing his snow blower, came down the street, twisted the blower pipe so that it started spitting snow into my yard, and started making his way up to meet me.

“Joe, you don’t need to do that,” I said. Joe, being the gentleman that he is, didn’t point out what a ridiculous sight I made, looking like some sort of sluggish, dim-witted bear clumsily trundling out of a winter stupor. He just moved up the sidewalk and then went back down in reverse, and I waddled behind, swallowed up in my coat and clutching my ridiculous oversize bag.

Joe kept plowing down to my car and even made a few indents into the snow at the foot of the driveway before sending me own my way.

It wasn’t the first time nor the last.

Joe doesn’t let a dusting of snow or inches of the white stuff see much daylight before he’s out and about, his snow blower spewing like a fountain of fluff or his leaf blower brushing the sidewalks clear.

Joe regularly takes care of his sidewalk along with those of two neighbors who live alone.

And I am ashamed to admit that he also frequently does a pass at the home of two able-bodied working adults who can’t seem to get their acts together on snowy mornings.

The other morning I went out with plans to shovel the inches that fell overnight only to see that Joe had already been by. I caught up with him as he was heading to our neighbor’s house around the corner on the next street.

“I dusted off your car, too,” Joe said.

Ah, Joe.

He brushed off my thanks the way his leaf blower sweeps away the snow as he keeps walking, rounding the corner to clear another driveway.

Joe is a four-season, all-weather good neighbor. He’s always cheerful, easy to talk to, happy and generous. Just an ordinary Joe, as they say.

When we’ve on vacation, he waters my hanging baskets and cuts our grass — he cheerfully adds us into his mowing schedule, which seems to encompass acres of lawns around town.

The kids across the street know that Joe has ice pops in his freezer in the summer.

Heck, even my dog walks slowly whenever we pass Joe’s house because he knows that oftentimes the man who lives there will give him some treats even though he doesn’t deserve them.

It’s easy to live in a house on a street and have the sidewalk be a great divide, separating us from others. Insulating us. Isolating us.

Joe reminds me that being neighborly is what can make a stretch of a pavement, a cluster of houses, four dogs, three children, and a mix of adults ranging in age from their 30s to their 80s into something more, something better.

Winter, spring, summer, fall, I want to be more like Joe.

Nothing ordinary about that at all.