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The Boston Globe

Opinion

Scot Lehigh

Winter etiquette on Boston’s streets

Items such as sawhorses are commonly used by shovelers in Boston to save parking spaces, but many wait days to remove those objects.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2005

Items such as sawhorses are commonly used by shovelers in Boston to save parking spaces, but many wait days to remove those objects.

TODAY, I have to dispense with false modesty.

So I’ll just say it outright: Mayor Menino seldom makes a move without consulting me.

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Many the night I’ve been roused from a sound sleep at, say, quarter past 9 by my peeved wife.

“The mayor is on the phone. He’s trying to be more Zen this year, and he wants your advice on controlling his temper.”

Or: “Old Mister His-Honor-won’t-honor-the-no-calls-later-than-8-rule is on the line again. An unmuffled motorcycle just woke up his grandkids. He wants to crack down on loud pipes and he’s hoping you can identify the big problem spots.”

Or: “It’s 9:30, so you can probably guess who absolutely has to talk to you. He says he’s got a great idea for the Rose Kennedy Greenway: A big arch like St. Louis has, except shaped more like an M.”

I’ll readily concede that the matters on the mayoral mind aren’t always momentous. “He and Angela are going out clubbing, and he wants to know if his socks should match his shoes or his pants.”

Still, in the interests of making Boston a more livable place, I’ve vowed I’ll always be there for him. And now, with the old boy less able to get out and about, I’m ready to help by playing a more public role running the city.

So here’s what’s on my mind today. Winter with its talons bared has leapt upon the land. Actually, that probably overstates things a bit. (I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, like the mayor did when he declared a snow emergency over the holidays. No buck passing here. I’ll take the blame for that.)

But just in case it ever snows again, let’s review our rules for neighborly winter living in the city. Mayor Menino and I frown on the long-term saving of parking spots. Forty-eight hours after a snow emergency is lifted, spot-saving ends. That means no chairs, sawhorses, crates, cones, or boxes after that period. And if the storm isn’t bad enough that a snow emergency is declared? Well, in those instances, you’re not supposed to save a spot at all.

I know this runs counter to the Hub’s hoarding instinct, but it’s crazy to have a street with all kinds of empty spaces but no place to park because they are all saved. Sure, if you don’t plant a chair there, you might lose the specific spot you shoveled, but if people obey the rules — and the faster those rules get established as the new norm, the more they will — other spots will open up.

Now, on to the sidewalks. It’s the responsibility of homeowners or building managers to ensure that sidewalks are shoveled after it snows, and most do a pretty good job.

Yet the mayor and I sometimes spot several yards of treacherous arctic turf in the middle of an otherwise shoveled stretch of sidewalk. It’s often outside a house occupied by young renters.

You guys know who you are. You’re in your 20s or early 30s. There are three or four of you sharing a house. You’re hearty enough to party into the early morning hours. And yet somehow the sidewalk in front of your house never gets shoveled.

I realize it’s not always clear whose responsibility that is, yours or your landlord’s. But if no one steps up, the walk quickly becomes an icy obstacle course, which is especially tough on older, less nimble, more fragile, folks.

So please, get out there and shovel. It’s actually a nice way to meet your neighbors. (The mayor and I give extra credit for digging out the hydrants and clearing the storm drains.) And if those neighbors are elderly, it won’t hurt you to shovel their sidewalk, too. It might even earn you some good karma.

From my civic command post high above the Common — or, for the more literal among you, my desk here in the Globe’s State House Bureau — it’s your imaginary mayor, signing off.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on ­Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.

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