My most valued possession this time of the year is a pair of hiking boots. They are warm, waterproof and spacious enough to accommodate two pairs of socks. Best of all, they have treads on the heels. You see, I get around mostly by foot and by bus. My feet are out in the cold for longer stretches than if I were driving, so they have to be extra warm. The treads are essential as I progress into senior status and face the prospect of falling.
My day often starts when the other member of the household goes out to clean off the car. I tag along and spend those few minutes clearing snow off the sidewalk. I can’t help noticing the fronts of other homes nearby that have not been shoveled or snow-blown at this early hour, but I also notice that their cars are already gone, taking kids to school and parents to work. I can hardly fault them for failing to fit yet another responsibility into their daily routines.
After a short time back in the house to warm up, finish breakfast and check email, I often head out to go shopping or to the gym or a meeting or the library. Now the boots become important. Those front sidewalks are still not cleared. Stepping into several inches of snow, I know that my feet will stay warm and dry with the boots. When ice has built up, I am confident that the treaded bottoms will keep me from falling.
Beyond the residential stretch, I round the corner onto a commercial street. Being a morning person, I am sometimes out there before the stores open and before the merchants have cleared their sidewalks. As I cross the street, I may have to step onto a pile of snow left behind at intersections by the plow. Next, I am faced with the bus stop and shelter area. This is a veritable no-man’s land. The NFTA will not clean these areas, the city will not do it, and most property owners are either unaware of their responsibility or refuse to accept it. Those boots are essential as I wait for the bus, get on the bus and leave the bus.
Thanks to my boots, I have never had a major winter fall. Fortunately, I am not overweight, like some friends who have broken various bones when falling in icy conditions. I do not have a vision problem, like some who are vulnerable in bad weather because they can’t see the slick spots. I do not need a walker, like some older folks for whom going out in the winter becomes a nail-biter. I am not in a wheelchair and thus do not need the ramped corners that are sometimes left uncleared.