The predicted snow arrived this morning (don’t worry, it’s due to be sunny and 60F by the weeekend, oh no, hang on, you weren’t worrying about that were you?). After it had finished falling, and the wind had finished blowing it around so much, we went out with the snow shovel and shovelled it off the driveway and the sidewalk (that’s pavement to anyone who doen’t speak American) as is the American way – or rather I shovelled and the other half gave expert advice culled from a childhood growing up in Minnesota and then went inside to supervise from the warmth of the house, the novelty of shovelling snow having thoroughly worn off for him round about when he was ten.
I relate this entirely unremarkable tale because if you were to mention anywhere in the UK that members of the public might want to go out and clear the snow off the pavement outside their house then you are generally greeted with the sort of alarm that an elderly maiden aunt might greet the suggestion that she join an orgy. Because if you were to do that you might – no indeed, you almost certainly would – get sued. Despite the fact that nobody has ever been sued for clearing snow and never will be sued for clearing snow, it has somehow got lodged into the British psyche that personal injury lawyers lurk behind every bush, possibly disguised as snowmen, waiting for someone to so much as brush a flake off their front step so they can leap out, push some passing old dear over, and then slap a lawsuit on the offending householder. I was out the council training for being a community councillor and they were wheeling out their winter preparedness scheme which consisted of getting local volunteers to clear snow off the pavements and gritting them so that people might have a fighting chance of stepping outside their front door without breaking a leg. It went like this:
Council chap: just to get it out of the way first, you won’t get sued
Fellow trainees: but what if we do get sued?
Council chap: honestly, you won’t get sued
Fellow trainees: can we get people to sign something to say they won’t sue us?
Council chap: nobody has ever been sued
Fellow trainees: Should we get insurance against getting sued?
Fellow trainees: what if they sue us for *not* clearing the snow?
Fellow trainees: what if we ask someone to clear the snow and they keel over with a heart attack and then sue us?
Me: *silently loses will to live*
Sadly, I still don’t know the official Bigtownshire Council method for approved snow shovelling because we ran out of time for the actual training. This goes a long way to explaining why, the minute it snows, every pavement immediately becomes almost impassable and everyone ends up having to walk in the road.
Now clearly, I’d prefer it if the council cleared and gritted the pavements (and the cycle paths of course) and left it to motorists to voluntarily shovel and grit the roads if they wanted to go anywhere, but even I know that’s not going to happen for a while. And meanwhile, I’d like it a lot if the pavements were cleared, however amateurishly, preferably before they had become icy death traps. So here, people of Britain, is a public service announcement, just for you:
IF THE MOST LITIGIOUS SOCIETY ON EARTH CAN SHOVEL ITS SIDEWALKS WITHOUT FEAR OF LAWSUITS THEN WE, PROUD INHERITORS OF THE BLITZ SPIRIT, DEFEATERS OF THE HUN, NOT TO MENTION VICTORS IN ONE WORLD CUP, CAN ALSO CLEAR OUR PAVEMENTS AND WE WILL NOT GET SUED
I hope I’ve made that clear.