THE FOLLOWING Political Guide to Snow Shoveling in Washington is based on data collected during 137 dog walks spanning two winters in a Northwest Washington neighborhood. Everything else being equal, the observations should hold true for the new snow season and for other, similar neighborhoods.
1. All in all, conservatives are more faithful in shoveling their sidewalks than liberals. Whether this is because conservatives are more altruistic, are more concerned about the appearance of property or fearful that unscrupulous poor people will fake a slip on the ice and sue them for their shirts is unclear.
2. Homeowners who work in occupations that promote the collective good -- like federal agencies that protect us from harm or media that enlighten us -- rarely if ever shovel the snow from their walks. (Refinement of the data tentatively suggests that the larger the homeowners' area of concern, the less likely they are to render their sidewalks passable to pedestrians. For this pollster, a longtime journalist and advocate of beneficent government, this was a bitter pill to swallow.)
3. Households in which both spouses work tend to post poorer snow shoveling records than those in which only one works. But working couples in which at least one partner is fiercely conservative often manage to prove exceptions to this rule.
4. An exception to Observation 1 is the genuine do-gooder. Members of the clergy, former Peace Corps workers and individuals toiling in fields of social service usually put their shovels -- or see to it that someone in their families does -- where their bleeding hearts are.
5. The presence in a household of able-bodied children bears no correlation whatsoever to that household's snow shoveling performance.
6. The ability of a household to pay someone else's children to shovel their walks is also irrelevant. Some of the most expensive homes boast the most snow-crusted walks.
7. Men who may be prone to heart attacks, regardless of politics or their level of consideration for others, are generally wise enough either to ignore their walks or send their wives out to shovel.