Snow Days

It started innocently enough: the storm begins on Sunday morning.

Schadenfreudists – and I know there are many of you out there – probably derived a good deal of pleasure out of seeing New York City buried by a blizzard only days after I wrote that  cheery upbeat piece about how winter wasn’t so bad and that even if it were, it would soon be over.

Far be it from me to stand in the way of your enjoyment – in fact I encourage you to positively revel in it – but it really wasn’t that bad, and it will be over soon.  The blizzard itself has been over since yesterday morning; for all its fury, it was quite brief, which is probably just as well, since at the rate snow was coming down – and being whipped around by punishing, rampaging winds – a few more hours of it could have changed inconvenience into disaster.

A couple of hours later, still only an inch or two deep.

Granted, for those who simply had to be somewhere other than where they were on Sunday and Monday, it was more than an inconvenience, and if that somewhere happened to be somewhere like an emergency room or home with an unattended child, it may well have been an actual disaster.  But for the great majority of people, Sunday was a holiday and Monday should have been.  In Britain, for example, people got Monday and Tuesday off as compensation for Christmas and Boxing Day having fallen on a weekend, and if my experience of living there is any indicator, they took the rest of the week off on general principles.  In fact, Britain pretty much grinds to a two-week halt over Christmas and New Year, and the idea of Americans frantically tearing off to the factory or office before they’ve finished digesting their holiday turkey seems rather strange indeed.

Be that as it may, this year New Yorkers were going to have an extra-long Christmas weekend whether they wanted it or not.  Mail deliveries and garbage pickups still haven’t resumed in my neighborhood, and we got off pretty easy, i.e., at least some of our streets were plowed right away and no one has been audibly calling for Mayor Bloomberg’s head.  Which apparently isn’t the case in some of the nether realms of outer Brooklyn and Queens, where the plows have yet to put in an appearance.

Then things picked up a bit.

I was awake most of Sunday night listening to the wind howl (feeling it howl right through my windows and walls, too) and watching the snow pile up, so by the time I awakened Monday morning, the sun was out and rudimentary paths had been carved for both cars and people, though both were having their troubles.  For instance, the sidewalk was clear enough for one person at a time to walk, but when you got to the unplowed cross streets you had to plunge into or over 20-plus inches of snow.  And the streets that were plowed weren’t much help for pedestrians either, because the plows left 5-foot high mounds of snow blocking them off from the sidewalk (and burying any cars whose owners had unwisely left them on the right hand side of the street).

It wasn’t the most snow I’ve ever seen (in the mountains I had to contend with three to five feet), and it wasn’t the most snow ever to fall on New York City (the record is well over two feet), but it was the most snow I’ve ever seen in New York City.  Wait, why am I saying “was”?  About 99% of it is still out there, albeit arranged into somewhat more functional piles than it was at this time yesterday.  It’s still a mess, but not an unmanageable one.  Tonight I made it to the Upper West Side via only slightly delayed trains and walked from Times Square to the East Village with barely a hitch, apart from having to wade through a few slush puddles and climb over a handful of snow mountains.  Though I did meet a man who was just off a plane from Mozambique and who looked a little shell-shocked by it all.  Probably not helped by the fact that he had to sit on the plane for five hours after it landed at JFK (after a 12-hour flight from Africa) while someone figured out how to get the plane from the tarmac up to the terminal.

And before long, this was the view out my front door.

The temperature was only in the mid-30s (low single digits for our Celsius friends), but without Sunday and Monday’s vicious wind, it was downright pleasant.  I didn’t even bother with hat and gloves, whereas when I set off into the teeth of the storm on Sunday night, intending to walk the mile over to the North Side, I bundled up so heavily that I could barely recognize myself and still made it only as far as the coffee shop on the corner, less than half a block away.  The snow I could handle; the 40 mph winds flinging it into my face like supercharged buckshot were where I drew the line.

Even after the snow stopped, the wind kept going, perhaps got worse, and any ambitions to go anywhere apart from the coffee shop and the corner store evaporated.  Outside my front window men dug like madmen trying to extricate their cars from the drifts, even though there were precious few places they’d be able to drive them to.  Defying all sense and logic, a deliveryman rode blithely by on his bike.  I didn’t even know it was possible to keep a bike upright in that much snow, let alone make forward progress.

And this is what it looked like in the morning.

Hard to believe that on Saturday, Christmas Day, Gabrielle Bell and I had happily strolled from Brooklyn to Chinatown via the Williamsburg Bridge, a journey which supposedly isn’t appropriate for winter, but which with the blizzard still several states away, was actually quite pleasant.  I’m counting on doing something similar next weekend for New Year’s, by which time I anticipate most of the snow will be gone and temperatures will be ensconced well above the freezing mark.

And it will be January already!  This winter is just flying by.  The worst thing about being trapped indoors for a couple days was not the inconvenience or the cold; it was the psychology, no doubt left over from childhood, that told me I had to spend my snow days plopped in front of the TV watching Two And A Half Men or whatever zombie/alien/nameless horror/made-for-TV flick was playing on the Syfy or Lifetime channels.

But as long as there’s a path to the coffee shop, we’ll be fine!

Work?  While there’s a blizzard, complete with rarer-than-rare thundersnow, raging outside?  Ha!  Not too likely, though if I had, I’d be polishing up or perhaps even publishing the long-delayed Spy Rock Memories, Part 4 instead of musing over a pleasantly long lost weekend.  The mind has a strange way of operating – or in this case, failing to operate – but productive or not, I liked my snow days, and I hope everyone enjoyed theirs as well.  As we were saying just the other day: make the most of winter, it won’t be here for long!

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