This weekend I was officially snowed in and cut off from the world. I had plans that got cancelled by two to three feet of snow literally stopping everything in the city. That meant no visiting my grandmother and mom (in from out of town) in the suburbs. No visiting one of the local breweries for their tours and tastings. No picking up my dog, who after months apart, I was finally going to bring home. I was going to have a busy, social weekend. Emphasis on was. Because instead Boston was hit by winter storm Nemo and the blizzard of 2013.
I have never been in a blizzard. Being from Arizona, the worse weather I’ve experienced has happened since I’ve moved out here. Other than the hurricane, it’s been a pretty mild winter. Or so I am told, cold is cold to me and Massachusetts is cold. But they said this was going to be big, whatever that meant.
Just in case it was as big as they said, I hit the grocery store on Thursday afternoon, lamenting with the person behind me in the very long line, that this was a little silly. Worse case scenario, we assured each other, there’d be snow and by Sunday things would be back up and running. There was no call to by the dozens of eggs and gallons of milk that people were buying. There was really no need for an emergency shop at all, we decided, this storm wouldn’t throw anything that would put you on lock down for more than a day or two. And even if it means Easy Mac, there was no need to swamp the stores like people were. We assured each other that we weren’t emergency shopping. It was a regular Thursday at Whole Foods as far as we were concerned. Nothing out the the ordinary in our shopping baskets because nothing was going to happen.
So when the storm rolled in Friday and with it the news that public transit would be shut down at 3:30, driving banned at 4:00, I was a little surprised. It seemed extreme, but what did I know? I started to worry. If the government was so eager to get everyone off the streets and bunkered down so early, the sky must be about to fall. And I expected it would fall even as soon as quarter after four. Well, it didn’t and my grocery store cynic was feeling vindicated. Sure, it was snowing and the wind had picked up, but mostly I didn’t see why I couldn’t be meeting the appointments in my social calendar. I have to say, I was little annoyed at the city. They kept talking about The Blizzard of ’78 like it hadn’t snowed since and this was just a little snow, a little wind, nothing new.
By 9:00 that evening, I was a little stir crazy. It didn’t matter that I’d spent every other night that week content on the couch with my dear friend Netflix, I was itching to get out. But finally the snow was coming down. This was it, the rest of the weekend was shot. I was doomed to stay in and watch PBS reruns and never see people again. It was dramatic, sure, but I was bummed. I’d been so excited about the weekend and now I had to spend it alone.
Then, from outside, “Dude, you call that a throw?”
“It’s the gloves, man!”
There were people outside, in the midst of a blizzard, playing football. Four people from the house across the street were running and jumping in the foot or so that’d come down at this point. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and boots, coat, scarf, and the thickest gloves I could find later I was on my front porch shouting at them, condemning their foolishness. That is, until they invited me to grab a beer and a snow ball and join them.
So I did.
At one point we turned to each other then back to the snow covered hill and lamented that our responsible, adult selves from the rest of the year that had neglected to buy sleds because this would be the perfect hill for it. And it was safe, with the driving ban there would be no one to run us over. Not moments later, down at the bottom of the hill, out of the murk and snow, headlights appeared. A plow was heading up the very hill we’d just wished we were sliding, out of control, down. “And I just changed my mind,” my neighbor commented. “I am so glad that I am responsible the rest of the year,” I agreed. “We’d be down there, dying, right now.”
Then, something else appeared through the wind and snow: the silhouette of a person, just barely visible, about halfway between us and the steadily approaching plow. They turned back and saw the plow, just headlights moving ominously closer.
“Run!” we shouted together. “Oh, my God, run!” He ran and managed to beat the plow out of the way and onto the sidewalk. We laughed and laughed, cheering his safety, celebrating the top of the hill and not sledding and being grown up enough to make enough good decisions that we’d survived to stand out in a blizzard drinking icy beer.
It was awesome.
The next morning, mostly thawed out, I peeked out at the world outside my window. It was almost unrecognizable, drift upon drift of white snow. Cars had all but disappeared under the snow, stoops and front steps were gone, and trees were sagging under the snow on their branches. The road, even though the plows came through well into the night, was buried under a foot of snow. But the neighbors were out and we all started to clear driveways, cut paths, and uncover cars. The streets were impassible, the subway down, and stores were closed. But people were smiling, inconvenienced, but smiling. What was that about?
Sunday was much the same, except the plows finally got to most streets, including ours and the city was coming, slowly, back to life. I went down to the CVS, about half a mile of twisted channels and paths cut out through the snow. For the first time, when I walked to CVS and paid attention to the foot traffic, the people, around me. The paths were too narrow for two to pass each other, so you had to notice who was coming your way, find the niches at doorways and open streets to wait to let someone else by. For a city known to be impatient and rude, the snow forced us to wait, watch, and thank everyone around us. I remember thinking it was sort of delightful.
Maybe it doesn’t speak well of our species that it takes such a storm to get us out of our homes, routines, and social circles. Maybe it isn’t great that I only ever talk to my neighbors when there is somewhat of a crisis. But on the other hand, maybe it does. I happen to love that when nature told us that if we wanted to survive it’d be holed up in our apartments alone, we said, “Wanna bet?”
After all, the liquor store stayed open.