Snowed In: My Experience in the Boston Blizzard

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!”

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I should definitely go outside now…

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.

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars...

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars…

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.

Don’t Call Me Brave

Hufflepuff. That, I am sure, is the house I would be in if I attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And although we Hufflepuffs are the butt of every joke, I think I would be happy there. Certainly, I am not smart like those in Ravenclaw, nor cunning like those in Slytherin. And I am definitely not brave enough to find a home amongst the Hermione Grangers and Harry Potters in the Gryffindor house.

Perhaps that is why I am so suspicious when someone comments on my bravery. When they suggest that I am brave, I assume they mean stupid or, at the very nicest, foolish. Surely they don’t really think moving across the country solely because I wanted to is brave. They must think I am out of my mind. What? You moved to a city you don’t know without a job? Hardly with a plan or excuse other than that you’ve lived in one zip code your whole life and it was time for a new one. Were they all out of zip codes back home? That they express jealousy of my freedom in that sense only says to me, “We are of the higher minded houses. We Gryffindors, Slytherins, or Ravenclaws plan, scheme, or strategize before buying that one way ticket. Sure, that may be holding me back from what I want right now, but it is the better way to do it. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are doing it right.”

And maybe that is what some of the people think. Those who care about me, I am hopeful, really are envious and really do wish they could do what I am doing. Because who doesn’t want to be happy? Why shouldn’t you go after what you want? And because I did that, does that make me brave?

Let me answer how I experience it: no. I am not brave. I am not stupid. I am not foolish. But I have that Can-Do attitude we Americans are so known for coupled with that cowboy Get’er done mentality from growing up in the west; from growing up with parents who expected a lot. And maybe just a dash of YOLO, for good internet measure. With that, and the knowledge that it’ll probably all work out and if not I can always go back to 85719, I will always leap and wait for the net to appear.

Fast forward to now, four months into this little adventure of mine. I’m wrapping up a handful of projects from NaNoWriMo, an internship, and a teaching contract. The next few months are a little frighteningly devoid of an income. Looking forward, well, frankly, (with the exception of a new zip code) I’m in the exact same place as I was a few months ago, and am poised to jump all over again. Because if that net doesn’t appear, and if I don’t land on my feet, well, I don’t have much choice but to jump again and again, until I get it right. What is it we Hufflepuffs are? Unafraid of toil?

er...Just to really tie up any loose ends, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists bravery as:  having or showing courage (and courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty). Wait, by that definition…

Look, I have a younger brother. If nothing else, I am able to withstand difficulty.

Oh My God, I’m Moving Across the Country! Oh My God. I’m Moving Across The Country.

You know that scene in Tangled where Rapunzel flip flops back and forth between having the best day ever and feeling awful about being the worst daughter possible? Yeah, that’s me right now. And I haven’t even done anything yet.

Last May I graduated from the University of Arizona with one goal in mind: Move to Boston. Did I have a job lined up? Not really. Did I have a place to live? Not at all. Did I even have the cash for a plane ticket? Not even sort of. Truthfully, I didn’t have much of a plan. I just really wanted it. I don’t care what The Secret says, I crashed and burned. Bad.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently,” Henry Ford said. So far, this seems to be true. Or maybe after failing so badly I had to prove to my parents — and more importantly, myself  — that I wasn’t a total loser and that I could do this. Fast forward to last Sunday. It is a uncharacteristically wet weekend in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona. I, however, am enjoying an unseasonably warm weekend in Boston, where I just signed a lease.

Take that all you doubters, I’m doing it, I’m going to live in the city I’ve been dreaming of my whole life. I am going to up and move across the country more or less on a whim.

Oh, my God. I’m moving across the country. What am I thinking? I’ve lived in one zip code my whole life. What makes me think I’ll make it out in the big city? Actually, what makes me think I’ll survive winter. With snow?

But I’m moving to Boston. WGBH, my dream job, is just a fifteen minute walk from my new digs. The same sort of opportunities just aren’t in Tucson.

But all my friends and family are in Tucson…

See what I mean about Tangled? I’m a mess. I have complained in the past that your twenties are rough. They refuse to just give you what you need to succeed, and every day can be a bit of a struggle. There was one thing I didn’t mention then: if I can get what I want, just what is that? And what am I willing to trade for it? They don’t really prepare you for that in college. And I haven’t been in a situation where I might trade my chocolate milk for someone’s goldfish in years. Do I still know how to weigh my choices and make a decision that won’t end up sucking?

Obviously, I’ve made my decision. I will be leaving my native Tucson for Boston in August of this year. And honestly, even if this ends up not being the city for me, even if every single day I pine for the heat and the saguaros I know so well, this is the right decision. One other thing I didn’t mention about being in you twenties: this is the time to try new things. I will probably never have as much freedom as I do now, nor will I require so little. Apparently when you reach a certain age you have living standards that exclude awkward bathrooms and blow up mattresses.

As my teaching idol Ms. Frizzle says, “It’s time to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”

Alright future failures, let’s do this thing.

Weathering Talking About Weather

You’re not supposed to talk about the weather, right? Everybody knows that. It’s hardly even small talk. Both parties might as well be staring at their phones rather than talk about the weather. Because even our phones can give us the weather these days.

But that, I believe, depends entirely on where you live.

And, as my Tea to Friends introduction, talking about the weather is precisely what I’m going to do.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest—Middle-of-nowhere, Oregon, where patches of blue sky were rare enough that we had names for them. POBs. When these POBs came, it may as well have been the Beatles in 1964. And no one in town wanted to shut up about them. The same thing happened when we got snow one every couple of years. To an Oregonian, sun and snow are actually scintillating topics.

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Better than anything else we had to talk   about—trees, mostly.

I then moved to Arizona for the end of high school. While people did eagerly await monsoon season, and spread around the eternal justification of “dry heat,” for at least 10 months out of the year, weather isn’t even a blip on the radar. There’s no need to question how many layers you have to put on before leaving the house. There’s no momentary desire to stay in a warm house or car with your slippers on, because outside it’s just as warm. Arizona’s weather isn’t a concern—so it’s not an interesting topic.

Fast forward a few years, and I end up in New England. You may know the old adage that certainly rings true: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” My friend Jack offers up another one. “Boston has three weather options—effing cold, effing hot, and effing beautiful. Dress for all three every day.”

People here don’t just talk about the weather. We are obsessed with it. New Englanders have minutely different types of adjectives for the different types of rain and snow and humidity we get. Every Bostonian has a different brand of umbrella she swears by. (Get a Gust Buster, or else your umbrella won’t last very long.) And most anyone who’s spent any time here has that anecdote about that freak snowstorm in October followed by a sunny day, or hour they spent shifting from sunshine to rain to clouds to sun again.

And, whether this is a commentary on my region or my generation or both, I’ve started trusting my iPhone over my window when I’m deciding what to wear in the morning. Even if I wake up to a sunny morning, my trusty electronics will tell me that the rain will start by noon. Even if it’s been wintery-mixing all night, my phone can tell me that, in the times I have to be outside that day, it will be a balmy 50.

And, while my iPhone has let me down a few times—it is, after all, New England, rebellious and disobedient from its inception, down to the weather, more often than not I’ve been glad to have brought a rain coat on an otherwise sunny day.

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Clear skies, frozen water. Business as usual.


In fact, as I write this, I’m watching the sun come out for at least the second time today. I left my apartment this morning to a fair, sunny day, and the stares of everyone I ran into because of my raincoat. Less than an hour later, enough hail was deposited on the ground to make it look like it half a foot of snow. It turned into rain. The driving kind of rain where you can’t see more than a foot out the window. And, ten minutes later, it was all over. The ground was mostly dry and the sun was peeking out from behind the grey clouds that still covered half the sky.

And did we talk about it? Hell yes we talked about it. Facebook and twitter turned into a stream of reactions to the weather and then reactions to the reactions. And that’s what happens every time the weather changes—every minute, if you listen to adages—people talk about it until it’s boring. And, that’s the point, really. There’s nothing interesting about weather, except that it happens. We have no control over it, and it affects us all about the same. But, really, after 400 years of new weather every minute, nobody really has anything new to say.

So, being reduced to posting about the weather, you might as well go back to staring at your phones now. May I recommend the accuweather.com app? The Apple weather app sucks.