About a week ago, I posted that I would be back on track, fulfilling the promise I made to myself to post every day. Well, I was a filthy liar.
Unfortunately for the blog, the past week has been a veritable swarm of deadlines for other projects and of obligations that kept me far away from a computer, and I had to do some cruel prioritizing. Sometimes, when I get really busy, the days melt into each other, and I lose a meaningful sense of time.
Call it what you will: laser focus, single-mindedness, obsession, pathology….whatever. The good news is that all of the projects are now significantly further along, so yay! I earned myself the right to post today without impunity.
And it’s appropriate, because today really is melting! (Well, kind of.) Up here in NYC, the temperature has reached a positively spring-like 55 degrees, and the mounds of gray snow and hard-pack ice are finally disappearing. (Well, a little.) Which is a damn good thing, pardon my French, because let me tell you what happened yesterday.
Cammie had to be to work in armpit of New Jersey (no offense) for about 10:00. I had to be to work at the High Line for 11:00. She was taking the car, and since the drive was about an hour, she left the apartment shortly before 9:00. I stayed in bed while she got ready, so I’d be out of her way, and I got up about 10 minutes before she left. I was just settling down with a cup of coffee when she calls me:
ME: Hey, what’d you forget?
HER: I’m stuck.
HER: I’m stuck. In ice. I can’t get out.
ME: (Exasperated but helpful sigh) Where are you?
HER: Down the block.
I throw on pants and a sweatshirt, and because I think I’m going to be out there just long enough to drive the car out of the spot, a pair of flip-flops. Now, we haven’t had snow in a couple of weeks, but the streets haven’t really been cleaned since Christmas. A week ago, however, NYC reinstated alternate-side parking rules to facilitate the long-overdue cleaning.
In Park Slope, we’re lucky that we only have alternate-side rules twice a week, as opposed to four times a week, as they do in other parts of the city. But I digress. The point is, Cammie was parked in a Thursday zone, which meant that it should have been cleaned the previous Thursday, between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. That’s the time for that particular zone; and during that time, no one should be parked on that side, and the CITY SHOULD COME THROUGH AND DO ITS JOB.
That’s how it’s supposed to work. But that’s not what happened. They ticketed people for not moving cars that were still snowed or iced in, but then they didn’t clean the streets. (Honestly, I’ve managed to dig our car out after every storm. I didn’t expect anyone to do that for us. But this clearing the snow off the streets is not something the average person can do.) Maybe Manhattan got cleaned up, but Brooklyn’s still a mess. So, the snow has been slushing and refreezing in a vicious cycle for weeks now, no one’s doing anything to remove any of it, and thereby hangs the tale.
When Cammie parked the car Saturday night, the area around her spot was still a little slushy. Now, the weather, as I said earlier, has been nicer the past couple of days, and the ice packs of recent weeks are finally beginning to disintegrate. But this particular patch must have frozen again overnight, because by Sunday morning, her car was parked on a sheet of futhermuckin’ ice, and there was no going anywhere.
She has to be to work for 10:00 am. I have to be to work for 11:00 am. It’s right about 9:00 am. There is time to save us both.
I jump into the situation in an appropriately male way and attempt the very same thing Cammie’s already been trying for the past ten minutes. No luck. The wheels just keep spinning. Then I rip open a recycling bag in the snowbank on the curb and pull out some newspaper. I wedge the newspaper around the wheels, thinking that it will provide the much-needed traction to get the car out. Sadly, it did not provide such traction. What it provided instead was a wet, pulpy blanket on which the wheels could continue to spin in futility and the car could continue its frozen immobility.
I realize we’re not going anywhere until I break up some of this ice, and I grab the first thing I see in the car that could be remotely useful: a removable headrest from the fold-down backseat. It looks like this:
I figured the prongs would be effective for chipping away at the ice. Again, I was wrong. They were, however, incredibly effective at chipping away at my sanity. Cammie, smartly observing this devolution, offers to go get a hammer from our apartment. Brilliant. Yes. Please. She goes. I continue to struggle with a headrest and wet newspaper.
By now, it’s about 9:30. Cammie’s already late, but if I leave by 10:00, I’m still safe. I’m convinced I can get the car out in time, and I fall into a little system of chipping ice with the headrest, wedging some newspaper, and hopping behind the wheel of the car to check my progress. And every time, I’d manage to get the car up the crest of the ice pack, only to feel it slide right back down as I tried to turn the wheel.
Cammie comes back with a hammer and a snow shovel. I start beating the ice mound with the hammer, and within minutes, I’m covered in a spray of gray ice chips. But the ice won’t break up. I’m barely scratching the surface of this thing.
Another few minutes of this – it’s like 9:45-ish now – and this delivery guy comes over. He had parked up the street from us at about 9:20, and he was watching the struggle. He says we have to push it out, and he offers to help us do it. That takes another 10 minutes or so of us pushing, and Cammie cutting the wheel and applying the brake. And miraculously, right before the stroke of 10:00, after almost a solid hour of tribulation, the car is freed. Cammie’s finally on her way, and there’s a slim chance I can still make it to work on time. I rush home, hop in the shower, get dressed, and I’m out the door in about 15 minutes. When I get to my subway stop, though, I’m greeted with this:
Who knows why? But I have to walk another 11 blocks to the Pacific Street stop, which ensures that I am LAAAAAAAATE. And the whole time, negotiating piles of alternately crunchy and slippery frozen stuff, I’m fuming, thinking, and sometimes actually muttering, “WHY DO PEOPLE LIVE THIS WAY?”
I have to pause for reflection after experiences like that, and I’ve had a lot of experiences like that lately.
Look, maybe it’s residual Katrina bitterness that gets me so worked up because, God knows, I am full of that. When Cammie and I were in Seattle in October 2007, two years after Katrina, we were small-talking with a woman while waiting for an elevator. When we told her we were from New Orleans, she was a little incredulous. “Why,” she asked, “does anybody live there?” We stepped into the elevator, and we saw one of these:
I simply said to her, “Well, you have an earthquake button in your elevator. We’ve never seen that before. Why do you live here?” We rode to our respective floors in silence.
She was referring, of course, to the fact that New Orleans is below sea level, that we get hit with hurricanes all the time, that we don’t have the infrastructure to cope with natural disaster when it strikes. I understand that. I don’t agree – I think Katrina was extraordinary, and we generally cope pretty well – but I understand.
But there are very few places that don’t live with some kind of threat from nature. In the West, it’s earthquakes. In the South and Southeast, it’s hurricanes. In the Plains, it’s tornados. Or drought.
We’ve all got something. (Okay, maybe Wyoming doesn’t.) And we all have ways of coping with those things, or if not, we get the hell out of the way.
Unless you’re New York, where you get snow all the time and can’t figure out an efficient way to manage it. Hey, even flood water drains, right? It was 55 degrees today, and THERE IS STILL SNOW AND ICE ON THE GROUND EVERY-FRIGGIN-WHERE. How does that happen? Why is that? And why does it bother me so much?
The risk of natural disaster is the price we pay for the beauty of the places we choose. Sure, New Orleans gets hurricanes, but it is a gorgeous place, so green and lush that you can feel yourself growing with it. It also has Mardi Gras, and I have yet to see anything, anywhere that even comes close to bringing a community together the way Mardi Gras does.
To be fair, New York has a spring that is truly breathtaking. The temperature is PERFECT, and I almost wept the first time I saw the cherry blossoms bloom in my neighborhood. (Although they did make me homesick for the azaleas and crepe myrtles of New Orleans.)
Every location has its pluses and minuses, the things you love and the things you loathe. And if you’re lucky, the good outweighs the bad. If not, you soldier on until the scale tips back in the other direction. And so I will.
But I still don’t understand how people deal with this goddamned snow every year. That is all.
Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!