When a big nor’easter dumps a couple of feet of snow on us, the New York City Department of Sanitation does a fast and excellent job of ploughing snow from our streets. I guess everybody learned their lesson from the Blizzard of 2010. That one is legendary. Ex-Mayor Bloomberg will never live it down.
New snow is pretty, even in a city where 8,500,000 people live on top of each other in an area of 305 square miles. This is great if you don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. For those of us who don’t have to shovel the stuff or somehow try to plough our way to work, these intense snow days are mini-vacations. For others, they are a source of strained muscles, hernias and car repair bills. Sales of Ben Gay, Advil, cold medicine and antifreeze rise exponentially after a winter nor’easter.
I have been through a few of these storms here in The Big Apple, but I have always been fortunate enough to be a snow day vacationer, safe at home, enjoying the whole mess and taking pictures. I have not yet been stuck in a car, a bus, a subway train or back in the office. If you have suffered any of those things, I am in deep sympathy, so please don’t hurt me.
Snow in this city stays pretty for about a day, after which it slowly begins to look like all of the dirt of the earth is being burped up and mixed in it. To add injury to injury, those sanitation ploughs that do such a wonderful job on the streets pile up mountains of the stuff on either side, and nobody clears any paths for pedestrians to cross unless someone who is shoveling anyway and needs the exercise decides to do it.
So what do you do when you are trying to cross a street where the snow is piled up thigh-high over every gutter, with only a narrow gap and/or a pool of ankle deep filthy slush through which to walk? Here are a few of the traditional methods that New Yorkers have learned work best:
METHOD NO. 1
1) Stand looking at the mess and complain.
2) Take a tentative step into the mess. If there is a lot of slush, and your boots are leaking, try stepping as fast as possible on your heels without slipping and falling.
3) If you slip and fall anyway, sit there for a few seconds cursing like a demon. Then get up, check yourself to see if you will have to take your coat or pants to the cleaner, and brush off whatever wet stuff is brush-able.
4) If you don’t slip and fall, stumble a little as you take your last step in the mess and regain your normal footing.
5) Cross the street and look for a way to get onto the sidewalk with a minimum of trouble.
METHOD NO. 2
This is often seen in poor drainage areas, where deep puddles have formed at street corners.
1) Stand looking at the huge puddle and complain in a loud voice. “Oh shit!” is an often-used expression in this case.
2) Look for a relatively shallow path at the edges of the puddle. If a way is found, slosh through it as fast as possible, trying hard to ignore the water pouring through your boots and between your toes. Then proceed to Step 6. If no way is found, continue with Step 3.
3) If walking through the slush puddle is not an option, search around and try to spot a possible passageway somewhere up the block.
4) You will probably find one, blocked by a parked car. In this case, it is permissible to go up to the car and use it as an anchor while you gingerly step through the piled up snow to get around it, trying not to get gunk on your clothes.
5) Walk along the street side of all the parked cars, praying that nobody will run you over, and cross the street at the corner. Deal with whatever obstacles lie on the other side of the street when you get there.
NOTE: New Yorkers are the world’s champion jaywalkers. However, only those among us who have no brains and a death wish will try to jaywalk across streets where drivers are desperately trying to hold onto the road with their tires.
METHOD NO. 3
1) If you are a trained jumper with a better than average sense of balance, take a flying leap over the obstacle that nature and a couple of snow ploughs have set in your way and hope for the best.
2) If you fall, you may go to Method No. 1, Step 3. If you are still on your feet, cross the street and jump over whatever you find there.
This is the end of my little lesson. I pray that you will never be stuck in a blizzard when visiting New York. If it happens, though, I hope this little essay has been useful.
Kathy Minicozzi is the author of Opera for People Who Don’t Like It, which is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.