Hey Na Na Na Hey…Life In A Northern Town…


So my town got walloped by “Winter Storm Nemo” (damn the Weather Channel for stuff like “Nemo” anyway).  This happened, oh, 12 days ago.  We were up in Vermont at the time, and got 9 whole inches where we were staying.  My home mountain got a tidy 15 or so.  But my home Home got over 2 feet.  SMACK DOWN.  I uttered a lengthy stream of profanity when we arrived home and discovered that our four-car driveway (ours + the neighbors) was now exactly as wide as one family sedan, and flanked by a 4 foot tall parapet of snow and ice on either side.

Forget on-street parking.  Simply not allowed for several days, and beyond that, there just wasn’t any room.

New England towns have a richly deserved reputation for being “quaint” and “picturesque”.  This generally translates to “has roads that are very narrow and winding” and “on-street parking despite the narrowness of the roads”.  In Boston, it translates to “psychotic chaos on the streets”.  Only the true glutton for punishment – or the individual training for world-class formula 1 car racing – enjoys driving in Boston.  We may possibly add to that list “reckless and homicidal maniac”, on second thought.

My town, not in Boston and not near enough to attract significant numbers of Boston drivers, is not normally on the “lunatic” end of the spectrum. Which means that when the 2+ feet of snow converted the side-streets into one-way venues, and laid up nine-foot walls of snow between the now-two-lanes of the main streets, for the most part, everyone dealt with the situation with Patience and Fortitude (which, by the way, are the names of the lions at the New York City Public Library by Bryant Park).  I guess there are enough Formerly Known As Boston Drivers here to be comfortable with rank chaos on the roads.  We managed to sort ourselves out reasonably well, all things considered.  The street is now one-way, and there are people parked on it – I’d say “parked on the curb” but you couldn’t get within 3 feet of the curb in most places – and so you creep up and look for oncoming traffic, and crowdsource a decision about Whose Turn It Is To Go Now, and three or five cars go, and then that direction of traffic stops, and gives way to three or five cars coming the other direction.  And so forth.

It was…surprisingly…mellow.  There’s a special name for Massachusetts drivers, who have a richly deserved reputation for being aggressive, inattentive, and incompetent all at the same time.  That name is “Massholes.”  Despite a proliferation of bizarre bumper stickers advertising the fact “Masshole” is NOT a compliment.  I would have expected to see a lot more Massholery, given the circumstances.  Yet, incredibly, over the last two weeks I have encountered only one.  You, Masshole driving the white sport ute at high speeds down Hawley Street, who honked at me for being in the middle of the road, I’m talking about you, you jerk.  The speed limit on that street is 25 when the roads are clear and dry.  They put the speed bumps in because of Massholes like you, and why on earth you thought you should be the only person not inconvenienced by the state of the streets, I do not know.  Go back to Boston, you putz.

Anyway, other than the jerk in the white sport ute, people have been really cool.  And, in the meantime, the Department of Public Works has been pulling a 24/7 job pulling the snow off the streets.  When there is that much snow you can’t just plow it.  After a while, there’s no where to plow it to.  People have to clear the sidewalks, by law, so those of us who are blind, in wheelchairs, elderly, or have any other difficulties getting around can still do so.  That’s how you wind up with 4 foot parapets from a 2 foot snow.  Plows on one side, and snowblowers on the next.

And all that works, if you don’t mind living in a giant snow fort.  And if you’re not trying to drive or walk anywhere.  It’s amazing how much information you can collect out of the corner of your eye about things that are about to happen.  And how, when there are 4 foot barriers everywhere, how much information you can’t collect.  You can’t see cars that are trying to turn onto your street, for example.  And you can’t see pedestrians that are about to cross.  You can’t see the cars that are traveling down the freeway at speed when you’re trying to get on (if you’re merging in) and you can’t see cars that are coming down the entrance ramp (if you’re already on the freeway).

It certainly adds a special Thrill to getting about.

And it complicates parking.

And there’s the whole spontaneous conversion to one-way street grid thing.

So, when the snow gets deep enough on the ground, they don’t plow it, they haul it.  This has been going on, day and night, for the last 10 nights.

I know this, because my nighttime reveries have taken place to a constant soundtrack of beep-beep-beep groan-grind-clash-thump-scrape beep-beep-beep.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  The other night, the slightly important thoroughfare next to my house got some Snow Removal Pampering from the DPW at 2:45am, and it was so bloody loud it woke me out of a dead sleep and nearly gave me a heart attack.

I hope they give ear protection to these guys.  I didn’t see any, but I hope they’re using it.

The street I actually live on is 1 block wide and a dead end.  It’s not exactly High on the city’s list of Streets To Get Cleared.  I don’t know that we are the last street in the city to get cleared, but we’re certainly in the bottom 5 percent.  They got around to us today.  I came home from an appointment to find a collection of heavy machinery performing a peculiar ballet off my front porch.  I don’t even have words for most of this equipment.  Whatever it is, we don’t have it in Texas, where I come from.  The only piece that looked familiar with the endless series of dump trucks hauling big piles of water (in Texas, water doesn’t make “piles”.  Floods, yes.  Heaps, no) off to the local vacant lot, a multi-acre area that is now covered with a massive 30 foot layer of snow.

Without further ado, I bring you the ballet (with apologies for the framing, but I had to use the smartphone):


About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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