Mixed Messages in Snowstorms

Wednesday was a wonderful day: we were buried by a blizzard. Woo-hoo! I say “wonderful” for a lot of reasons:

  • Ulla had a snow day at work so we had an extra day together.
  • We went for a walk at the Fells and, as always, were captivated by the beauty and tranquility of the woods in winter.
  • I just love snow!

There’s another reason why it was wonderful: the whole neighborhood helped each other out. Two neighbors with snowblowers took care of the heavy stuff the plows had pushed up, and we helped other neighbors (especially older folks) dig out their cars and walks. I helped a woman get out of the parking lot at the Fells. One neighbor even commented (as I helped her oldest son get their car out of a huge snow pile) that it was nice to see people helping each other, and our next-door neighbor offered us free dog-sitting! (She’s a professional pet-sitter.)

Adversity does seem to bring out the best in people. Remember after 9/11 when there were a lot of articles about how people were suddenly being nice to one another? That’s great, although at the time (and now) I couldn’t help but think “Why does it take an emergency or tragedy for people to treat each other decently?”

Snowstorms capture this in a nutshell. For all the great things people did to help one another, there’s a residue of the all-too-typical self-centered cluelessness that makes life more difficult and stressful than it needs to be. Take a look at the photo for a great example: this person took the time to shovel around the fire hydrant, but couldn’t be bothered shoveling the remaining 10 feet to the left to finish their part of the sidewalk. I guess they’re concerned about their own house (don’t want it to burn down) but not concerned about pedestrians (of whom there are actually a fair number around us, between the students walking to Tufts, the many people with dogs, and the folks who run).

Of course, at least these people shoveled half their sidewalk: even now, two days later, some people haven’t touched their sidewalks, even though their driveways are shoveled. Mind you, this is a minority (and Medford is far better in this regard than Needham, where I lived previously). Others only bothered taking care of themselves, shoveling the sidewalk only from their driveways to their front doors, leaving half the sidewalk covered.

At least I didn’t see what I saw quite frequently in Needham: people would use snowplows to clear out their driveways, piling huge piles up that completely blocked the sidewalk.

I understand that people have a lot of things on their minds. We’ve created a high-pressure, go-go-go society and it’s difficult to find time. But we could go a long way toward a more civil society if we would just try to see things from other people’s perspective. Like, for example, from the pedestrian’s point of view. 

Categories: Random thoughts

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