Two feet of snow is a lot. But it seems in my long life I’ve seen a few snowstorms like that. After a day of unexpected beauty, when nature makes marshmallow pillows out of everything, and kids are allowed to sled and cavort on streets made impassible for cars and dogs see something they never usually do, the hard truth comes.
The digging out. This is something everybody realizes. You must go out and find a way to shovel your walk because that is what citizens do. And the city must go out and clear the streets because that’s what they are supposed to do. But in Washington, D.C., the big snowfalls come so infrequently nobody knows what to do when they happen.
Partly because a one inch dusting earlier in the week crippled the Beltway, motorists were asked to stay home. Even pedestrians were asked to stay home. And over the weekend, miraculously, most everybody did.
The payoff, one would think, is that the streets would get plowed and everybody would inch back to normal. So, we all did our part — sidewalks by and large clear and after a day even dry. But so far, more than three days after the storm, no plow has made it to our street. No car has made it up the hill. Two feet of snow, trampled, imprinted by sleds, thrown around, was still there. Is still there.
Despite their hallowed mottos, the mailmen disappeared. Nothing for three days. We may be the block’s last subscribers of newspapers (plural!), but that doesn’t ease the pain of nothing for days. People aren’t living up to their end of the bargain.
One night, after half-hearted binge watching, I smelled a little smoke. Neighbors were likely using fireplaces, as they had likely done before. But I hadn’t noticed smoke before. I really hoped it wasn’t a fire because there was no way a fire truck was getting here. Our little townhouses would all burn to the ground, though firefighters could walk here with cups of water — the sidewalks were clear.
Look, I’m a guy who prides himself on never using his car in the city. But there are a couple of things this week like a hospital visit in Virginia, or picking up somebody at the airport at odd hours that require some driving. These things were scheduled mid-and late in the week, but I’m not positive I’ll even make it.
Equally antsy neighbors got together on the list serve to try and find a private contractor to clean the alley if not the street. Here’s an idea: We all band together, put in money, have somebody do something for the common good. Then I remembered: Oh yeah, that’s what the city government is for.
Spring will be here in several weeks. Maybe it will be melted by then. If not, send milk.