Friday, February 18, 2011

The Discontent of Our Winter

Just in time for the spring-like weather we’ve been having recently, here my latest ‘Notes from a Polite New Yorker’ column about special hazards of a New York City winter.

If you’ve been in New York for the past two months, you were sick of snow weeks ago, and now that the snow is rapidly melting, a minefield of poop and garbage awaits us on our sidewalks.

I’m heading to Las Vegas tonight to see Penn & Teller, do some gambling, take in the sights and not get married. I will return with a full report of what I see and do there. Wish me luck.


New York City has all the things that the rest of the country has, just first and more intense. So it has been with this year's wallop of snow. New York City has gone more than 50 days covered in snow. The 2010-2011 winter is far from over yet is already one of the most infamous in our city's history as far as winter weather.

The New York City area got a big blizzard of snow beginning the night after Christmas. We haven't seen a day without snow on the ground since.

We're not unique in getting a lot of snow, and many parts of the country have had it worse. But city life creates more and more interesting hazards and obstacles than South Dakota or even Boston.

Some of our more specific winter hazards include:

Yellow Snow – urine soaked snow left by animals and humans. While New York has a lot of dogs, I think it would be assumptive to blame dogs for all of the yellow snow in the city. Homeless, drunks, the atrociously lazy and desperate urinators coping with New York's dearth of public restrooms are also to blame.

Dogs are also not the only ones to blame for:

Turdcicles – the frozen (mostly dog) poop left by people too lazy to clean up after their dogs (and homeless people). The snow storms left lots of chances for them to simply kick snow atop the offending waste. With snow levels receding, these treats are left like mines on our sidewalks.

Quickslush - Another winter hazard that is especially plentiful in New York City is what I call "quickslush." Just as quicksand is a watery death that resembles regular sand, quickslush is a puddle of icy water and melting snow that resembles asphalt in appearance because of its rough choppy surface. You think you're stepping onto a shiny spot of street only to go ankle deep into a freezing puddle of slush—quickslush.

Plough Walls – these are the walls of hardened snow kicked up and shoved aside by snow plows. They are a particular menace to people with cars, since they will either have to shovel their car out of a wall of it if they're parked on the street or break through it if they have a driveway. They also make things tougher for pedestrians, as the curbs at crosswalks are often packed with these plow walls.

Snow Patios (aka Redneck Valet Parking) – the assemblage of lawn furniture or other household items used to reserve parking spots. I have not personally seen any shoveled spaces being reserved with lawn furniture. I like to think New Yorkers are above these kinds of childish practices. If you are going to reserve a parking space with a lawn chair in New York, be prepared to sit in that lawn chair until your car arrives or kiss that chair goodbye (though sitting in that chair is no guarantee either). If your car is there already, on the street and waiting to pull into the spot, fine, consider it reserved. But putting lawn furniture in a parking space to reserve it is really only giving the gift of lawn furniture to the lucky commuter who finds the spot when you have to go back inside your apartment to use the bathroom (unless you are responsible for some of the yellow snow problem).

Garbage Everest – an enormous mountain of snow piled very high with the idea that it will soon be removed via dump truck by the Sanitation Department. Doubtless it includes within it all kinds of garbage and other debris pushed into it by plows. The Sanitation Department also takes it upon itself to close down streets without any plan or warning when they want to remove these mountains. And they do this by parking a big truck that should be plowing snow at one end of the street to unofficially close it. This doesn't mean the street is completely blocked and you have no way of knowing if the truck is trying to block the street or is just being driven by an idiot or both.

I'm telling myself to enjoy the cold misery now, because the discontent of our winter always leads to a punishing sun of New York City summer, and that is always more miserable than winter.

No comments: