Tuesday, December 22, 2009
It so happened that I was in New York City this past weekend. When the blizzard hit. The snow began falling about midday on Saturday, and by Saturday evening it was coming down pretty good. It was fascinating to sit in my hotel room, overlooking Broadway on the Upper West Side, and watch the circumstances of humanity as they unfolded in the snow.
There were a couple of things about New Yorkers in a snowstorm that were starkly different from my memories of winter in New Hampshire. The first was the large number of people who were using umbrellas:
Umbrellas in a snowstorm? What are you thinking? Where I came from, we wore a hat or scarf over our head, and just let the snow fall on it. As cold as it was outside, everyone should have had a hat or scarf anyway.
The other thing that struck me was the large number of people riding bicycles in the storm:
People, snow and bicycles do not mix. Not unless you're a bicycle messenger and you have no choice. Early in the evening the bicycles plowed through, but as it got later and the snow appeared to be about three inches deep, the bicyclists began to have a lot of trouble with control. Their front wheels slid back and forth and they were jerking the handlebars to try to keep balance. Not to mention frequently touching the ground with a foot. Taxis were following one guy who was in the middle of the uptown lane, and as he swerved around they were honking at him constantly. It was dangerous.
The hotel was directly across the street from the Broadway Fairway Market, which I guess is one of the most popular grocery stores in Manhattan. It was doing a brisk business (thus providing me with lots of material for observation). At about eleven o'clock a woman left the market. She was wearing an ankle-length black coat and a scarf over her head. She was accompanied by a smaller person -- perhaps a teenaged girl -- in a white parka and white hood, and a child -- a boy? -- in a dark coat and a black ski cap. The little boy was exhuberant, throwing himself on the ground to make a snow angel, then jumping up and kicking snow in the air, then grabbing up snow for a snowball. He was enjoying the storm. The woman was trying desperately but somewhat timidly to hail a taxi. She was standing way back from the edge of the traffic lane and had her arm up, but seemed to wave her hand hesitantly. I freely admit I'm no expert, but in my very limited experience the best way to get a cab is, if not to actually jump in front of it, at least make a run at it.
Anyway, this lady's technique wasn't working. But what tickled me is that every time a taxi passed without stopping (which was often -- practically the only cars on the road by this time were taxies), the exhuberant child would pelt it with a snowball.
A taxi would pass.
It's a wonder his arm didn't get tired.
Slowly and quietly this little group worked their way up Broadway to 75th, and they stood there at that corner for quite a while, she flagging, he pelting. The woman seemed to not even notice the child, who I silently rooted for in his assault on the cabs, the cabs that didn't stop. Then suddenly the woman collected the white parka and the small child and crossed Broadway eastbound, disappearing from my sight. Where was she going? Why had she given up on the taxis? What was her new plan? How did they get home? I'll never know.