Monday, December 22, 2008

Really Snowy Days

A drive 50 blocks from my house today restored my faith in humanity. It started this morning, when Sascha spent an hour in the cold, helping me dig out my car when it got high-centered in the driveway. Or maybe it actually started a few days ago, when my faith in humanity was tested. The kiddo and i went for a hike at Tryon Creek and came back to find the passenger window of my car smashed out. My purse was gone, and since then no glass company has been able to help me get it fixed. Monday, they said, on account of the bad weather... but after Sunday and Monday produced the biggest snowstorm this region has seen for 20 years, Monday didn't seem so feasible anymore. So now they say Tuesday, Wednesday... I have cleared out a space in the tiny garage for my car to sit, but that means i've had to conquer the drifts in the driveway to get in and out.

This last round of snow has finally unsettled this overconfident Midwest driver. After all the nonstop news coverage of the cold weather this week, it is finally fully warranted. (I would show you a picture, but UPS is having a hard time delivering my repaired camera, on account of the snow!) The sidestreets are barely passable for my all-wheel drive, because the piles are higher than my car's clearance. After the hour of digging today i finally made my way to Southeast 82nd Avenue -- normally a teeming thoroughfare filled with all manner of shady characters and disreputable storefronts. Today it's a steady line of chained 4-wheel drives, and along the sides, a stream of people, walking on the road instead of the sidewalk. The seedy convenience marts and jackoff palaces are mostly closed, so they get a pass for not shoveling their sidewalks... but the ones that are open are helping people put their lives in danger by not clearing the walks. On a day as terrible as this one, most people would choose to stay inside instead of cruise the avenue. But since we are two days til Christmas, 82nd was crazy busy. People are stocking up and getting the last crappy gifts they can find at Fred Meyer, since heading to the mall is more and more out of the question by the day.

And in the midst of this storm, people are coming together. I stopped at the grocery store myself today, and people were happily chatting to strangers and wishing them well while they waited in long lines. A customer listened patiently as a stock clerk told a story about getting home with her little car. On the streets, perfect strangers assembled to help the family in the 2-wheel mini SUV make it through a messy intersection. Little gangsta boys who normally walk indignantly slow across the avenue wherever they please were instead stopping to help the old grandma with the makeshift cane made from a kitchen table leg get through the snow. A loyal friend pushed his teenage friend's wheelchair through the snow to help his buddy make it home. When i finally made it the 50 blocks that was my journey, a Mexican family stopped trying to get their little car out of the snow and helped push me back out of the apartment driveway.

Times like these remind me how basic our real needs are. When things get bad, if we are able to trudge through the snow to get to the corner market, we can get by. When others around you are struggling, scraping an inch of ice off their pitiful hope for transportation, they will drop everything and help you instead. If the economy continues to tumble and we hit a few more low points because of it, days like this make me think that we're gonna be all right. In the middle of chaos, people's goals narrow -- and we work again on helping each other.

Now we just need someone to help the people walk on the sidewalk, instead of the busiest street in Southeast.