The snows were heavy last year. They came one after the other. Before the roads could be cleared properly, there was another snowfall, and not just a dusting. Each time it snowed, the plows and pick-ups, blades down on the ground and bouncing off the pavement, leaving slick islands of ice and creating an occasional shower of small sparks as metal hit the surface of the road, would go up and down the streets, packing walls of snow against the doors of the parked cars. People were asked to move their cars, but by that time they were entombed and, where would they be driven even if liberated?
Intrepid souls would dig their cars out, sweating in the freezing winds. First, hack the icy wall away, heavy with water and packed by the plows flush into the side of each parked vehicle. Then start digging a path outward, the way the car is pointed. Then realize you will need to back up to maneuver, so dig out the rear end. Watch the circling snow plows take another run down your street, returning a portion of what you have thrown out onto the street into another, although lower, wall of ice which must be chipped down and shoveled away.
Then, underneath the car. That is where the wheels are, yes? As you go back and forth, you will be driving over the snow under the car, blown there as deep as on the street by the currents of wind. Reach down with your shovel, bend down to see, fill the bowl of the shovel with a layer of snow, not too high or it will dump itself out on attempted extraction, draw the handle evenly towards you, gently tip the shovel upwards to clear to curb or pull it straight out into the line of traffic if you are on the other side, take care not to back into a gently skidding driver coming down the narrow street, deposit the snow somewhere that does not block the street, the sidewalk, the areas you have cleared, the areas others have cleared (now where would that be? the car trunk is beginning to look attractive…), and repeat. And repeat. And, well you know….
Your car is free. The snow plow is not in sight. It is time to pull out of your parking space. You turn the key (should have tried that earlier) but are relieved to hear the engine turn over, and you look out your window—white-out! Have to scape the snow off. Try the wipers? Some more light comes into the car but it is still blurry, there seems to be some layer of ice on top of the glass. Out with the ice scraper, a tedious job, you cannot reach the middle of the front window but it looks good enough, forget the rear window you have mirrors. There, close enough.
From down the street you hear a dull grumble, a sharp scrape. The plow is coming back. Not enough time to pull out of the space. Bold protective action is required. You quickly exit your car, and stand in the street about a foot into the road alongside your car. It is the game of chicken. The plow drivers, you have heard on the radio, have been working for 16 straight hours. They are no doubt pretty tired. They are no doubt not in love with pedestrians in the street. And is that a sheet of icy snow on the windshield of that plow? Surely he will not run you over. Surely he will swerve or pick up his blade. Surely he can see you, after all you are wearing your big fluffy quilted long-coat of a vivid snow-white hue – whoops, that is not so good is it? – surely he would not dare pack snow up against your car yet again, this time with you in the middle of the ice wall.
He swerves, leaving a low curl of snow in an arc around you and your car. As he rumbles past, is that a jaunty wave he has given you? Or perhaps an obscene gesture? He is a city employee, a public servant, he works for me, surely he would not do that – would he? Or perhaps he is a contracted person, some drunken pick-up truck driver, have you risked your actual life on the chance that some random, exhausted, snow-blinded, not-even-public-servant would actually not run you over? Well, seems you have.
But you won, yes? Who cares? You won! Hah. You say “hah” to the plow and to the world. Back in your car, now slightly warmed by the running engine. You can see through your almost clear front window. You are good to go. Ease into reverse, get a little room, back up, stop, Quick shift into drive, or is it low gear? Your car is not made in the United States, there is no gear marked low. There are gears marked S and R. What IS that, oh why did you not read the manual. To heck with S and R, jam it into drive again, that’s it, the Tesla in front of you will not show any damage from that last gentle tap of your bumper on its fender and you can clean up the glass later, back and forth you rock, wearing down the snow and ice, one last lurch over the lip of snow where the ice wall used to reside and you are out, you are on the street, you are clear of snow and vehicles front and back, you can go on your way, you can try your GPS to see if it is working, you can OH MY GOD someone is going to come along and park in my big shoveled space right in front of my house and when I come home I will not have a place to park and I will be driving around the City until 2 in the morning where I will find a parking space in some sleazy corner of town and they will find my mugged body the next morning frozen into a snow drift like that character in Giants in the Earth and all because I did not protect my parking space.
So now you are parked in the middle of street and you do not care. You take your keys, race into your building, throw open your condo door, grab a kitchen chair ($475 from Roche Bobois but who cares about money at a time like this), you ignore the beeping horns from the small line of cars behind you as you plant that chair in the dead center of your parking space. There! It is the code of the city; that space is yours until the big thaw.
Just to be sure, you take out one of your business cards. You have no tape but you tuck it securely into a notch between the seat and the frame so the whole world can know that you are — well, you. Off you drive.
You drive around a bit. You realize that you really did not have anywhere to go, you stocked up on foods prior to the snow fall as if you lived in Siberia, you could feed an army for a month just out of your pantry without reliance on refrigerators or stoves, both of which are liable to fail in blizzards. You look at all the cars, plowed in themselves. You look with no pity at the few others digging out their cars—hah, you are late to the party, you think. You pass and cut off a couple of plows – two can play this game! You cruise past your local pub and think, I would love a beer but of course there is no place to park, I might go back to my space and then walk over for a brewski. Yeah, that’s a great idea. That’s what I’ll do!
You swing around the block, approach your house, and see the Volvo parked in your spot. You stop. You stare. You look around but there is no one. You try the door but it is locked. Your chair, the one that matches your set and that is no longer manufactured, is no where to be seen. Incredulity turns to cold hatred. You look at the Volvo. You look at its tires. You remember the carving knife Uncle Louis gave you a couple of Christmases ago.
* * * * * * * * * * *
People in the City Jail are really not all that bad. At least, you did not meet any really dangerous people. The drunks were, well, drunk. The guy who slugged the plow driver was a personal hero to you. The male prostitute was, well, strange but chacun a son gout. One fellow had micturated in an alley at the wrong time—why is there always a cop there when you don’t need one. Seems the mayor was serious when he announced that the city would no longer honor the local custom of saving parking spaces in public thoroughfares. Seems Mr. Duffy, the Volvo guy, was fond of those two tires you “altered” and not at all sympathetic to your explanation, seeing as how he had been excluded from his own dug-out space around the block (at least he got his kitchen stool back). And who knew that Duffy’s brother was the clerk of courts….
I am out now, of course. It was only some money and thirty days, during which I had some time to catch up on my People magazines and also to write down these my impressions of the moment. The suggestion of the judge that I invest in an anger management program has not met with favor in my own eyes. In fact if I ever come across that mothering son of a bitch on a dark night I am going to take a crowbar and bash his friggin’ — uh, well, never mind about that.
I am considering moving to Miami. I know it does not snow in Miami. I am not stupid, you know. Miami is South of here and it does not snow. If I do it, I will be sure to drop you a card with my new address….