Sunday, February 28, 2010

Manhattan's "Snowicane"

The past two days snow came down hard in New York, kissing the city with what a friend of mine aptly described as "big, wet, sloppy flakes." Thursday my office shut down an hour and a half early in the hopes that we could all get home safely, and Friday it closed shop entirely, declaring an official "Snow Day." 

While not unheard of, in a city accustomed to heavy snowfall and equipped with a vast army of snow plows and stock piles of salt bags to effectively combat frozen forces of nature, a snow day is an unusual treat awarded only under the most serious circumstances. This storm, dubbed by some newscasters as a "snowicane" because of its 30-45 mph winds, was evidently quite the big deal.

I spent Friday watching the snowfall through my window from my bed, sipping on coffee and planning my next manuscript (certain to be an instant success and the start of a very lucrative writing career, I'm sure.) It was a delicious, lazy, stolen day. As long as the caffeine kept flowing and my internet connection held out, I didn't care how hard or long it snowed.

Until it occurred to me that I had evening plans -- a friend's party in Brooklyn  -- and, as it was Friday night, an event that sadly occurs only once a week, I really didn't want to cancel.  

So, I willed the snow to stop falling. That's the only possible explanation for what happened. Around 6 p.m. I hopped into the shower wishing with all my heart that the snow would just desist and, by the time I was back in my room toweling off, it had. Mind bullets, people. They're a reality. Face it. The proof is in the pudding. 

(Always wanted to say that. What does that even mean? Oh, to be in on the conversation when someone used that phrase in a context where it actually made sense... Not even sure where I first heard it. The English language has such amazing isims, most of which are entirely underutilized... but I digress.)

My plan was to meet my friends at their apartment near Union Square and head from there to the party in BK.

Within a block from my apartment it became apparent that I'd made a tactical error in my choice of shoes: seemingly sensible knee-high black leather riding boots. I thought they would be both warm and stylish. Practical, even.

At the first curb I stepped into a deceptively shallow-looking puddle and could feel my toes swimming in New York City mystery juice. Nast. I should have stuck with my initial inclination towards a pair of flower-patterned rubber galoshes and saved myself the tetanus scare. 

Making a mental note of this for my next post-blizzard outing, I leapt to the first patch of dry land my eyes could spy, nearly colliding with a tourist who I swear materialized out of the very mystery city juice I was trying to eschew. 

I mumbled "sorry," even though I wasn't. I didn't think he heard my half-hearted apology but then, I didn't really care if he hadn't. This was about snowicane survival, not winning a Miss Congeniality contest.

Leaving the somewhat disgruntled tourist behind, I pressed onward toward my goal: the 1 train. Four blocks and an avenue of puddle and snow-pile navigation away. The walk normally took me only a few minutes but under these conditions it seemed to take twenty. 

I told myself I should be grateful that the worst had already befallen. My feet were wet. With that out of the way, there wasn't a whole lot else that could go wrong. Knowing that, I could just accept my squishy socks and focus on getting to my train and enjoying the party. I was also sure I wouldn't be the only guest rocking water-logged footwear. 

Then, halfway to the station and well on my way to accepting my cold, clammy fate, something horrible and entirely unanticipated happened: I stepped on a patch of black ice. And fell. Hard. 

As comedian Jeff Foxworthy would say, "it was pandelerium!" 

I went down, my arms went up and with them the hostess gift I was carrying, a six-pack of Heineken.  The beers were fine, barring a single bottle which flew out of the plastic bag and into the air, soared over my head (thankfully) and shattered upon impact with the wall of Sbarro's Pizza, making it the episode's sole casualty.

I was back on my feet as quickly as I'd come off them, but a woman passing by robbed me the chance of convincing myself that "nobody saw that..." when she grabbed my arm and asked with such concern I'm convinced she's from a land far far away where people take care of one another, possibly the South, and asked "Honey, are you ok?"

"Yes, fine, completely fine, thanks," I said while avoiding eye contact with her and everyone else on the street who'd witnessed my acrobatics. 

I thought about making a joke of it. I'm here all week, folks. But instead chose to continue walking briskly toward the subway, ignoring the episode entirely. Nothing had happened. Don't mind that bruise pooling black with blood on your hip, I told myself. In a few days it will be a lovely shade of green/purple.

I made it to Brooklyn and back without further incident and had a great time at the party playing in over a foot of fresh snow on my friend's rooftop (don't worry, there's a high wall separating the roof from the nothingness and certain death beyond.)

That Friday night was a total blast, but, when I got home safe and sound I definitely breathed a huge sigh of relief and, to be honest, I wasn't entirely sure it had been worth the risk I'd taken with being out in that kind of weather.

The truth is, when I stepped out the door of my apartment building, I didn't think I was taking any risk at all. However, after my near-injury earlier that night, I realized suddenly that snow and ice, while nice to watch forming from one's window and fun to mold into projectiles or castles or men with oddly shaped torsos, are actually potentially very dangerous. 

As a Texan unaccustomed to snow, I'd underestimated this winter storm entirely. Next Friday night snowicane I might have to stay in and sip hot cocoa safely in warm, dry socks.

Then again-- maybe I'll just be sure to don a pair of heavy-traction snow boots and bring the host a bouquet of soft, non-breakable flowers. :)


This week's question of utmost importance on the poll to your right: What's your fave snow day pastime?


  1. Reading a good book while wrapped up in a blanket and drinking something hot are snow days "musts" for me. I did that a lot last week in Boston's week of rainy-slushy stuff.

  2. Building something magnificent out of snow, maybe throwing a snowball or two, until somebody gets hit in the face and starts crying. Then gathering around a fireplace with blankets and hot cider or hot chocolate with marshmellows of course. Sounds great Leigh!