Have you heard that we in New England are receiving more snow than has ever snowed anywhere ever before?
If so, then it is true.
If not, then it is a lie I made up.
Adjust your reality accordingly.
Either way, I find that I must trudge to my job through a thick blanket of detestable flakes each morning, mostly because my employer is too cheap to send around a limousine. Despite my repeated, quasi-polite requests, even.
The snow piles into the difficult-to-empty crevices on my shoes, waiting to melt and deliver a shocking surprise when it has calculated that my attention to my work will be maximally disrupted. It piles on the streets and sidewalks, as well. Sometimes it makes fluffy snowbanks, and sometimes it becomes dirty slush. Which it chooses appears to be entirely random. I assume that it is part of an ineffably evil plan, but no one takes my accusations seriously, so I must suffer in (relative) silence.
I hope it can be gathered by now that I am not a fan of… snow.
One of the puzzling behaviors of snow that bothers me the most is its inconsistency in creating walkable paths. (I suppose I should blame this on people, but snow is not capable of defending itself, so I find it a riper target.) Due to the human habit of walking carefully in conditions of uncertain footing, the path that is cleared by previous pedestrians is often uncomfortably narrow. When walking in the summer (for example), most people keep their feet safely on the corresponding side of the body. Winter walking tends to emulate catwalk walking, in that each step is placed directly in front of the other.
This behavior may be observed by loading a copy of the original Tomb Raider into your Playstation and holding R1 while pressing Up on the directional pad.
I will wait while you do this.
Lara’s walking gait is similar to that of a city dweller in the winter. Sadly, we are not all as precise as Ms. Croft, and the channel produced by our footsteps’ compressing the snow is sloped on the sides. (As an aside, shouldn’t she be the one with balance problems?) When you step even slightly out of true, there’s a chance that you will slip off into one of the previously-mentioned fluffy-or-slushy snowbanks.
This problem only becomes worse when people try to walk through the snowbanks. The temptation to reach out and steady myself on the available humps is quite large. The consequences, I hope, are obvious.
Today was an interesting trudge, in that I encountered interesting things. I will relate only one of them, as it was the most interesting. The less interesting things are… less interesting.
Er, let’s move beyond this tautology.
My walk to work has two parts. One from my home to the subway, and another from the subway to the office. This is not an arbitrary division: I ride the subway for some distance in the middle.
While trudging the first leg of my journey, I pass through several traffic lights. Of course, I tend to walk only when the pedestrian WALK signal is active. Usually, this also means that the vehicles stay out of my way. This is a practice that I would thank each and every one of them for—individually, if necessary—because “not dying” has been my primary goal for almost every day of my life.
Today, however, a vehicle—an SUV of some variety—decided to ignore this social contract.
(Hm. It may be worth noting at this point that I am engaging in a bit of semantics called synecdoche. The vehicle ignored nothing; it was in fact the driver of the vehicle that did. Just FYI.)
I was not the only person in the crosswalk when this happened. There was a girl who, if I had to guess, was around my own age walking ahead of me. She was dressed in a bright purple winter jacket, with dark purple gloves and even darker purple earmuffs as accessories.
The SUV had difficulty with traction in the iffy road conditions, and was only traveling at about 5 miles per hour, if that, when it crossed past us. And then something amazing happened.
The girl thrust her hands into her pockets. When she removed them an instant later, they were bare. She leaned back, threw her hands in the air, and gave the…
…flip-off that I have ever seen.
One could almost feel the emotion emanating from her fingers’ skyward thrust. It was the “Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam” of flip-offs.
If it were a Zweihänder sword, and not a bird, I have no doubt—in my mind nor in my heart—that she could have cut the SUV in half.
In a clear demonstration of the fight-or-flight response, the SUV’s wheels began to spin wildly, trying desperately to get away from this five-foot, eight-inch, angry, purple people eater.
Still, the fingers remained.
Tires finally caught purchase on asphalt. They had to spin-dig through an inch of densely packed snow to get there. The SUV jumped forward about a foot before it realized what was happening, and brakes were liberally applied.
Still, the fingers remained.
Switching back to gas, the SUV finally sped off. (“Finally” may be an unsuitable word, as the events described only lasted several seconds.) For as far as I could hear the sound of its engine, it continued to accelerate.
The girl tracked it with her gesture until she decided that enough was enough. She calmly put her hands back in her pocket, and the gloves were back on.
Literally and metaphorically.
Putting one foot in front of the other, she continued walking as though the previous spectacle had not even occurred.
I had no idea how to react.
Do I… compliment her? Do I sympathize with her over the behavior of the SUV? Do I immediately request her hand in marriage? The last may seem an extreme reaction, but the sheer force of the flip-off left me stunned, possibly not in my right mind.
And I was not even its target.
It was all I could do to quickly walk past her, and on to the Kendall/MIT T station.
I assure you, this story is minimally embellished.