Winter in New York

Old Man Winter, unfortunately, is upon us, and while I know that at least four of you live in the nice and roasty-toasty warm South (relatively speaking, anyway), the season is bearing down on us here in the Northeast already, just like a fat lady who accidentally sat on a Pomeranian. Already we’ve had something like thirty-eight feet of snow. I mean, I live on the fifth floor of a building. I shouldn’t be able to open my window and jump out and land only a few inches below my windowsill into an icy pile of snow and slide all the way down to ground level, but I practically can.

Seriously, though, the sanitation people or whoever it is who gets to be in charge of snow removal have done a pretty good job. Today I actually ventured out of my apartment in an attempt to not go stir-crazy, and I was shocked at how clear the roads were. But then again, I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised. You see, I guess the people here have gotten used to winter’s icy cool flavor, icy cool breath–or is that chewing gum? Either way, they’ve figured out how to quickly deal with slick roads and snow.

As Exhibit A, I give you what I affectionately call the “salt tit.” That’s right, you read correctly. These are gigantic booby-shaped buildings that are situated all over the city (mostly, though, in Staten Island and Brooklyn, as far as I can tell, though there are probably also salty boobs to be found in the Bronx), and they are filled with salt and sand for to be scattered about the roads. Unfortunately, this salt-sand mixture doesn’t eject via the “areola” on the top (yes, they actually have one of those), as that would be way too hilarious. Instead there’s just a boring door in the side of the thing so that trucks can drive in, load up with salty goodness and then leave.

Additionally the city also apparently owns an entire fleet of front-end loader snow plow things. I saw some driving down 86th Street tonight. I had been told by a friend that they scoop up all the snow that they can, load it into trucks, and then they dump it into one of the rivers. In my mind, this immediately generated several new possibilities as to how I could feasibly dispose of a body or two in a cheap and convenient manner. My friend also told me about another possibility–that they might be taking the snow to be melted in the New York City Snow Melting Machine (which he swears is real). I decided that bodies probably don’t melt quite as readily as snow does, so I scrapped that plan entirely.

Compare this, if you will, to the winter readiness of North Carolina’s Department of Transportation. My estimate is that they have approximately three gallons of salt and sand in reserve any given year (and that’s a generous estimate, too), plus one golf cart with a snow shovel taped to the front of it to service the entire Western Piedmont. When it snows out, the entire state shuts down. Grocery stores suddenly end up with no bottled water, milk or bread (even that entirely unappealing type of “swirl” bread), and the only size batteries you can find anywhere are in weird sizes like CR12 or F. You’d think, honestly, that North Carolinians were mistaking snow for radioactive fallout.

One real advantage to living here is the availability of public transit. While buses may seem a little risky when it’s snowy out, keep two things in mind. First, buses are really heavy. If you get into a wreck with a bus, believe me, the bus is going to win, unless maybe you’re in a Hummer or something, and even in that case it’s not looking too good for you. So, chances are, you’re not going to die. And second, I forgot what the second thing is. So there you have it.

Additionally, the subway runs regardless of what the weather is like. That’s the primary advantage to riding on a subterranean train–weather is pretty much inconsequential. At least, most of the time. My train, the “W,” unfortunately emerges from its safe underground ensconcement in order to cross a bridge over the river from Brooklyn to Manhattan, which I guess means that theoretically the tracks could ice over, but somehow I don’t think it’s a problem. Even if the train did derail on the bridge, it wouldn’t fall off the side–or at least I don’t think it would–and it’d be a heck of a story to tell people at parties. Assuming, that is, that I survived.

The trick seems to be making sure you’re bundled up and warm if you go out, but for the love of everything that’s good and creamy, don’t go out if you don’t have to. Unless you have to get a flu shot, but that’s another story for another day.

—2003