As often happens in the northeast in the winter, on Dec. 26, it snowed.
There was nothing remarkable about the snow but its quantity, which led to plane cancelations and advisories. This snow also blocked roads and closed offices and, most problematically, stopped ambulances from getting to hospitals.
We’ve all heard much about the snow, about how New York City’s streets went unplowed. “We did not do as good a job as we wanted to do or as the city has a right to expect,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said later, somewhat testily, at a press conference.
On the day of the storm, my flight home was one of the many cancelled, so, adventurously, my family extended our rental car contract. “Yes,” said the woman from Dollar Car over the phone, “You can return the car in New York.”
We set out in our rented red Chrysler from North Carolina. We made it through Virginia and Maryland with little difficulty. The right windshield wiper broke halfway through the drive and we ran out of anti-freeze, which we bought more of in Delaware, where we also bought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But roads were clear, we maintained a respectable clip of nearly 60 mph, and maybe, we told ourselves, the decision to drive home had not been idiotic.
But then we hit New Jersey. As soon as we crossed the state boundary, the black of the roads became white. Lane lines were covered by snow and the banks on the side of the road grew, pushing cars into a middle-of-the-road channel. The roads were a free-for-all. We, like those around us, preemptively turned on our hazard lights. Idiocy, we asked ourselves? Probably.
Four hours of slipping and distracting ourselves with the rental car’s Sirius radio later—Rihanna and Justin Bieber are popular, matched possibly by Taylor Swift and Katy Perry but certainly no one else—we enter and subsequently exit the Lincoln Tunnel, only to face an entirely new challenge: Manhattan.
The car got stuck on 42nd street as we turned east. It got stuck again five more blocks north. Both of these times, though, we could rock the car out of the rut. A mile south of my apartment, however, we could not. In a pile of snow, beside an ice patch, behind a similarly stuck MTA bus going nowhere, it was apparent that we weren’t going to be able to move, either.
In the aftermath of the storm, Bloomberg said of the city’s plowing efforts, “the question is why it did not work this time.” It’s true: there was miscommunication, and the system did not function as it should have.
But that it snowed was a decision made on high, far out of Bloomberg’s jurisdiction. And I wonder how fair it is to blame Bloomberg for the fact that the roads were snowy. The battalion of snowplows were under his purview, of course. The failures in the response system are his responsibility, as he said. But is the state of the roads a comment on Bloomberg? Only in part. That snowplow that I saw on 66th street was out on the streets, ready to clear the roads, but circumstance prevented the plow’s progress—namely a bus blocking the road. Nothing Bloomberg could have done would have enabled that plow to move.
When my family’s car got stuck it was two in the morning, and we wanted nothing more than to be home. With the help of two cab drivers and a shovel, my sisters and I pushed the car into what was passable as a parking space, and, with scarves around our faces, we all walked the last mile home. On the way, we passed Bloomberg’s front door. The street beside was impassable, just like all the rest.
Elyssa A.L. Spitzer ’12, The Crimson’s magazine chair, is a Social Studies concentrator in Currier House.