Thursday, December 30, 2010

Observations on A Blizzard...

We got 24" of snow dumped on us here in New York in the last few days, and there has been some uproar and consternation from many quarters over it.

The City seemed dreadfully unprepared for this kind of snowfall, which is unusual, as the Sanitation Department typically is out in force clearing streets just as soon as the first flakes begin to fall. Not this year, however. I happen to know -- because I was there -- that the snowplows and salt-spreaders were on the streets of the Upper East Side of Manhattan when the storm began in earnest; my friends from Britain were remarking about the incredibly rapid response to the storm, and wondering why it is that such a thing doesn't happen in England, where a dusting of snow quickly paralyzes the entire country, and they were rather impressed.

Apparently that sort of response wasn't in the offing for the Outer Boroughs because as of this morning, many of the secondary streets in my area have only been perfunctorily plowed, and it's not uncommon to see the snowplows, fire trucks, and ambulances getting stuck in huge snowbanks three days after the storm because the Sanitation Department let the snow accumulate with little action, and now it cannot catch up with the demand to plow streets that as little as year or two ago, would have been cleared on Day One.

People have died because emergency vehicles could not get to where they were needed. Public transportation has been disrupted for three days, meaning getting to work -- or anyplace else -- has been next to impossible. Emperor Bloomberg is being burned in effigy all over the City, and his excuse for this uncharacteristically flaccid response by a normally-competent snow-removal effort (say whatever else you will about the Sanitation Guys; when it comes to snow, no one, usually, does it better), is that it's Albany's fault (no state aid, you see), or that the city faces a deficit and budget cuts are in effect (no private snow-removal contractors this year), or that Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate, or best off all, "you people" -- the citizens of New York City, that is -- should have stayed off the streets and made the process a whole lot easier.

As if a complete cluster-fuck could have somehow been made easier?

Putting aside the well-known fact that Bloomberg is a mentally-challenged douche, it seems the real problems with snow removal this year are political; the plows most certainly hit the neighborhoods where the wealthy and "important" folks live, and then did little else on the two days after the storm. Some have suggested that the Sanitmen did this on purpose; there is a dispute between the Union that represents them and City Hall, over the "firing" of 400 Sanitation men (it depends on who you talk to: the Union says "Fired", the Mayor insists on the phrase "lost through attrition" or alternately "took an early retirement"), and so, to make their point, as well as to make the Mayor look bad (he needs no help in that department), the Sanitmen staged a deliberate work slowdown, and then made sure they only plowed the tony nabes to piss people off and produce bad publicity.

I don't know enough about such thing to comment further, and so I won't. That's just the stuff floating about the local newspapers and newscasts, but in this City, the truth usually doesn't lie somewhere in between two or more extremes; it's probably all true.

Suggest to the typical Municipal Worker around here (excluding the Cops and Firemen, who are tops!) that they might be overcompensated for what they actually do, and they get uppity, nasty and steam shoots from their ears and nostrils. They'll shoot back "Hey, Asshole! I hadda take a test fer dis job!", and one must resist the urge to ask "Was that blood or urine?" to avoid a fistfight. But I digress...

Now, as to the snow itself:

In my youth, 2-feet of snow was a miracle. It was, perhaps, the best thing that could ever happen to a kid, short of finding a $10 bill in the street. It was even better if it happened on a school day, but alas, all the school kids are on Christmas...excuse me...HOLIDAY vacation. Still, two feet of snow should be enough to bring the children out in force, throwing snowballs, building snow forts, sledding, playing football in the streets, all sorts of winter revelry. Not anymore.

I have seen relatively few children out playing in the snow. In the last two days, I could count the number of kids on both hands, and four of them would be my own nephews. Even that much snow can't pry the little bastards away from the X-box or television, I guess. More likely, their parents are keeping them inside because they don't want them to get sick, or maybe the blizzard was the first indication of the Global Warming Apocalypse, but you don't see many kids out there playing. This is a sad commentary on the future of this Country, and probably their parents, as well.

Then again, you don't see the masses of Central American welfare thieves...err...immigrants...on the streets, either. Oh, they were out the morning after the storm, shovels in hand, knocking on doors to "a-shovel you drive-a-way", but I've seen nary a one, since. There is a lesson here: if you want to discourage illegal immigration, pray for a constant stream of blizzards.

However, the most notable thing about this snowstorm is that it has re-lit the fuse on the biggest powder keg in New York; the fight over parking spaces.

Around here, one treats a regular parking space like a birthright. Families pass down parking spots from father-to-son by unwritten rules of Parking Etiquette. It is assumed, almost automatically, that if you own a house in this city, then the space directly in front of it is your's by Divine Right (why should one be expected to walk more than 20' to his own front door?) , and woe to the hapless prick who violates your rights! Parking around here is tricky in the best of times; in a day and age where every family in the neighborhood has at least two vehicles, one always being the ostentatious, over-sized SUV that Mom used to shuttle the kids around and run her errands. Driveways and garages, when they are available, are almost never used to park the family vehicles. No, one does not park one's car in the driveway...that's where one keeps his 28' Chris-Craft cabin cruiser to avoid paying Marina fees, or the Winnebago that you bought for family vacations and which no longer gets used thanks to near-$4-a-gallon gasoline. Some aren't given to such extravagance, opting for the simpler and more Norman Rockwell- homespun option of matching His-and-Hers Yamaha rice burners (actually, it's more like Hers-and-Hers) which are kept on the driveway under wraps, barely used except on the most-perfect of summer weekends.

Garages are not for cars; they are for storing all the useless crap your wife bought because you gave her a credit card and no responsibility, that you have no use for and which would otherwise clutter up the house.

You see it all the time: perfectly-manicured lawn, perfectly clean -and-detailed cars out front, a garage full of chaos that looks as if an earthquake struck in the middle of the night.
Unless you're my neighbor directly across the street, who subjects his precious BMW's to a nightly ballet, wherein one is removed from the garage for the next morning's use, while the other is parked within, safe from the elements and thieves for at least one more night. You can set your watch by it. The man is the very definition of anal-retentive.

So everyone parks on the street, usually in such a fashion as to place their over sized King Cab or Suburban in a particular spot which precludes the possibility of anyone parking either ahead or behind you. This results in others "squeezing" their vehicle in behind your's, if they can, garbage cans that are routinely run over by someone who can't get the Queen Mary out of the spot they stuffed it in originally, and numerous arguments about who's boxed who in. It's not uncommon for people to be beaten senseless over parking spots around here. It gets worse with 24" inches of snow on the ground.

That's because every asshole and his mother comes out to dig a revetment for his car,and gets mightily pissed when he returns that evening to find someone else parked in it. The solution, of course, is to break out the snowblower, and dig another revetment, being perfectly mindless about either a) throwing all this snow into the street (a street you're complaining hasn't been plowed adequately), or b) deliberately burying the douchebag that so thoughtlessly took "your" spot. Whereupon the other nosepicker sneaks out in the middle of the night with his snow shovel, and returns the favor, and so the next morning the two rivals for a piece of city street neither has a legal claim to meet eyeball-to-eyeball and curse each other out for.

Of course, the absolute worst are those who dig their vehicle out, but insist on piling the snow ahead and behind it, creating huge mounds of snow that take up what would be another two parking spaces. They do this, because heaven forbid one should ever toss shovelled snow upon his own front lawn, where it might be conveniently out of the way, You want to talk about fights? Listen in as Joe Do-Gooder-First-Citizen chastises Joe Asswipe for being inconsiderate as to, in effect, take up three parking spaces just so that he can have one.

If there is ever another American Civil War, it will not start over such petty concerns as state's rights, or the overlord Leviathan crushing the privileges of the individual, nor even over racial or political differences. Oh, no: it will start here, on Staten Island, with thousands of petty arguments about who "owns" which parking space, and it will be started by a bunch of Jersey-Shore Italians and Shanty Irish, the Middle-Class-With-No-Class, over where one may park a car on a public street, just so that no oil stains ever accumulate on the pristine white concrete of his driveway (that drives down real estate values, you see). You think I'm kidding? Come here about 7 tonight, when everyone gets home from work and needs a space.

Bring popcorn and a six-pack, because we're close to shots being exchanged in these parts.

I swear, I love this place, I really do. It's just too bad that the typical inhabitant is a knuckle-dragging orangutan.

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