February 3, 2011 • 6:14 am

Well, the snow has abated, but it was the third largest storm in the hundred-year history of weather records in Chicago.  Some places got nearly two feet of snow:

When I walked into my building at about 6:30 a.m., there was a guy in orange coveralls lying supine on the floor.  At first I thought he was dead, and was just about to call 911, but then realized that he had his sock-clad feet up against the radiator, warming them.  He (and a group of guys sitting on the stairs) told me, “We’ve been shovelling since 3 a.m., and we’re cold!”  Thanks to them, though, I didn’t have to struggle to work through snowdrifts.

And, OMG, my car!

I ain’t going anywhere for a while.  I haz no shovel, and my philosophy in this situation is “let it melt.”

All over the city, people who have shovelled out their cars are trying to reserve the empty space by putting things like chairs and purloined traffic cones in it.  This is illegal, but is it ethical? What would Sam Harris say?

59 thoughts on “OMG

  1. No shovel? I thought Chicago had a bit more snow than that usually…anyway, you Americans are getting a lot of snow this year. Canadians are getting spared for the most part…biggest storm this year was 10inches of snow in Sudbury, ON.

    Problem is that here, it doesn’t melt ’till late march. So 6 inches here and there really do add up Nov-Feb.

    1. Lucky Sudbury. Down here in London (about the same latitude as Chicago) we’re just shy of 3 meters this winter with only one melt. A single streamer over a 24 hour period from lake effect snow dumped more than a meter back in early December and stranded hundreds on the 402 (an ‘interstate’ highway) for a few days. And this is almost nothing compared to the poor folk in the maritimes who are getting a storm weekly (9 for 9 so far). Chicago just got a taste of what winter regularly offers the rest of us!

        1. (Report Dec 14, 2010)

          Military choppers from CFB Trenton helped to rescue hundreds of motorists stranded by a severe snowstorm near Sarnia, Ont., Tuesday. By late Tuesday afternoon 237 people had been rescued from their vehicles, it is unclear how many people were taken in my area farmers and snowmobilers who aided in the efforts.

          Drifting snow and zero visibility had trapped about 300 people in their vehicles since Monday night on Highway 402, between Sarnia and County Road 22, about 30 kilometres east of the city.

          It took about 3 days to open up a lane of traffic in each direction after towing all these vehicles to different evacuation centres so that the highway could be plowed (talk about a Catch-22).

  2. Yeah, I’d be inclined to wait for the Spring thaw, too. Like me, you’re lucky enough to be able to walk to work.

    The stores here in England are still out of snow shovels since our last snow storm. I have one coming from Amazon on back order.

    1. Shoveling snow is a really enjoyable kind of exercise though.

      I’ve always liked shovel work. Shoveling elephant dung was just fine with me. Scraping up bird crap, not so much. Too fiddly.

      1. I don’t mind shoveling so much, but my garden spades are not up to the task for clearing much snow. I need a proper snow shovel.

        This is the third year in a row in which southern England has had serious snow, though since the new year we haven’t had any. If we had the 2 feet that Chicago (and elsewhere) got, it would have be the death of Blighty. The 9″ or so we got shut us down for over a week.

        1. I am rather proud of my different snow shovels and sleds lined up and hanging neatly in the garage that I think of as some kind of overly large trophy case for them. Oh, and there’s room for the car, too (my spouse insists).

          Because there are different kinds of snow and different weather conditions that affect its texture, weight and consistency, there are better and worse kinds of tools for the removal job. The kind of snow the plow fills into the end of the driveway is quite a bit different than, say, the light fluffy stuff that seems to have been blown around a bit in Chicago (and it was a bit of blow, I’ll grant you that) or the heavy and saturated icy snow that dumps occasionally out on the Wet Coast. As usual, the right tool makes the job just that much easier and efficient.

          Snow blowers are fine for the most part but not so good on the hardy chunks like the kind for making igloos. That usually happens when the winds stay high and shoveling (and snow blowing) can be a pretty miserable experience when battling the drifting.

          The key for dealing with ‘some weather’ (the local lingo) is how prepared the road crews are. An inch on a hill with delayed treatment turns quickly to ice and can be far worse than a three foot dump center-cleared and sanded by crews that know what they’re doing to keep traffic flowing. My city also dedicates the same crew time to clearing sidewalks as it does major roads because keeping pedestrian traffic off the roads is just as important as keeping the cars moving.

  3. Reserving spaces *you’ve* shoveled is perfectly ethical IMO. If someone else did the work, it’s less clear cut; but if you put the effort into clearing out that much snow, you certainly deserve a space.

    Besides, it’s more ethical than the vengeance they’d seek once some jerk stole their hard earned parking space. 🙂

    1. It’s an aspect of the “tragedy of the commons”. The shoveler does all the work but has no right of ownership for the long-term benefit.

      None of this would prevent someone from getting his ass kicked or car keyed for “stealing” a cleared space.

      1. He does get to free his car from the space, which presumably is what he was after when did the shoveling. If no one reserves the space then there are as many spaces available after the storm as before. No one owns the street.

        I love when the plows come and cover the stupid cones and ugly broken lawn chairs. There is always mass transit and cycling.

        1. You mean ‘there’s always move to somewhere fit for human habitation’!! Holy crap what a place. I was hoping that when global warming made Australia uninhabitable I could move to Canada, I’m not sure I’ll live long enough to see Canada fit to live in though. 😉

          1. move to Vancouver: barely any snow, mild winters, warm summers, just don’t expect to see the sun too often.

        2. Yes, cycling is always a viable option when the roads are covered in ice…

          And transit and cycling are NOT always options, whether due to disability or lack of transit.

    2. I’m inclined to agree, but let me make a counter-argument anyway: The very fact that it is illegal makes the ethical question far murkier. Not just out of some blind obedience to the law mind you! The problem is that if you have some number of people complying with the law, and some number of people reserving spaces, and a fixed number of people seeking spaces… as you increase the percentage of space-reservers, it also increases the odds that a law-compliers space will get “stolen”. In other words, your decision to break the law directly penalizes those who are complying, and I’m not sure that is ethical.

      What I think ultimately saves it is that I assume the odds of an unreserved space being “stolen” are close to 100% — is that more or less true? If so, then even though in theory every additional space-reserver penalizes the law-compliers, the effect is so small in practice (maybe now you have a 2000:1 shot of keeping your space instead of a 1000:1 chance) that it doesn’t really matter.

    3. If you take the spot the person who shoveled must shovel more and you run the risk of a face punch. If don’t take the spot you need extra time and energy to find another but the hard work of shoveling has paid off for the shoveler and you no longer run the risk of a face punch. I suppose overall well being is highest when the spot is not taken unless of course not parking there would suck much more than a probable face punch (like you are in labor and that is the closest spot) 😉

  4. I would clean the car off to let everyone know the car has not been ignored/abandoned. It might keep those away that want what is in it:)

  5. I love the two feet.

    Folks around Boston are whingeing the winter away instead of reveling in the fact that you can ski from Beacon Hill to the Harvard Bookstore. We have snow forts on our patio with a path between them to get from the alley to the door. School has been cancelled a few times and events have had to be rescheduled and that’s just fine. I have no sympathy for folks wedded to schedules they ache over. I mean really.

    The “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogan that never made it to the light of day during the London Blitz is all the rage now. Are we really more stressed out than Londoners under siege by the Nazi’s? If you are, I suggest you take a snow day.

  6. “…people who have shovelled out their cars…”

    You may want to edit this, Jerry. It could be taken to mean that the snow was inside the cars. Of course, after yesterday’s photos of snow in the buildings, maybe that’s true…

    1. It’s a colloquialism and understood by all who live where snow falls. But I’d love suggestions on awkward free ways to say the same thing more grammatically.

      BTW, if you left the windows in your car open you 1) are not from around here and 2) do indeed need to shovel out the inside of your car.

      1. I know what you mean, litchik. One of the reasons I fled my native state–where snow abounds–for the Arizona sunshine was that I couldn’t think of a better way to say it either. Another was that I simply cannot abide cold weather and snow.

        1. I prefer the cold weather and snow to Republicans, anti-immigration hysteria and vortex seekers. Plus, it’s pretty here and I don’t have to bike at 5 a.m. on the summer to stay out of the deadly heat. AZ is beautiful, though. Shame I have to boycott it. Oh well, NZ is beautiful, too.

          1. nope. but we have scads of wild turkeys, coyotes waltzing along the Charles and the best Governor in these United States. The Great Salt Marsh, great cycling, and perhaps most impressive and important of all Fenway Park – which I can walk to from my home (cycling is tricky with all the peds on the street.) Sometimes think I could live in Seattle or Manley, AUS, but then I think of the commute to Fenway and The Garden and shelve it.

  7. Sam would probably say that owning a car in a city with a passably usable transit system is unethical.

    Note that I own a car.

    1. No shovel? Here in the People’s Republic of Boulder, you would get a ticket if you did not clear your sidewalks within 24 hours after the snow stops 🙂

  8. I remember the Blizzard of ’67. It was worse than this based on the pictures I have seen of this one.
    So was the blizzard of ’79. I was on my roof then shoveling snow so it wouldn’t collapse. I had a garden shed which was crushed by the weight of the snow that year.
    I now live in Texas where the snow jobs come from the politicians and school boards, but the weather is fine.

    1. I wonder how he feels about becoming ‘the morality guy’. That’s got to be something of a social burden.

      When I was about fifteen or so, I had a book of Penn and Teller magic tricks called ‘How to Play With Your Food’, and in the introduction, they talked about ‘the parrot guy’. I guess he was a guy they ran into somewhere that was known for walking around town with a parrot on his shoulder. People would come up to him and talk to him about the parrot, and talk to the parrot–nobody really knew him personally, he was just ‘the parrot guy’. People wouldn’t know what to say to him on the rare occassions he went sans parrot. They would just kind of whisper to each other, ‘where the fuck is the parrot?’

      I’m a fan of Sam Harris, but personally, I would probably get tired of having the same parrot-related conversations at every party I went to.

        1. That Sam Harris was able to become ‘the morality guy’ just by writing one popular book on the subject of rational morality shows how far we have to go as a community when it comes to talking about that issue. There is no ‘morality guy’ among the popular christian evangelists: they’re all ‘morality guys’, and they all suck at their jobs.

          At least Sam Harris is moving the public discussion in a more illuminating direction.

          1. Really. It’s a refreshing antidote to all the years of science saying it could have no input on such matters. I suspect there have always been many who have thought, “au contraire, there’s another way of looking at morality in which using the tools of science can say quite a bit.”

          2. Has science said that? I’ve seen plenty of science books that have offered input on such matters. I’ve also of course seen plenty of philosophy books that do the same thing.

            Harris really really isn’t breaking new ground here.

          3. Well, I think that was pretty central to the NOMA camp. And it also seems to me to be essentially what some of the accomodationist science orgs are saying, such as in those excerpts that Jerry recently posted in another thread.

            IME, which was indeed quite a while ago, scientists have talked about it amongst themselves but not so much for public consumption. Now that doesn’t mean that one couldn’t pick up some of these ideas from their writings (I’m thinking of many of the popularizers,from Sagan to Weinberg to Dawkins…) but I can’t think of anyone coming right out and saying what Harris has said…

  9. Here in the urban parts of Minnesota, where we’ve had it just as bad as Chicago this winter (though not from this particular storm, which merely “grazed” us with 8 inches), there are so-called “snow emergency” parking rules that eliminate the need for, or at least the point of, trying to reserve dug-out parking spots with chairs and whatnot. During a big storm, the city declares a snow emergency, which activates laws making it illegal to park on specific sides of specific streets so that they can be plowed to the curb. Over the 3-4 days after the storm, these shifting bans eventually apply, in a staggered basis, to every street in the city, ensuring that everything gets plowed. If you leave your car on the wrong side of the wrong street, it’s tow-truck time.

    This doesn’t eliminate the need for the initial dig-out to free one’s car from the kind of drift Jerry’s is in, but otherwise it makes our streets vastly more navigable in snowy winters. During my years at the University of Chicago, I realized what an improvement the Twin Cities’ policy is. You Chicagoans are crazy!

      1. It’s crazy here right now. The city could use a lot more plow trucks than it seems to have on hand. And the sheer amount of snow we’ve had dumped on us is truly astonishing.

      2. To my knowledge, there are no special parking rules related to snow. When I lived there, people just parked as they would in summer, and as a result the parking lanes on most streets never got plowed. This led to a said streets turning into narrow trenches between snowdrifts every winter.

        Seems totally bonkers to me.

        1. No street parking between 3-5 am here without getting a sizable parking fine and a large plowed drift up to, under, around, and over your car as a gentle reminder that streets belong to the public.

  10. “All over the city, people who have shovelled out their cars are trying to reserve the empty space by putting things like chairs and purloined traffic cones in it.”

    This is a common occurrence where I live during January/February. It seems that my entire street will use some sort of chair or other device to “reserve” their spot on the public street.

    I figure the parking authority can’t do too much about it if literally everyone on the street (and the surrounding streets for that matter) is doing it..

  11. Mayor Daley had a good line about the whole parking thing a few years back. He said something to the effect of: Look, if one of my neighbors took the time to dig out the parking space in front of their house, and marked it with chairs or whatever, I’m sure not going to stick MY car there—it might get keyed!

  12. Re “marking” one’s parking place with stuff: there’s a rabid debate going on in the Daily News ( Voice of the People (letters to the editor) section about this same thing.

  13. Love the two feet!

    Count yourself lucky that you can see your car. We had a good dump a couple of years ago that left three feet on the ground and two feet on top of the cars. Parking lots looked like lumpy white blankets.

    People were late for work because they forgot where they parked and it took forever to shovel a path down the line, stopping at each lump to uncover enough to make an I.D.

  14. I lived and taught in the NYC area for a quarter century before retiring. Every winter found me shoveling my car out of snow banks only to have it buried again by snow plows. Now I’m in San Diego for the winter and the snow stays up in the mountains where it belongs and people can drive to see it if so inclined. Little chilly here lately with temps in the 50s and 60s. Scheduled to warm up to around 80 by next week though. Retirement is tough with no snow to shovel. Best wishes.

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