Being snowed in can lead to a great deal of learning about the human condition. “It’s beautiful but I’ve had enough,” is the usual sentiment expressed by forlorn commuters upon finding that the subway stations are closed. We long for beauty but forget that it can be inconvenient and even require us to think again about how to do things. Even if the status quo gets us into a rut, it works and it’s the devil we know. Bring back the slush and the grey – at least it is functional!
Being snowed in can also show up humanity at its most resourceful. Early on a Sunday morning I drove my son to badminton so that my little cherub wouldn’t have to weather even five minutes of the chilly air. “Mamma – can’t you drive in there?” he pleaded with bassett hound eyes staring at the narrow road that constituted the last few meters to the sports hall entrance. With my son now deposited, I realized that I would have to back out of this narrow path flanked by great snow mountains on either side. Within less than a minute my Spanish-made front-wheel-drive vehicle had crashed into one of them and there I was a sitting duck in the beautiful winter.
Living closer to civilization these days has made me less responsible for my own fate. I hop into vehicles without gloves, a hat or even a snow shovel, expecting to move from one warm indoor environment to another with total efficiency. As I was kicking hopelessly at the snow caressing my back tire, a diminutive elderly woman with bright eyes stopped to look. “You’re not going to get very far that way,” she commented with the voice of experience. Her heavy Dalarna accent suggested that she’d been in a snow pile-up or two. “Come with me – my house is nearby and we can get you a snow shovel and – good lord, my dear, don’t you wear gloves?”
Following a twenty minute walk in which I learned that she and her husband were retired funeral entrepreneurs, diabetics and grandparents to three lovely grandchildren, we reached her home. I had met all of her neighbors whose dogs she walked from time to time in order to create interest during her daily walks. It is hard to look a funeral entrepreneur in the eye and not feel like potential business, but her husband was very kind and presented me with a wide selection of old gloves. The elderly lady insisted on walking back to my stranded vehicle with me and picked up “Cookie”, one of the local dogs, along the way.
I set about digging and Cookie barked. Another dog had turned up to observe with its owner, a robust middle-aged woman, who thought that she had a better snow shovel than I did. Five minutes later the two of us were shoveling, Cookie and “Meatball” were playing in the snow together, and the diminutive elderly woman had become our cheerleading squad. “Come on, ladies, you can do this without the men,” she cheered as though we were digging for all womankind. At that moment her kind husband pulled up in his car intending to haul us out with a chain attached to his trusty Volvo. Unlike his wife, I welcomed ‘mankind’ into our little snow community and hoped that his practical solution was better than ours.
With three women pushing at the boot of the car, our hero the funeral entrepreneur managed to drive my fragile Spanish car out of the snow heap. We jumped for joy, hugged one another and praised our trusty shovels. Without knowing one another’s names, we were friends – friends in the extraordinary community of humankind that snow and inconvenience creates.