Sunday, February 22, 2015

Apology to Boston

Dear Boston,

I've been wrong about you, or rather about your parade of winter blizzards. Having grown up in Buffalo, I figured I knew about snow. (The photo shows yours truly on a not particularly unusual winter day sometime in the mid-1950s.) Every year we expected huge deposits of the white stuff; everyone was equipped for snow. We all owned boots and heavy clothes; each household had its shovels, rock salt and ice picks. The City publicized autumnal inspections of its plowing equipment. Whether the snow actually got removed depended on which contractors had gotten kickbacks lately, but that too was part of the culture of the place. The streets were a pot-holed wreck by spring, but that seemed just a fact of Bufflao life

Snow days off from school were few. I walked to my high school; it was never really impossible to get there, but I was plenty happy when they decided the buses from further away couldn't make it. I have one dim memory of walking all the the way home from the downtown library, maybe two miles, in a snowstorm; apparently the city buses weren't running. We were urban; we could get most anywhere we needed to go on foot, if we had to.

So I needed this account of your plight to give me a more adult appreciation of what it is like for you this winter.

Boston’s Winter From Hell
In just three weeks, between Jan. 27 and Feb. 15, we have had four epic blizzards — seven feet of precipitation over three weeks — which crushed roofs, burst gutters, destroyed roads and sidewalks, closed schools and businesses, shut down highways, crippled public transit and trapped people in their homes....

Decades of underinvestment and alleged mismanagement of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, known as the T, have meant that the nation’s oldest subway system has been partly or entirely halted for nearly a month. ... Across the region, mile-long lines of people stand for an hour or more, freezing in bitter winds, waiting for shuttle buses that are supposed to replace the trains and trolleys. Some have given up and walked home.

For workers paid by the hour, the impossibility of getting to work means disaster, especially since high housing prices have pushed poor people out of the city to outlying communities like Brockton, Lawrence and beyond. When I commiserated with a checkout clerk at my grocery store yesterday — he’s been missing work when the buses break down or just don’t come — thinly veiled panic showed in his eyes. “People will be losing their houses,” he said.

There's lots more at the link.

So that's how it is. Enforced sprawl, yet not a major factor in my childhood world, makes adaptation to a bad snow year that much harder. So does decades of disinvestment in cities. Parents are forced to figure out what to do with the kids. Even if you manage to get to your job by car, where are you going to leave the vehicle with over half the available parking spaces taken up by piles of snow? I can envision how tough it is.

I owe you an apology Boston. I get it; this winter is truly bad. Hope you dig out soon.

Yours sincerely,
A California transplant by choice

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