Neighbors and Snow
“Hello, what’s your name?”
~Sophie, my nextdoor neighbor
The snow started falling on Friday night, starting the 36 hour long Blizzard, Winter Storm Jonas, Snowzilla, Let's Make Winter Great Again. I made sure to finish my errands before Friday evening, which meant that I had to compete with the maddeningly long lines at Food Lion and Safeway. As usual, all of the milk, eggs, and bread were gone by the time I arrived at the grocery stores. Even the local hardware store, Falkenhan’s Hardware (3401 Chestnut Ave), was filled with locals buying bags of rock salt and shovels.
The snow didn’t stop until Saturday at midnight. My roommate and I ventured out two times during the blizzard: once around Friday at midnight and another then in the afternoon on Saturday. Both times, the snow and 40mph gusts of wind caused visibility to drop to just one block ahead. It felt so eerie to see Baltimore come to a standstill. No cars were on the road, and the easiest way to navigate anywhere was by walking down the middle of the street.
I can’t remember the last time that I had as much as I did during that snowball fight in Wyman Park. A Facebook event had been created, pitting the Hampdenites against the Charles Villagers. As the snow swirled around, we divided into two teams and lobbed snowballs against each other. None of us knew each other, yet we still joined together for some pure, unadulterated fun.
Sunday was dedicated to digging out my car. The snow had accumulated to 3ft, which meant that I would need to acquire a shovel in order to remove the snow around, above, and under my car. I didn’t have a shovel, but after asking around I was able to borrow one from one of my neighbors. I felt so glad this morning, because something awesome happened. My neighbors were interacting with each other. All of us came out of our houses in order to confront the common enemy of snow-shoveling. I introduced myself to some of the neighbors in my immediate vicinity, and shared some small-talk.
I understand that sometimes small-talk seems meaningless, but especially among strangers and neighbors small-talk is extremely meaningful. It’s an outlet to discuss mundanities and commonalities shared by living in the same area. We can commiserate about the snow and effort needed to clear it, and at the same time grow in kinship to one another. It’s a small way to create a community united.
I have already started to find myself asking whether I wanted to bundle up and stay inside or challenge myself and go outside. It’s easy to make one’s life revolve around the home and the office. The outside is scary, it’s easy to mistrust people, and it takes effort to leave one’s house. But staying inside and fearing to leave one’s house causes people to be divided. They no longer share a commonality other than sharing a street name, with no desire to learn about each other.
And if we fear, we mistrust. But once we begin to share experiences and stories like digging cars out of the snow, hurling snowballs at each other’s faces, and sledding down the hills of MICA then we can begin to be less afraid.