By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina
By rights, New York City should still be digging out from the blizzard that was to be “historic, catastrophic”—except that it wasn’t.
The storm was predicted to bury New York in up to thirty inches of snow. In anticipation, the Mayor and the Governor declared a state of emergency, shut down the subway system, and banned all vehicles (including taxis and delivery bicycles) on the grounds that stalled vehicles would impede emergency efforts.
And then the blizzard didn’t happen. True, Long Island got a couple of feet of snow. And coastal New England, including Boston, got hammered.
But here in New York, we awoke to a mere eight inches of snow in Central Park… and a government-mandated, universally observed, snow day.
It was great!
Normal life just stopped for about 30 hours. We all walked through silent streets, past shuttered shop windows. The only sound was the cacophony of children playing—but it was plenty loud. You could hear the happy noise of sledders from blocks away.
The city itself was almost childlike. Asleep in the snow and sunshine, it had the angelic appeal of a child asleep after a day of rambunctious mischief. And like worn-out parents, we took a look at that sleeping creature and remembered all over again how much we loved it.
There was plenty of finger-pointing and recriminations when the blizzard failed to materialize. Libertarians accused government officials of fostering a “nanny state”. And capitalists grumbled about the billions of dollars wasted during NYC’s enforced time-out.
But although I consider myself in some respects both a libertarian and a capitalist, I thought the snow day was an excellent idea.
Entirely apart from the fact that the best available predictions fully justified the decision, having an enforced pause in the middle of the week was delightful. It made me think about the bad old days of Sunday blue laws—and a little part of me wished they’d come back.
True, if you’re ill and can’t make it to the hospital, I can understand the frustration of an unnecessary shutdown. One of my friends was frantic at her inability to catch a flight to her mother, who had been suddenly hospitalized in another state. So I do get it.
But for the rest of us, having an enforced vacation from commerce and the hassle of day-to-day life was lovely and refreshing. With nothing else to do, we made salmon with vegetables in cream sauce. We walked in the snow. And most of all, during its time-out, we took the time to appreciate the charm of the great city we live in.