Category Archives: Life in Boston

The Winter of 2015: The Intricacies of a Life in Snow

The year is 2015. While I grew up in the snowy, hypothermia-producing communities in western Maine, I have been a northern Californian for the past 22 years of my life. Turns out, the average year dumps 88″ inches of precipitation on my hometown in Maine. Fortunately for me, Boston, my new home base, experiences only about HALF that amount. Phew. But it’s been a very long time since those years of one-piece Evil Knievel snow suits, and despite many ski trips to Tahoe, there’s a lot I don’t remember about snow. (photo is me, around age 5 in western Maine)

And there is lot of freakin’ snow this week in eastern Massachusetts. I find I have a lot of questions about snow, and many things to learn about living in New England. Some of which do not yet make sense.

Like how cold it has to be to snow. (I thought it was 32, but it turns out it can be warmer, or colder.) And which boots and jackets to wear in what type of snow. Apparently boots that have absolutely no treads are completely useless in winter and will land you flat on your ass (This is what Yak-Tracks are for!). And how to clear your car *before* you try to drive off in it, because apparently not doing so is illegal. And there are characters….oh, the characters…Snow Removal Personality Types, as witnessed on the streets of Boston, after a big snow, can be found here.

The politics of saving your “shoveled spot,” and how South Boston is going to ban the “savers” this year. (Read the comments for a in-depth social tradition-cultural experiment on the “saver” topic.) And where does the snow in the city go? It cost Boston $30 million to remove all the snow in just one big storm over two days.

It’s an endless list of fascinating stories for a former Californian to learn, and what will be remembered as a nightmare for the city of Boston.

What I assume is a blue collar New England dialect fools me on a daily basis when the person to whom I am speaking turns out to have a Harvard degree. Hearing the dropped r’s still makes me feel homesick for the Maine woods, though that is a different type of accent entirely. (Not sure if I will ever shake that connection.) The post-doctoral biochemist taking the “T” and the crossing guard (seemingly on nearly every street!) both speak to me with guarded Boston reserve and colloquialism, though they seem to match whatever friendliness I express (though at times, I can tell they feel a little overwhelmed by my capacity for curiosity and conversation). I notice the possibility of conversation and connection increases whenever snow is flying through the city.

This week we had an epic blizzard, one that was predicted to rival the 1978 Blizzard in its intensity. About two feet of snow felt, and the morning after, we ventured through the neighborhood, laughing and enjoying the camaraderie we felt with our fellow residents.

People easily chatted about the weather, how much snow accumulation we’d seen, and the walls came down. This is a place where you really need your neighbors. Maybe to survive a cold winter’s day or perhaps just in case you get stuck in your driveway. Everyone talks to each other during these types of days.

This cheery, can-do nature, and the bright blue of a cold winter’s day make me inherently happy. I walk to espresso at 7:30am (a time I generally despise), about a mile away, and think, “I will grow stronger here.” I can feel my capacity for hardship, for more raw and physical emotions, and empathy expanding my heart as I adjust to this new life.

[Post-script: The winter of 2015-16 dumped record snowfall on Boston, with over 108″ accumulating. And I survived, uncharacteristically-Bostonian, happy about it all.]