Someone tweeted an article about how Boston needs to stop complaining and enjoy the snow. 140 characters weren’t nearly enough to say just how wrong I think this is.
Here’s the thing:
This isn’t just some crappy weather we’re dealing with. This isn’t just some minor annoyances that we should just deal with and get over and worry about real problems instead.
It’s a real problem. A significant problem. A problem as big as the giant piles of snow that now line our roads.
This is people missing work, which means people not getting paid, businesses not getting revenue, families that will struggle to pay their bills this month. The snow keeps us inside and puts a huge damper on our city’s retail and tourism economy.
This is dangerous. Our narrow roads are banked with giant drifts of snow. Two lane roads are now one lane, and encountering a driver going the opposite direction can mean someone gets stuck. Four lane roads are down to two lanes. Sidewalks aren’t shoveled. Even sidewalks that are shoveled are narrow and difficult to navigate. People are walking in the streets, streets that are already crowded with cars in snowy conditions. And it’s not just people who can walk. There’s strollers and wheelchairs out there in the roads because we have to get where we’re going and there’s simply no other way.
Everything is difficult. For the last two Wednesdays I’ve done my usual normal routine. First, drop Tessa at daycare so she can make her morning therapy session. Second, get Graham to school, usually just get home and wait for the bus. But for the last two weeks it’s taken over 2 hours, nearly 3, to get this done. Graham spends nearly 3 hours in the morning in the car and then when we get to his school, which is on a small side street and has little parking on a good day, there’s nowhere for me to pull in and drop him. So we have to park down the street and around the corner and walk up to school. It’s not the worst thing that ever happened, no, but all that happens and I still have to get to work. I made it in at noon yesterday. I had to miss the Parent Council meeting in the evening because leaving in enough time to get there would’ve meant leaving at 4 when I’d already missed the entire morning. It’s a problem.
Driving in this is rough. Imagine every street in your city is down by 1-2 lanes. Just one street with lanes closed can cause backups, we’ve got all of them. And when you hit a side street that is full of snow and you’re sliding around, it’s white knuckle time.
It’s cold. And it keeps being cold. They tell us it’s good because warmer weather during our snow is when you have trees falling and power lines going down and the only blessing in all this is that the suburbs haven’t lost power for days at a time. But with it being cold and staying cold, the snow isn’t melting. We haven’t had anything resembling a thaw since the snow started and my weather app doesn’t show a day where the high is above freezing for the next week. (My weather app describes next Wednesday as “Dreary.” No joke. It also says more snow today and Sunday.)
Roofs have begun collapsing under the weight of the snow. (We’re at over 6 feet of it in a very very short time.)
Our transit system, which everyone in the city and nearly everyone in the suburbs relies on, is old and outdated and is constantly breaking down. Getting on a train at rush hour has turned into a ridiculous farce where you stand on a platform that’s packed with people, wait for a train, and if it comes it’s already so full there’s no room for anyone else to get on. Here’s a few local Instagrams to show you what it looks like:
It’s not about the shoveling (although that really sucks and have I mentioned no one here has a garage?) and it’s not about the snow days when the kids are home from school (which also suck and have I mentioned the kids have been out of school for 7 days so far this year?). It’s that after the entire city shuts down, when it starts back up everything is difficult. We lose hours of our day. We lose time and money and some people are going to lose their lives because of this stupid snow.
So yeah, I think it’s okay to complain.
I get that some complaining is useless and stupid. I have a 5-year-old. We are right in the middle of the “No Complaining” thing. But the thing is I may come down on complaining about things that are silly and pointless, but if he’s actually doing something difficult I let him complain. Because it legitimately sucks.
The thing about complaining? It can actually help.
Complaining can get things done. And right now our city and our state really need to hear us complain. They need to know that we can’t be an urban center without being able to get through a heavy winter. We should plan for a heavy winter and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not that bad. We need serious changes, we’ve needed them for decades, and if we don’t complain we may not get them.
Complaining can also help the person doing the complaining. Talking to other people about how bad your commute was is actually a pleasant thing, even if your commute was not. When you’re bursting with frustration, it actually helps to say something and let out some of that pressure.
There’s a reason people go to therapy to talk things out. When you’re facing difficult emotions caused by something out of your control, you don’t just get to say, “Hey, I’m from New England and I love this and bring on more snow yay!!” if that’s not how you feel. You can’t change your emotions just by deciding to change them.
Today I’m driving to the station because I’ll need my car for a delivery shift after work and if I have to get back to my house, my commute could take 90 minutes and I’ll lose a good hour of time. Or more. So I’m going to drive over with my shovel and see if I can find a spot and it may not work out and I may be pretty frustrated and if I can’t get my work done in the office I may have to cancel that shift and lose the extra money it would’ve brought. If that sounds extreme, take my word for it that it’s not. It’s completely possible that I won’t be able to find a parking space and that the piles of snow will be far too high for me to shovel into. Paid lots are packed full because street parking is virtually nonexistent on many of the city’s streets.
I just checked Twitter and the train line I take to work has “limited service” today. Meaning they’re running less trains. Meaning every station will be full of people waiting. And I think I may just have to cancel that shift. We just can’t win.
We just can’t. If your friends who live here have been moaning about the weather and you’ve playfully said how it’s so warm where you are and you wish you could have some of that snow, you should probably know that we are way past joking. We are tired and beat down and every single day is a struggle to get to work and leave again, to drop off kids and pick them up, to do anything.