Nemo Wuz Here – Community to Cutthroat

Nemo it was called. Evidently winter storms will now be named — the ‘experts’ say this will make them easier to track. Ironically the name ‘Nemo’ comes from Latin and its literal meaning is ‘no one’. So Nemo raged for over 24 hours and by the end there were over 2 feet of snow as evidence of its force.

In the afternoon of the second day of the storm, the snow stopped. While it didn’t get sunny, clearly the storm was traveling on a predetermined trajectory and was heading quickly out to sea. That was when our neighborhood began heading out to look at the afterwards. Shovels of all sizes came out and there was an almost festive feel in the air. In an area of the country where people are not quick to acknowledge others or make friends, it was an extrovert’s dream. Neighbor shoveled beside neighbor, helping here, a side conversation there, laughter and shaking of heads at the seeming impossibility of the job.

Everyone’s goals were the same: Dig out your car, clear your porch, shovel your sidewalk. It was a community feel. I wanted to serve hot chocolate to everyone. It was great.

And then came day two and what had been community became cutthroat. People suddenly realized that if they drove away, their precious parking spot might be taken. Now if you don’t know the city, this won’t make sense to you. But parking spots are precious. More precious than money.

Plastic chairs came out of basement hibernation, put into use as parking space savers. Large, empty, grey garbage cans were placed in the middle of spaces that had been shoveled, some even found orange and white cones normally used at construction sites. People were determined to keep their hard-earned spots.

It quickly became ugly. Community was gone. It was every man for himself. Within 24 hours it had gone from community to cut throat.

Living in a city you accept some things. The good is obvious – walking to the subway, grocery store, long walks on a river that is practically on your doorstep, walking to many coffee shops, book stores, restaurants. You can live without your car.

The bad is that you give up space. You give up yards, green space, and parking space. But theoretically you accept that.

Until you’ve spent 3 hours digging out your car! And then the rules change.That space is yours, dammit!

But for me it’s sad. As much as I love the city, I wish we knew our neighbors better, I wish we had block parties, I wish no one on our street had to put chairs or cones in their parking spaces, instead accepting the annoyance of parking a block or two away.

I wish community didn’t leave so quickly, leaving space for the cutthroat “Hey that’s my space!” yelled angrily at one’s neighbor. Because Nemo wuz here and for a moment, community ruled.


blizzard 2013, Nemo, Boston, Cambridge
Our sturdy PT Cruiser poking out of the snow!