A couple of hours after the “bomb cyclone” blizzard had subsided in New York City last weekend, I ventured outside in snow boots, wielding a plastic instrument with a broom on one end and an ice scraper thingy on the other. My mission: liberate my car from all the snow.
The block had indeed transformed into a winter wonderland, and the cars parked on the street were heavily blanketed in 10-inch-deep helpings of pure white snow.
I identified my car based on a vague recollection of the brownstone I’d parked in front of a few days earlier, and because it was the first car I encountered that wisely had its windshield wipers sticking straight up. As I approached, I was a little put out to find a woman shoveling the sidewalk, depositing massive shovel-fulls of snow right up against my vehicle.
“Oh hello!” I said. “Um. This is my car.”
She looked up with surprise, as though she’d assumed no one else in Brooklyn could possibly be alive. After all, I’d only passed one other person on my journey, which is unusual for a Saturday afternoon in our bustling neighborhood.
“Oh!” she said, slightly embarrassed as she stood back and surveyed the enormous mounds completely burying the front and rear corners of my mid-size SUV.
“It’s alright,” I said cheerily. “I’ll need to get that snow away from the car eventually, but first I’ll clear the roof and windows.”
I got to work, using my gloved hands to slide chunks of powdery snow off the rooftop. The lady resumed clearing the sidewalk and the two of us exchanged small talk. She was from Paris and was here visiting her brother for a few days. He’d be arriving soon to help her. She’d never seen snow like this in Paris, she told me, and she was finding all of this quite challenging.
I smiled sympathetically, but the smile probably looked more like a slightly deranged grin, not as a reaction to anything this well-meaning person had said, but because I had begun the descent into something I refer to as “the snow zone.”
“The snow zone” was a scary mental state where I became completely fixated on removing every single snowflake that dared rest on an object (car, driveway, outdoor table, eyelash). I was like a dog with a bone, if the dog was a pit bull terrier and the bone was covered with several alternating layers of peanut butter and bacon.
I resembled a human windmill, my long arms swiping the front windshield swiftly and mercilessly, sending great slabs of snow flying in all directions to land on the ground with a satisfying “floomp.” Every snow clump, no matter how firmly wedged into a crevice, was zealously forced off the car. I karate-chopped, whacked, rubbed and aggressively jabbed at pockets of snow.
Panting profusely, I finally felt satisfied the car was completely clear. My face flushed and numb from the bitter cold, I gave the rear license plate a triumphant brush with my hand, and to my horror, discovered the letters and numbers were completely unfamiliar.
This was not my car.
I shrieked and reeled backwards, falling against the bonnet of the snow-covered car directly behind me. Rather, I fell backwards onto my car. Its windshield wipers were sticking straight up like skinny, beckoning arms: “Here I am, silly!”
Mademoiselle Paris was desperate to know what happened.
“I dug out the wrong car!” I cried. She covered her mouth with her hand.
The shoveled-out car, I now saw, was not only a completely different make (it was a Subaru; mine’s a Honda), it was also black (mine is gray). Just how deep into the snow zone had I gone?!
By now the woman’s brother had shown up with a group of teens in tow. While the youths filed up the steps and disappeared inside the brownstone, she eagerly told her brother in fast French all about my blunder. He looked at me, wide-eyed.
“Bonjour,” I said, casually shaking snow off the pom-pom on my hat.
The brother introduced himself as Marc and his sister as Élise, from whom he took the shovel and picked up where she’d left off. Élise busied herself with a straw broom.
“Perhaps you should leave your Venmo details on that car,” Marc said. “They might pay you for your hard work.”
I laughed. It was certainly tempting; that car looked terrific.
Instead, with renewed exuberance, I got cracking on clearing my own car, firing up my windmill arms. Karate chop. Swipe, slap, shove. Shake. Thwack. Floomp.
The three of us labored away diligently, but we were repeatedly interrupted by Marc’s son who kept appearing at the door to shout questions about connecting the music system. I was told it was the kid’s 13th birthday, and clearly he was growing more and more exasperated. He must have come to the door at least five times, which brought me out of the snow zone long enough to wonder aloud how hard it could be to connect some music. Élise rolled her eyes in agreement.
Eventually my dark gray automobile emerged from beneath its wallop of snow, and Marc lent me his shovel so I was able to reduce the impressive snow piles Élise had created against my car, just as she’d done with the Subaru. It was hard not to be impressed by this petite-framed woman — as unfamiliar she might have been with city snow situations, she certainly displaced that sidewalk snow very effectively.
As I bid adieu to my neighbors, Marc kindly extended an invitation for me to come inside for chicken curry. Tempted as I was — a glass of Bordeaux might have sealed the deal — I was feeling pretty wrung out after my double workout. I politely declined, wished them luck with the party now raging inside (sans music), and headed home. Still, tired as I was, I was glad I’d made the sojourn into the post-blizzard wilderness of my friendly neighborhood.
Viva la Brooklyn! And to the owner of the black Subaru — you’re very welcome.