The Value of the Different

You know it the moment you walk out the front door into that familiar cone of silence. When your breath hangs heavy in the air and the cold stings your cheeks. Like a recording studio full of oriental rugs, a foot of snow on the ground makes for an interesting soundscape. There’s no rustle of leaves. No sounds of wildlife. No echoing of car engines traveling up and down neighboring streets. Just soft silence. It’s a jarring shift in perspective – even out here on the fringes of city life.

As the day winds on, the air will fill with the throaty sound of kids having snowball fights, the throaty drone of snowblowers up and down the hill, of shovels clanging on concrete or on chunks of ice. But for now, it’s silent.

Winter is here and it won’t be ignored.

With all the crazy snow we got this weekend, this ended up being far from the usual Sunday. I spent a bit of the afternoon digging out the car of a guy who got stuck in an honest-to-goodness snow drift. And when I say that, I mean it – he was embedded in a drift that was easily four feet high. Turns out his name is Randy and he lives up the street. A woman who lives nearby had been trying to help him out for a while. She just moved in recently and lives just a few doors away. Her name is Judy. We got the car unstuck but the snow was so bad, he’d leave his car in my driveway for a few hours until the plow made it down our street. Satisfied that his car was safely tucked away, Randy threw his shovel over his shoulder and walked home.

The guy across the street is selling his house and was planning to hold an open house that afternoon. Rather than watching him shovel a foot of snow from his driveway, I cleared it for him. As a thank-you, he brought us a tray of brownies and hung around on the porch. We stood there in our winter coveralls for a few minutes of small talk. He admitted that he didn’t know mine or my wife’s name. This guy has lived across the street for ten years and he didn’t know my name. Maybe that says more about my social skills than anything else, but how can he live so close for so long and not know my name? We’ve nodded at each other in passing a million times, but never really stopped to talk.

The list goes on. Businesses were closing early, or not opening at all. People threw away their plans and instead opted for an afternoon of building snow forts with their kids and mugs of hot cocoa.

What is it about things like snowstorms that shak up your life? Why does it make for these new interactions? It’s something to think on. If all it takes is a curveball in the schedule, maybe we could all find more excuses to shake it up. I know I could use it. Perhaps we’ll find a way to make it happen without waiting around for a snowstorm that shuts down the city, though.