Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rose City denizens come together in the snow

Okay. So maybe the hard-bitten winter warriors of Chicago or Denver or Minneapolis-St. Paul are like to jeer at little Portland. We get dusted with a few inches of snow over the course of a week or so and the city is more or less paralyzed. Well, go ahead and laugh, mid-westerners. Hell, we'll even join you in a joke at our own expense.

But you don't know about our East Wind that comes whipping out of the frozen high desert prairies of eastern Oregon and Washington, blasting through the natural funnel of the Columbia Gorge to sweep over the northern Willamette Valley, freezing the rain mid-flight so that it coats everything on the valley floor in a frozen glaze.

And you mid-westerners have fleets of snow plows and sanders to keep your roads clear and passable. Here in western Oregon, we have been known to pass entire winters without so much as a single snowflake landing on a single windshield. So it makes no sense for us to invest in expensive equipment for snow removal. In short, we're not equipped to deal with it.

All backed up in the Columbia Gorge
Today, I had to venture out into the snow to get a Christmas present for Maty. I trudged down to the bus stop at 39th and Hawthorne and waited for a bus. And waited. And waited. Eventually, I just started walking. At each bus stop along the way, there were groups of half-frozen would-be riders, peering back down the road, waiting. But the bus never came and I ended up walking all the way to Lloyd Center shopping mall.

Soon thereafter, Maty's Christmas gift was acquired and I headed back. But, this time I managed to grab a bus. It was crowded near full and many of the people on it had been waiting for an hour or more to get picked up. But, contrary to what one might expect, everyone was friendly, jocular, and cooperative. The bus driver cracked jokes with people as they got on or off and there were calls of "Merry Christmas," rememberances of winter storms past, and general good vibes.

I was struck by the good cheer. It seemed to me that everyone knew that we were and are all in this together. Portland is buried in snow and we've all got to give each other a hand, make a little more allowance for each other's foibles and eccentricites. That's the way we get through it.

The experience left me in a good mood ...a hopeful mood. If that cooperative spirit can be extended beyond just the Rose City in the times ahead, we as a nation might just get through the economic storm that is coming, too.

My back deck as of 5pm this afternoon
So, stuck here in this frozen city, with all the arteries of human bustle clogged, and with icy treachery in every step on the sidewalk, I stumbled upon hope. Right here in Portland, in the waning days of 2008.

Happy holidays, everyone! Peace!

1 comment:

Shus li said...

Yes, thanks for giving credit where credit is due. We've all pulled together for what, 10 days now?

Yesterday, I had to pick up a prescription at Milwaukie Fred Meyer. ALL the checkstands had about 10 people waiting...and there were lots of smiles and "merry christmases".

I know of two experienced snow drivers, one from Penn. and one from upstate NY, who will not drive in this snow. Like you say, we aren't equipped to groom the streets adequately for safe driving.

Happy Holidaze!