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Permafrost! Or, The Perils Of Not Digging Out

John Dillon: Once we got a third, then a fourth, major storm, I gave up. No white flag, though; what would be the point? (Peter Elmon/flickr)MoreCloseclosemore
John Dillon: Once we got a third, then a fourth, major storm, I gave up. No white flag, though; what would be the point? (Peter Elmon/flickr)

My quarry: A 1995 Toyota. Corolla? Camry, maybe? A dull red color, I recall, with a little rust along the panels to give it that air of maturity. Steering wheel was, I want to say, on the left. It had an antenna for sure; it’s the last known appendage I saw.

The last time I had driven my car, Pete Carroll and Brian Williams were known for having good judgment. It seems like yesteryear. Like most other car owners in New England, I dug mine out as the first blizzard wound down. Luckily, it wasn’t a wet, heart-attack snowfall, and I could easily deposit it into what was already an impressive snowbank outside my home in Jamaica Plain. The snowfall was deep enough that scraping bare asphalt qualified as a Eureka moment.

...my car (or what I believe was my car) was buried beneath a two-tone cocoon of fluffy white powder on top and plowed, brownish-gray slush on the side.

My car was free — but free to do what? The residential streets looked like what a cardiologist might reference to illustrate atherosclerosis to a layperson. At least six out of 10 available on-street parking spots were lost to snowbanks. And once I left my spot, then what? In this writ-large game of musical chairs, neighborhood folks hoarded spaces so furiously that they commandeered orange cones left behind by utility workers who’d fled before the storm. There were no more cones, and I wasn’t going to repurpose a perfectly fine potted plant as a space saver. Nah, I thought, I’ll stay put. I’ll walk or take the T for a few days until some of it melts and becomes manageable to shovel. What could go wrong after this one, admittedly huge hiccup?

The second storm forced plows to fashion an even narrower lane, so now my car (or what I believe was my car) was buried beneath a two-tone cocoon of fluffy white powder on top and plowed, brownish-gray slush on the side. The slush was easier to get rid of, because it stuck in the snowbank. The light snow, though easier to lift, simply fell back onto the car because I couldn’t toss it high enough. The snowbank was like one of those MBTA trains that couldn’t accommodate any more passengers.

One hundred inches of snow fall -- and just a little bit of thaw later -- the author's Toyota emerges. (John Dillon/Courtesy)
One hundred inches of snow fall -- and just a little bit of thaw later -- the author's Toyota emerges. (John Dillon/Courtesy)

That’s when I, along with many other once-hardy New Englanders, entered bunker mode. Even if I had wanted to shovel my car, I would encounter a physics problem: There wasn’t anywhere to put the snow. I instructed family members that, in the event of my death, they should just store me in a snowbank to save on formaldehyde costs. I further ordered them to take me out a door and not a second-floor window, in compliance with Mayor Walsh’s wishes.

Once we got a third, then a fourth, major storm, I gave up. No white flag, though; what would be the point? I wished friends and family a nice Easter/Memorial Day.

But something strange happened last Wednesday: The temperature threatened to exceed 32 degrees. I was inspired to give the dig-out another spin, but my body — now acclimated to this winter — vetoed the idea, citing the risk of heatstroke.

We’ll have the last laugh on this winter come July, when our kids are in shorts and T-shirts as they toboggan down the remaining snow farms.

I went out again Thursday, with a shovel, a pick and an ice scraper. All I needed was a fedora, and I could have been mistaken for Indiana Jones. I could have used a hat, because it was snowing again. Not hard, mind you – just sufficient to signal that spring is still sound asleep.

When the temperature returned to its normal, below-normal levels, I struck the snow pile with the ice scraper. It responded with a deep “dunnnggg!” that reverberated up my arm. Underneath the snow was a three-inch layer of ice. I wished that the utility workers had left their jackhammer behind instead of the orange cones. Mission aborted.

We’ll have the last laugh on this winter come July, when our kids are in shorts and T-shirts as they toboggan down the remaining snow farms.

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John Dillon Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
John Dillon is a freelance journalist who lives in Jamaica Plain.

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