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Does snow make for kindness or kvetchiness?

Two stories, both prompted by the snow, one showing just how frayed people's nerves can get under these conditions, the other suggesting that tough times bring out the best in us. Give these a read and then come ahead with your own experiences in these snowy days--are you finding that people are stepping up and doing the right thing, or are they out to protect #1? We'd love to hear your tales of how neighbors and co-workers have responded to the difficult logistical challenges posed by the storms and their aftermath.

But first, the stories. The first comes from a reader, Jim Hahn, responding to Ian Shapira and Aaron Davis's piece in The Post today about folks who work hard to clear a parking space, only to find that some lowlife comes along and parks in it:

Returning home last night, we found a car parked in the spot in front of our house that I had spent hours clearing (we don't have off-street parking). While my wife waited in the car with the kids, I knocked on the neighbor's house to see if someone knew the owner of the vehicle, which I had never seen before, but to no avail. When checked the door of the parked car to see if I could find a phone number inside that would allow me to contact the owner, someone stirred in the car. When he rolled down the window, I explained that I had spent great effort clearing the spot and asked him to move, which he did with great displeasure.

This morning, when my wife went to take the baby to the doctor's office, she found four flat tires on the car, which the police confirmed had each been punctured by a knife.

Now, contrast that tale with one from Post reporter Michael Shear:

It was my first real outing in a week -- a quick trip to get some firewood and batteries, thanks to my neighbor, Frank, and his 4-wheel-drive Excursion.

Quick trip? Not really. The Home Depot in Annandale was out of firewood. And "D" batteries. And lanterns. And oil for Frank's oil lamps. Before leaving, I heard an employee answer the phone:

"Thank you for calling Home Depot, where we don't have firewood, snowblowers, snow shovels or ice melt -- can I help you?" 

We made our way to the Whole Foods in Springfield, where we were assured they had firewood. Check. But no batteries. For that, we went to the Walgreens a few doors down. Check. But only one $2 flashlight left.

Feeling victorious enough, we headed home. As we turned into the one-lane road that led into our neighborhood, we saw an elderly woman, Ann, trying desperately to wheel a box full of groceries down the middle of the snow-packed road on a luggage dolly.

"Hop in," we said. 

Little did she know that just before the turn to her street, one of our neighbors had decided to try and drive somewhere in his white Toyota Camry. He was now stuck in the middle of the road, unable to move and blocking the way.

As Frank and I struggled to push him back into his driveway, three other four-wheel-drive SUVs waited patiently, trying to head the other direction.

A byproduct of the record-breaking snow: civility has returned. People who would normally be cursing for being delayed by a minute or two were happy to wait. Another couple grabbed a shovel and headed over to help. One woman chatted on her cell phone.

As soon as the Camry was back in the driveway, however, a Cox Cable van managed to get stuck in the road as well. Forward. Backward. Forward. Backward. Finally, we managed to push him into a driveway on the other side of the road.

The poor grocery woman was still waiting in the back of Frank's SUV.

Finally, the road clear, we dropped off the woman, loaded her groceries onto her front porch, and headed home, turning once again onto the one-lane road into our subdivision.

All the while thinking: Another 10-20 inches?

Do you have a snow story to tell? Whether its message about human nature is encouraging or deflating, please do so on the comment boards below...

By Marc Fisher  | February 9, 2010; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Snow stories  
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Next: Cleaned out!


Our McLean neighborhood was laughable on Saturday and Sunday. I own a 4WD truck and didn't have much trouble driving around in the snow. Our roads weren't plowed until late Sunday, but others had forged tire tracks in the depths to at least be able to keep a straight line. The biggest issues I ran into when trying to snake around my neighborhood streets were LOTS of down power and phone lines, making backtracking the norm. And the amount of 2WD cars that I had to either shovel out, push by hand were ridiculous. I eventually asked the last car if he would mind if I pushed with the bumper of my truck. He happily agreed and it was a breeze. Great way to meet all of the neighbors.

Posted by: McLeanVA | February 9, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

My household is two middle-aged women, and my roomie has asthma, so all the shoveling chores fall to me. I waited until Monday to dig out our car, and found that others digging out had piled their snow behind our spot, leaving a heap literally as big as the car itself. I saw no way to move the mountain, so settled for clearing off the car and a little space around it. My roomie, however, is an ace parallel-parker, and thought she could maneuver us out if she had just a little more clearance and the space beside us stayed open. We'd been trying this for about 10 minutes with no luck when a neighbor we'd never met arrived, took a look around, then asked for our shovel and began chopping away at the mountain behind us. He worked with us for a good twenty minutes, and finally was the one who drove our car out sideways-and-backwards into the clear. We thanked him profusely, he said "no problem" with a smile, and was off without even giving his name. What a nice surprise, to get such generous help from a stranger.

Posted by: angelcat | February 9, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Last Thursday I flew from BWI to Buffalo in order to attend my father's memorial service. My family and I joked about how ironic it was that I went to western New York to escape a snow storm! My return flight on Sunday was cancelled and the earliest flight I could reschedule was for this morning. Since my parents didn't raise a fool, and since I knew that the current storm was predicted, I rented a car and drove home on Monday, a glorious sunny day with very little snow on the ground until I reached Baltimore to retrieve my own car. The trip from Baltimore to Centreville was a little scary, especially on the Beltway where the plows were unable to uniformly reach pavement. I stopped at my neighborhood Shopper's to pick up Soy Beverage (this weather is a gift to the lactose intolerant!) and I was very, very surprised by the barren shelves. I didn't realize how dependent we are on good roads and good trucks to get us our food supply. Once in my neighborhood, I anticipated parking at our community center, however, every spot was taken. With a heavy heart, I drove down my private street to discover that my neighbor Sharon and her 17 year old daughter had shovelled my walk, my eight stairs to my door way and a good portion of my parking space. I parked in my other neighbor's spot to finish the job in under an hour. The neighbor who's spot I momentarily borrowed returned home and graciously allowed me to remain until my own spot was cleared. All my neighbors in my townhouse row plan to get out today, when the snow stops, and have a group shovelling effort. It's good to be home.

Posted by: artmanzone | February 10, 2010 8:07 AM | Report abuse

First of all, people need to stay off the roads while snow plows are trying to plow the friggin' street. Now, wth, is someone thinking to drive their small car on a neighborhood street in the middle of a blizzard? Car got stuck on the road and the plow was trying to manuever around it. It's already tight in our neighborhood and there are not enough plows for all neighborhoods. We have to pray another plow will come back this way to clear us out again. I'm tired of stupid people in this area. By reaction is to call the county police.

What irks me even more is that some idiot has been organizing snowball fights in the DC area and the media outlets thinks it's funny. That is creating a disturbance and organizers as well as participants should have been arrested or charged with a felony...the same as what happened to those James Madison students in VA. This is NOT a harmless prank. Throwing snowballs at moving vehicles or pedestrians could cause severe injuries or accidents. But, then again...I'm not surprised as some folks think it is okay that these participants are white and are supposed to get a free pass. If I were driving through a street where a mob threw snowballs at my vehicle and I couldn't see...I would probably hit some of those individuals "by accident" to make a point. Maybe that should be an idea for someone to take on if and when that occurs.

Posted by: kitten2 | February 10, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday I went to the store with my two kids in tow. After shopping, it was impossible for me to push the cart through the slush and snow out to the car, my seven-year-old couldn't carry much, and I was laden with bags and a toddler. A very nice man offered to let me put the stuff in his cart (he walked much further than his car to get to mine) and he even waited patiently for me while I buckled the little one in. It was such a little thing, but it helped me and made my day.

Oh, and thanks to all of my neighbors for loaning us your shovels since ours broke.

Posted by: JellyBean3 | February 10, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday, a couple of neighbors evidently decided to hire a Bobcat and a plow. When these people had finished their work, I was, again, snowed into my driveway.

We had spent hours clearing a path to the street. All the snow we shoveled went into our yard or a pile on the curb.

The street was in poor condition but, if following the ruts and knowing how to drive on packed snow and ice, we were able to get out, go to the grocery and even have lunch at a restaurant.

Now, thanks to the inconsiderate neighbors, we again get to spend hours so we can get back to the road. A few of our neighbors are real arses. The snow we shovel next will go out into the street, from whence it came, thanks to the neighbors, because we have no more room in our yard.

Posted by: mortified469 | February 10, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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