Let me state unequivocally that I love snow days, despite the stress they cause my friends who are parents, despite the fact that work-from-home technology has robbed them of their magic. I still love them.
They are for cuddling, comfy pants, sledding, and hot toddies. They are for stews and soups and binge-watching, for slippers and afghans and the rush of blood to cold cheeks once you come inside.
But there’s one key to all of this that I’d never considered before this past weekend. For snow days to work as I laid out above, there’s a requirement.
You have to be at home. If not yours, then someone else’s, but you need to be in a residence of some kind. One with afghans, a soup pot, and preferably a dog or two, if you get my meaning.
Thanks to a rabid and ridiculous media engine, everyone in the entire US knew that there was a big snowstorm hitting the East Coast this weekend. As is typical, they couldn’t say just HOW big, but it was predicted to be big enough to send most folks below the Mason Dixon line scuttling to the store for bread, eggs, chili-fixings, and liquor.
Us hearty Bostonians shrugged a collective meh, since 1) it appeared we’d miss the brunt of it, and 2) we’d seen worse.
But me, I was bound for NYC, for a long-planned theater weekend with a friend I hadn’t seen in two years. Everyone kept telling me to “be safe!” as if I was heading into grave danger, but I, intrepid New Englander that I now am, wasn’t worried. Because surely, the snow wouldn’t be that bad, I had good boots, and Manhattan really can be a winter wonderland when it wants to be. I figured it’d be an adventure and we’d slog through a foot of the white stuff to get where we needed to go.
But Mama Nature and the Mayor of NY had other ideas. The former dumped nearly 30 inches of snow on the city, and the latter decided to shut down the entire transit system in the city on Saturday. So EVERYTHING was closed. And I mean everything. Broadway, Uber, subways, movie theaters, most restaurants, museums, shops…pretty much everywhere that a visiting tourist would go to pass the time during a blizzard.
So my friend and I found ourselves doing the snow day thing on the 36th floor of a Times Square hotel with a bottle of rum and some cable TV. We were cheerful and made the best of it, but I was bummed. This was NOT the way to spend a day in NY, and it was also not the way to spend a snow day.
Around 6pm, I decided we needed to leave the hotel. Really, I just wanted to do something other than ogle homes on HGTV. And considering we’d sustained ourselves on liquor and potato chips for the afternoon, some real food seemed in order.
So we struck out in hopes of finding an open restaurant. Instead, we found a Times Square that few have seen.
Now, I know that most New York locals hate Times Square. I am not much of a fan myself, once I’ve had my fix (an hour or so of marveling at its sheer…well…brightness). But that night, it was transformed.
There were no cars, save the odd police cruiser. No bike messengers. No horns blaring, no cabs dodging pedestrians.
But there were people. Hundreds of people, like us, who had taken to the street. Hordes of winter-gear-clad folks stumbling around aimlessly in knee-deep slush, with nowhere to go or be, looking at first glance like a scene out of The Day After Tomorrow or The Walking Dead. Snowballs flew. Snowmen sprouted up to gaze up at the red stairs of the TKTS booth. Kids scrambled to the top of giant snow piles, then tumbled down in glee. Snowy selfies abounded. Happy chatter, in several languages, was punctuated by the occasional squeal of delight. Snowflakes swirled all around us, changing colors as the billboards, that never-ceasing silent light show, cast their glow over the scene.
It was magical. It was peaceful. It was like nothing I’d ever seen. I wondered if anyone out on the street actually lived in New York, or if we were all visitors, usually neatly herded by schedules and agendas into the various dens of entertainment of the city, but now claiming this place as our own for a few childish minutes.
I hoped there were a few locals in the mix. Because it was a really beautiful moment in this city that never sleeps.
And PS: We eventually found dinner.