Do Native New Yorkers Complain Less About the Snow? A Brief, Blizzard of 2015 Survey

Coney Island in the Snow
Coney Island in the Snow

In case you are only just now, um, turning on your Internet, I’ve got some news for you: A blizzard is upon us. People are freaking out about it, and, as some people on Twitter have been pointing out, there has even been Station Eleven-level hysteria out about this whole thing. Lines outside of Trader Joe’s are stretching around the block! Any moment now we’ll start getting reports of human sacrifice and dogs and cats living together. Or, at least, that’s how it seems like people are responding to this storm. And, I get it, I do; the mayor has made a real point of emphasizing the historical nature of this impending storm, and post-Hurricane Sandy, it’s really hard to be overly cynical about people’s concern with regards to the destruction Mother Nature can wreak, even upon a city that has otherwise done its damndest to defy all things natural.

And yet I also can’t help but be a little skeptical about these overblown reactions. There’s a huge part of me that just doesn’t get it. Like, I understand feeling anxious if you were going to have to drive long distances, or if there was a legitimate chance of losing power or something. But for many New Yorkers (not, by any means, all New Yorkers, just many) there is a pretty good chance that if you stay in your apartment during the worst of the storm, you will be just fine and really in no danger of, I don’t know, dying of starvation or anything. All of which is to say, worrying too much about storms like this feels manufactured in this city, or like it’s a vestige of the fear that all the people who come from places where driving is essential, or where power can go out during a heavy rainstorm, have carried with them, despite now being in a place where, frankly, you are pretty protected from most (not all, but most) of nature’s fury. In other words, worrying about the storm doesn’t really feel like something a native New Yorker would do. And so, I figured now would be the perfect time to conduct a wholly unscientific survey among some native New Yorkers and see how they felt about the snow, and if they have any theories about why so many people freak the fuck out.

The overwhelming response to my question about whether or not they were anxious about the blizzard was a resounding “No”—if anything, they’re pretty into it. Peter Feld explains, “No, I’m not anxious, it’s pretty exciting. The only thing that would stress me out would be missing it. In Feb. 2003 I was in LA on a business trip during an epic NYC blizzard, the kind that evoked memories of the amazing 1947 snowstorm. The next morning the LA Times front page showed someone cross-country skiing toward my own corner, Second Ave. and 9th St., and I was miserable. As you can see I clipped it and rushed back but all that was left was dirty mounds of snow and melted slush. ”

Please note the "Iraq Given Last Chance" headline. Wonder how that turned out. Photo via the Collection of Peter Feld
Please note the “Iraq Given Last Chance” headline. Wonder how that turned out.
Photo via the Collection of Peter Feld

Alexis Piela also has the right idea about how to wait out the storm: “The plan is to hit up a bar with friends and then come back to our place, drink wine, and play Cards Against Humanity. No reason to be anxious about that!” And Briana Nixon and Niger Miles concurred, both agreeing that, as Nixon says, “the whole apocalypse, must-buy-everything-in-sight mentality” is kind of ridiculous. Miles says, “People should calm the fuck down. But the news gets higher ratings when we freak out so…”

Which, yes! The media, those bastards, they’re always trying to work people into a weather-related frenzy. So what do some native New Yorkers who work in the media think about this whole thing? Well, the New York Observer’s Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke says, “I’m really not anxious about the blizzard. I doubt it will be as bad as they say, but I think it’s better for city officials to make the threat seem worse just in case. That’s kind of a win/win because no mayor wants to be Bloomberg in 2010. Much better to be Bloomberg during Hurricane Irene.” Feld, who plans to welcome the blizzard by drinking a Bloody Mary, like he did during Hurricane Sandy, says, “Not to make any judgments but isn’t freaking out about a snowstorm kind of…basic?” And DNAinfo’s Danielle Tcholakian notes first that she “gets anxious about too many things, no room for weather anxiety,” but then points out: “A constant, general state of anxiety is maybe a native New Yorker thing?”

And that’s true! Maybe what’s most notable about many native New Yorkers blasé attitude about major weather events is that people’s blizzard bound plans—staying inside with friends, loved ones, lots and lots of alcohol, and Netflix (Tcholakian specifically recommends An Honorable Woman, so long as you “are not obligated to still try to work—it’s not the sort of show you can watch while multitasking”)—all sound pretty fun, and a nice excuse to just relax for once, a very natural thing for most people, though not for New Yorkers. And as Bloomgarden-Smoke says, an event like this “reminds everyone that we are actually at the mercy of the weather.” Plus, she adds, “It really takes small talk to the next level.” Which is not a minor thing in a town like this! Plus, as Brooklyn magazine Food Editor Sarah Zorn points out: ” I’m of the mind that it’s hot in summer and cold in winter, and sometimes it even snows; we’ll have bigger fish to fry when/if that ever stops happening.”

Also, after Sandy, it does take a certain amount of hubris not to worry at least a little about what this blizzard will bring. Tcholakian says, “To be honest I don’t want to come off too dismissive of weather anxiety because I think after Sandy a lot of New Yorkers have a right to it. A lot of the people I know who were affected by Sandy are not as worried with the blizzard because I don’t think it’s expected to do that kind of damage. But I think it’s reasonable to be concerned about things like loss of electricity due to downed power lines and falling tree branches. (Totally serious about the falling tree branches, I warned a friend yesterday not to walk his dog under trees and I think he thought I was joking but I was not. This is what I mean about the constant anxiety.) Also a lot of this city’s infrastructure is older than time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there ends up being a bunch of water main breaks.”

All of which is to say: Panic or don’t, you won’t be alone in your anxiety or lack of it no matter what. Just, you know, if you’re lucky enough to spend the storm with a bottle or two of wine and all the Netflix your heart desires, think of all the New Yorkers who don’t have a home at all, and think of how you can help them out. The city’s annual population count for its homeless residents was scheduled to take place tonight but has been postponed. The Department of Homeless Services has instituted a Code Blue, meaning that it has increased outreach and allowing “individuals experiencing homelessness may access any of the agency’s adult facilities, including shelters and drop-in centers, without going through the usual intake process.” And if you’re wondering what you can do to help, please consider donating to a New York City food bank—every little bit helps.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen



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