We started 2019 with a wicked snowstorm. Given that it is January and winter in our fair province, we can expect more to come.
I guess we can also expect more rudeness and snow rage.
Or should we?
Last Saturday, a group of people got together and searched for unshovelled driveways and walkways. Their mission was to help people who couldn't get out to clear the snow themselves. By the time they finished, they had cleared 50 walkways and dug out a dozen cars.
I think the concept is brilliant. Given that we are living in an increasingly litigious society, and we are also subject to snowclearing rules and requirements, not being able to clear snow cannot exempt you from the penalties.
Imagine the anxiety people are experiencing, especially seniors. Up to two years ago, we had a Snowbusters project in the city, where Choices for Youth participants were matched with seniors. In its absence, Project Kindness is filling a need.
The fact is, helping each other out is not new. Moreover, the word is out about this place. While the world froze in shock at 9/11, people in this province stepped up. While Gander’s experience is documented in Broadway’s hugely successful musical “Come From Away,” people in Stephenville, Goose Bay and St. John’s did the same for stranded passengers.
There are many, many instances where an act of kindness goes a long way. Just this week we heard about an act of kindness offered to a driver whose rear wheel was going flat. The driver had no idea until she found a note on her windshield explaining the tire had been re-inflated.
Project Kindness founder Hasan Hai focused on doing rather than complaining, and the results were wonderful.
This isn’t to say complaining where necessary shouldn’t happen. Last week, public access steps to the LSPU Hall from Water Street remained full of snow despite a sold-out concert.
Apparently, Hall staff can’t clear them due to liability issues (something I have yet to see fully explained when store owners are required to clear the sidewalks in front of their buildings and homeowners can be sued if their snow-filled driveways and walkways lead to injury). After public outcry, the city cleared them.
There are always opportunities to do better. To be kinder.
I guess we can also expect more rudeness and snow rage. Or should we?
Think about the pedestrians negotiating snowbanks. I witnessed one person trying to get off the street and onto the sidewalk. They failed and flipped themselves onto the sidewalk and luckily not the street. Drivers should be on the watch for those who have no option but to walk, or roll, on the roadway.
I also think pedestrians need to exercise caution and some consideration for drivers. Too many times for me to count, I have seen people approach a crosswalk and keep walking without checking that there is sufficient distance for cars to stop.
As I am fond of remarking, physics and momentum are wonderful concepts. Meeting a friend? Wonderful. Meeting a car or truck weighing between 2,600 and 6,000 pounds? Not so much.
I check my brakes and keep my eyes peeled, but if the road is slick and I need to make a fast stop, I dread the results.
And drivers and pedestrians alike benefit from considerate drivers who clear the snow off the top of their car and the rear windshield. While you may hope the snow will slide off the back end as you go up hill, it will be stopping that will drive the snow forward to slide down your windshield and obscure your vision.
Not that having it blow off or slide off the back is any safer. Just after New Year’s, a young couple in Quebec had a huge slab of ice from a vehicle in front of them hit their windshield with tremendous force, showering them — and their infant child — with glass shards.
We can focus on near misses, or we can focus on the good stuff, the moments that matter, the opportunities where each of us can do something wonderful.
Martha Muzychka is a writer living in St. John’s. Her column returns Jan. 24. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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