James Lileks
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Yes, I am a proud longtime resident, and, no, I cannot figure out snow emergencies.

The term itself is odd. It snowed? How’s that an emergency? The word implies some sort of unanticipated disaster. Snow is what it does here in the winter. What’s next? Declaring leaf-falling emergencies every October?

Besides, it makes us sound overwrought. Six inches! Snow trauma! With more on the way tomorrow, perhaps we should declare a snow existential crisis.

A better Minnesotan term would be “Your basic snow-type situation there,” read in a comforting, folksy voice.

When they say “a snow emergency has been declared,” I like to think of a city official in breeches and a three-corner hat standing outside City Hall, preceded by a man who rings a handbell three times and shouts:

“Hear ye! The Goode Folke of Minneapolis are Hereby Enjoined to gather and pay heed, for the City hereby Declareth the Emergency of The Snow, so that all shall adjust thine carriages in accordance with the rules.”

What are those rules? As I said, I still can’t remember. There’s something about on the first day, there’s no parking on snow crisis routes. These are clearly marked by signs you have seen all your life and hence ignore. You can park there after it’s been plowed, unless it’s going to be plowed a second time, maybe.

How do you know if the truck going down the street is on its first or second plow? I beeped the horn and flashed my lights until the driver rolled down the window and raised a finger to indicate that this was the first time. Interesting side note: He did not use his index finger.

The second day: You can park on the odd side of streets whose name starts with an even letter — you know, B, D, F, etc.

The third day: It doesn’t matter, you got towed on the second day. If not, park on the side of streets where the cars have lots of tickets. The parking police won’t be back for a while. Or, park on the even side of uneven streets with odd names, like Xerxes.

Thanks to the city of Minneapolis’ 311 app, I could sorta kinda figure out that my chances of getting a ticket were probably low. Still, I decided to leave my car where there already were other cars parked — which is a bit like seeing people loot a grocery store and thinking, “Hey, food is free now.” But apparently all those other drivers understood the rules, because everything was fine.

It was a good snowfall, wasn’t it? Freshened up the crusty snirt and bedecked the trees with flocking. It wasn’t one of those “back in the good, old days” blizzards that howled while the world stopped, hunkered and waited. But it was still notable.

When the snow was done, we clambered out and cleaned up, scraping the walk down to the concrete. There’s a particularly Midwestern feeling to the day after a heavy snowfall. Perhaps the sun is out, and all seems bright, blue and new. If you meet a neighbor while you shovel, you chat a bit. Or you greet someone walking a dog whose nose has amnesia now, because all the good stinks he expected have been shoveled up or covered over.

No one commiserates — it’s too soon to complain about a long winter, too soon to think about the end. So we enjoy the fellowship of the shovel, thinking, “We’re all in this together.”

And then the plow goes by and shoves a Himalayan mountain range in the driveway you just cleared.

Well, most of us are in this together.