Periscope Depth

when people wore adidas and lived life slow

Six weeks of piled snow have given Davis Square ramparts, like a besieged colonial fort. Crossing Elm Street on Saturday with my weekly Spike’s order, I fell in line behind a woman with two leashed dachshunds. She prompted them through the narrow footpath between two mounds of gray snow, dragging a rolling suitcase behind her. A car idled next to us, waiting for us to leave the crosswalk.

“C’mon, babies,” the woman said to her dachshunds.

The car edged forward a foot.

“Would you wait?” the woman yelled, turning and waving a hand at the car. I don’t know how she managed to guide two dachshunds, drag a suitcase, and flail at a driver with only two hands. Bruce Lee’s mastery of Wing Chun made his hands literally quicker than the eye; I know such things are possible.

“Got this crazy driver trying to turn us into pancakes here!” the woman said to me as I followed her up onto the sidewalk. “Life is not that important!”

The beauty of the English language is its near total malleability. Not only can you construct a sentence that sort of means what you intend, you can construct a sentence that means the exact opposite and still be understood. I could care less. She literally screamed her head off. Life is not that important.

Most of the Davis Square neighborhood is a web of one-way streets, designed to baffle outsiders and funnel enemies into chokepoints. The street I live on starts one-way but becomes two-way by my block. It’s tough enough to navigate when the street is fully plowed. With waist-high snow banks edging cars further into the street, it becomes impossible*.

I witnessed a stand-off between a van and a sedan driving head on just outside my front door. The van driver made a frustrated but humane gesture. The sedan driver shrugged, indicating the SUV that had edged up behind him. For the sedan, compromise was impossible. Making compromise impossible often strengthens your negotiating position; the van driver backed into a driveway and let them by. Why make a big thing of it? Life is not that important.

There’s another 16 inches forecast for Boston between today and tomorrow. When there’s no more room in the snow lots, the pedestrians will WALK THE STREETS.

* Or, as they say in Boston, “impassable.”