A snowstorm brings with it an abundance of opportunities for philanthropy: neighbors with walks to shovel, older people to help over drifts, cars to dig out, shut-ins to visit and feed. You see the best of humanity, a hundred times a day, at relatively low risk. Conversely, of course, there are plenty of opportunities for good men to stand by and do nothing. You know what happens then.
On Saturday, when the snow was at its heaviest, we went out for a long walk. The drifts were feet deep; nothing had yet melted to slush. An emergency alert had gone out telling cars to get off the roads. The occasional skier glided down Broadway; mostly, the muffled streets were empty.
About ten blocks from our home, we came upon a taxi intrepid or foolish enough to contravene this driving ban—the car had, inevitably, gotten stuck in a snowdrift. It was spinning its wheels loudly, trying to gain purchase, gunning an angry motor, not moving. It looked especially yellow against the snow. In the way people pitch in during these times, my husband tacitly joined two other guys, and they pushed the car with all their strength. I’m not sure the driver noticed; at any rate, he started to back into them as soon as he was freed.
Another guy in their party stood around, shouting, “Nice work, genius!” and “Don’t bother, he’ll just get stuck again in a block!” and then turned in my direction and added unnecessarily, “I’m not even helping.” All the while, two young women giggled at this display of sparkling wit. They were so actively unhelpful that I felt positively heroic standing there, doing nothing.
Once the cab was really unstuck, it drove off down the unplowed streets as quickly as it could, which is to say, very slowly and loudly. “Idiot!” the nondriver was saying, generally.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.