Convoys of intrepid pedestrians saddled with blue plastic shopping bags puddled along yesterday against the tide of traffic, iceberg-like snow mounds and slush pools.
Faced with uncertain weather reports, including the prospect of more snow, and the need to restock pantries and refrigerators, this sidewalk army traveled on its feet and stomachs. There didn't seem to be a hand that was free of a shopping bag outside in some of Baltimore's older neighborhoods.
The pace of city motion downshifted. Some who normally use a car to get around found themselves asking just how much is the bus fare. Others put on high boots and took careful steps. Groceries were the objective. Leg power became the means.
"See that curb?" said Melvin Lifsey, 61, a resident of the first block of S. Patterson Park Ave. "I fell there yesterday." Mr. Lifsey pointed to a spot where Collington Avenue meets Monument Street just east of Northeast Market.
"I've had a hip replaced and two heart attacks," he said. "I won't stay home. I've to get my groceries. I buy them daily."
As a precaution, he wore boots with steel toes that he had used before his retirement through a medical disability from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
Joseph Jones of the 800 block of Glover St. pushed an empty supermarket cart against the flow of Monument Street automobile traffic. His brother Reginald stood alongside. The middle-aged men were in search of T-bone and round steaks and 4 pounds of sausage.
"We lift it over the snowbanks," Joseph Jones said. "When we get the meat, we'll just have to lift harder and higher."
Not many people were as well equipped as the Jones brothers. Blue plastic bags, often filled with a carton of fresh eggs and some toilet paper, acted like an automobile trunk for sure-footed hoofers. Most seemed resigned to the weather and conditions underfoot, but not all liked it.
"I hate it," said Harold Sneed, 11, a Castle Street resident who attends the Mildred D. Monroe School 32. "It's too deep. It gets in your shoes." He was dressed in an oversized black down coat. He thought for a minute and said: "I'd like to be in school."
People's footwear was effective and sensible. Outside a Pic 'N Pay shoe store near the Northeast Market was a trash basket, piled high with empty Back Trail boot boxes, presumably the last-minute purchases of some of the walkers.
Every so often an empty taxicab would appear. There would be calls of "Taxi! Taxi," and those closest to the vehicle would claim it.
Pedestrians also scanned the sidewalk for the easiest places to cross the small mountains of plowed snow that lined the curbs. Here and there a narrow pass was cut through the impacted snow and ice. Those slim channels were popular. Pedestrians edged their plump down jackets and stylish fake fur coats through these channels.
In Northeast Baltimore, Harry Walter Kendall, 75, lugged four plastic grocery bags as he walked along Hamilton Avenue toward his home on that street.
"Nothing stops me," said Mr. Kendall, a retiree from what used to be the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co. "You should have seen the snow they had in Richmond earlier this week."
In Charles Village, the walk-in trade dominated the traffic at Eddie's Super Market in the 3100 block of St. Paul St.
"If you come into the store, I can guarantee your groceries will be delivered to you sometime between now and Mother's Day," Jerry Gordon, Eddie's owner, said to a customer who had called to see about having an order sent home.
"We've been swamped," he said. "I've had to cut off home deliveries for today."
In the meantime, his customers slogged through the streets of Charles Village with sacks loaded for the weekend.
"I don't know what it is," Mr. Gordon said. "We can't keep any kind of kidney bean and canned tomato. People must be making a lot of chili."