Some ways not to deal with the 'White Death'


January 21, 1996|By Brian Sullam

In last week's column, I said in the aftermath of the great blizzard of 1996 that the city of Westminster's police officers and meter maids went into a parking ticket writing frenzy.

Mayor Kenneth Yowan called to say I was wrong. In reality, only two parking tickets had been written between Jan. 8 and Jan. 14. I am taking the mayor at his word and will concede I may have overstated the case.

Nevertheless, I find it extraordinary that that I got one of those tickets and ran into the person who got the other one.

WHITE DEATH, as snow is affectionately called in our household, seems to have brought out the worst in human behavior, and the only way to correct it is to develop some snow etiquette.

Don't laugh.

Witnessing some of the things my neighbors did and hearing about some of the things people did to one other were mind-boggling and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Miss Manners and Amy Vanderbilt will have to forgive me for encroaching on their bailiwick, but someone has to promulgate a few simple rules to follow when the precipitation turns white, lest civilization as we know it blow away during the next snowstorm.

Blizzard etiquette

* When you clean off your car, don't throw the snow into the street. It's one thing to take a broom and brush a couple of inches of snow off the car, but it is a totally different matter when cars are piled with two or three feet of snow, as they were two weeks ago.

I have a neighbor, who will remain nameless unless he pulls this stunt again, who threw all of the snow piled on top of his two cars onto our narrow, unplowed street. Then, he dug out his cars and piled that snow on the street as well.

The resulting pile was about 4 1/2 feet high and made the street absolutely impassable. I found this out the morning after the snow stopped when I tried to walk down the street. I was confronted with a miniature Mount McKinley. Like any fearless mountain climber, I tackled the summit. With the first step, I sank into snow up to my waist. It took a front-end loader to open the street at last.

* If you dig out a spot and don't put out a lawn chair to mark it, don't get angry should any of the rest of us try to park in it.

After I dug out my car -- and worked up quite a sweat -- and moved it off my street, I parked it a block away so I could return home and shower before going to work. The spot I chose was near a corner and looked as though it had been created by a snowplow. I found a note on my windshield when I returned to drive to work. "This spot was dug last night by children for their mother," the anonymous missive began. Talk about creating instant guilt.

The message got progressively nastier. After reading it, I was prepared to leave my car there until June.

The note didn't impress my kids, who had become tired of picking on each other after four days of being couped up and were accompanying me to work. "If the person had any guts," my older daughter piped up, "he would have signed the note."

* Don't use main thoroughfares as parking lots.

Once the main streets in my neighborhood had been cleared, dozens of people moved their cars off the side streets and parked them on main streets. While plowed, these streets where half their normal width. Add parked cars, and these were soon reduced to one lane. Not only did this impede traffic, it prevented road crews from fully clearing the streets.

* A four-wheel-drive vehicle doesn't give you license to run the rest of us over.

One night as I was walking home, a Jeep Cherokee came barreling down toward me. He must have been going about 30 mph on a street with a posted limit of 25 mph. Snow had been piled up about four feet on each side of the road, making it impossible to step to the side. Did this jerk slow down? Not a chance. To get out of his way, I had to jump into a snowdrift.

The next night on television they showed some accidents that had taken place on the Beltway. One involved a four-wheeler that had flipped. I was disappointed it wasn't the one that tried to run me down.

Ticketed in Westminster

* Why give parking tickets when there is no place to park?

On Jan. 8, Westminster's finest and the intrepid meter maids were braving the cold in a ticket-issuing frenzy.

The largest piles of snow seen in these parts since the Pleistocene glaciers came down from the north covered half of the available spaces. People conducting business downtown parked their cars wherever they could find a space.

With about half the number of spaces available, some shoppers decided to park their cars in the portion of the lot reserved for permit holders. If people had parked on Locust Street, where there is usually on-street parking, they would have impeded traffic.

One high-level county official who had an errand downtown made the mistake of driving from the County Office Building. When he returned to his car, he found a ticket.

I confess that I also got a ticket that day. I parked my car behind a four-foot pile of snow. The policeman who wrote the ticket said I was impeding the free flow of traffic. The pile of snow was also impeding the lane but was not cited.

City officials should have more sense than to demand strict enforcement of parking regulations when they failed to do their part and clear the lot.

Mayor Kenneth Yowan, be prepared to fight this ticket all the way to the Supreme Court.

Brian Sullam is The Sun's editorial writer in Carroll County.

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