Over the past few weeks, a sizeable area of our country—as in forty-nine out of fifty states—reported accumulations of snow. In some areas, such as Seattle, the storm was an unexpected surprise (resulting in more than 700 traffic accidents), whereas it was “winter-as-usual” in the Midwest and New England. Whether you delight or agonize when those fluffy flakes fall, the presence or anticipation of snow invites us to call upon a few considerate behaviors that will enhance everyone’s well-being.
The first, and perhaps most evident observation, is driving in hazardous conditions. While we should always be aware of the actions of all drivers—including ourselves—regardless of weather, it is important to bear in mind that there are a good many out there who have never learned the special skills necessary to navigate an automobile on snowy or icy roads. While I’m not offering expert advice on how to break or steer when skidding on a patch of ice, I will point to the most reckless and deliberate offense, which is speeding. How often have you confronted a massive SUV—the size of which offers no protection against ice—bolt past you like an elephant charging an enemy? Or have had another car tailgate so close to your back bumper that there is no margin for error should you slide or need to break? Or, when merging onto a major highway, have the car from behind pull out ahead of you onto the road, preventing your ability to advance forward? Or have witnessed drivers who don’t bother to stop at an intersection, but instead, roll through or pay no attention to taking their “turn.” Obviously, these infractions can cause accidents at any time in any weather; however, the caution to be emphasized, especially in winter, is: slow down!
Traffic congestion is not unique to roadways, as shoppers flock to grocery stores, stocking up on staples to carry them through the inclement weather. Unlike cars, however, shopping carts don’t have horns, bells, or other beep-beep sounds to alert those ahead to clear space in the aisles. A case in point was last Friday afternoon when I was shopping in a local Westport grocer. Although the store is otherwise fabulous, its footprint is not spacious, and the produce area, in particular, is rather tight. When two carts are abreast, no one from behind can move or pass. On that day, I counted ten clustered carts—five “double rows” of two—that were parked, as the users of these buggies, themselves, darted about to other areas of the aisle. Clearly, this was a cart pile-up, with no one directing traffic. In these instances, the message is similar cars on the highway: if you’re a slower (or paused) shopper, engineer a lane or space so that a shopper on the move might pass. Another considerate thing to do with shopping carts—especially on parking lots piled with snow—is to return them to the store, rather than leaving them in an open space, impeding others from parking.
Speaking of considerate things to do, remember those whose physical agility may be less than your own. If you have a neighbor or friend unable or afraid to brave the storm, offer to run an errand or pick up that extra quart of milk. A great way to teach your children empathy for others is to have them shovel the walkway of an elderly person—perhaps even before they go sledding or make that snowman.
Whether or not we like the weather, these are some thoughtful behaviors that allow winter to bring out the best in us!