Winter, as many things in life, comes with positive and negative aspects. Above is again the wintry Mount Carmel campus that I’ve shown you in the first entry. Today, I’d like to write about the other side of winter in Connecticut.
The sun had already set when the people in front of me finally began moving. The air that touched my skin felt like a package of frozen food pressed against my head to prevent a bump from swelling. It’s winter in New York. From 10 degrees Celsius (50 F) in Germany earlier this morning to -6 C (21 F) at New York’s JFK airport in just nine hours. I was glad, though, to find the streets of New York free of snow.
The temperature had reached -11 C (12 F) when I reached Hamden, Conn., a few hours later. I stood in front of the Days Inn hotel. It was pitch black, but I knew Quinnipiac’s Mount Carmel campus was only minutes away. All it should have taken me to catch a first glimpse was crossing Whitney Avenue and making a right onto Mount Carmel Avenue.
Where’s the sidewalk? I walked to the edge of the parking lot, but that’s where the walk ended. The snow remains rendered the small strip of grass that I could have misused as safe passage to the intersection useless. Walking on Whitney Avenue didn’t strike me as particularly clever. The other side of the street will surely accommodate pedestrians, right? Only if I wanted to walk through maybe three inches of snow and ice. Trying my luck on the street was still not an idea I was willing to consider. It was cold, I was exhausted, and Quinnipiac would have to wait until tomorrow. After the first few hours in the country I had already realized that winter in Connecticut can be tougher than expected. It struck me as odd that I couldn’t reach the campus, although it was just a few minutes away. Back home, it would have been a no brainer to walk this short a distance.
The days went by, the winter stayed. I didn’t mind the first snow storm. Unfortunately, it robbed me of my first class experience, postponing my first meeting with my classmates a few more days. After almost two weeks in the country, I longed for company. Other than that, I had no problems with the white powder falling from the sky.
The following night began to change my relationship towards the snow. I’m talking about the process of clearing the street and parking spaces in front of my apartment from the snow. Just underneath my bedroom window, three vehicles kept moving snow for hours in a row. The noise from the engines and the sharp beeps when reversing resulted in a symphony that had made it its duty to keep me from falling asleep.
The snow storm last week elevated the situation to a new level. I had two tasks to accomplish during the afternoon hours of Wednesday, Feb. 5 that required me to hit the streets of Hamden. The bank required additional paperwork and I needed groceries. My feet were soaked before I had even reached the bank. I realized the priorities of this town when I tried to cross the street at the intersection of Whitney and Dixwell avenues. Since my feet were already wet, I didn’t mind the at least three inch deep puddles that I had to walk through. But for the next thirty minutes, I had an enemy who would have almost defeated me, the American sidewalk.
Snow removal in Hamden works like a charm, but only if you see it from the perspective of a driver. Put yourself in the shoes of a pedestrian and things change. As if it wasn’t enough that I had to wade through seven, maybe 10 inches of snow and ice, the few passages that were almost walkable bore another danger. The snowplows were still busy, although the streets looked fine. I can still see the snow and ice particles flying towards me as a plow approached. Thankfully, the driver noticed me and slowed down so that I could pass the machine safely.
A few minutes later, the plows, in continuous efforts to widen the useable area of the street inch by inch, had stacked up the wintry remains so high that I stood knee-deep in snow and ice. That was the moment where I was almost willing to accept defeat. But having almost reached the supermarket, I kept fighting and reached my destination.
I’ve been in Hamden for four weeks. I arrived with temperatures below the freezing point and that’s pretty much what the conditions have looked like ever since. I’ve gotten inured to the cold, the snow, and the challenging conditions on the sidewalks. But it’s time for spring to arrive. Snow and temperatures below the freezing point aren’t new to me, but I’ve never experienced such conditions for four weeks straight.
Lesson number one: I wish I would have known that winter in Connecticut can be that hard.