Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in the New Yorker, The Atlantic, New York Times, Modern Farmer, Village Voice, Slate, BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
An etiquette primer for being snowed in.
Storms have a way of highlighting our misanthropic urges. Hunkering down with waffles by the flickering glow from your laptop screen? Sounds pretty cozy. Season seven of Parks and Recreation is on Netflix; see you after the thaw.
But at some point, you’ll have to venture out into the blustery wild and encounter other people. That’s where things can get a little dicey. A few flurries can transform us from people who gracefully exchange pleasantries into weirdos who swipe supplies from our neighbor’s shopping cart because we’re freaking out at the prospect of there not being enough bologna to go around.
It shouldn’t be so hard to act like an adult human during a storm. Try these tips:
Do not use traffic cones to call dibs on a prime parking spot.
The Philly police force is wise to your shenanigans.
Don’t use lawn chairs to call dibs, either.
Just stop calling dibs.
If you’re ordering delivery, fork over extra tips.
Last year, as New York stared into the gaping maw of Winter Storm Juno, Mayor de Blasio issued a travel ban that applied to any non-essential personnel—including those intrepid Seamless and Grubhub delivery people. “A food delivery bicycle is not an emergency vehicle,” Eater quoted him as saying.
Okay. Fair enough. But you’ll have to pry tacos and pad Thai out of New Yorkers’ frozen hands. Totally unsurprisingly, people ordered takeout anyway. At least they felt a little sympathy for the guys braving the squall. Tipping tends to increase when the weather is terrible. Gratuities rose in the places hit hardest by the 2014 polar vortex, Grubstreet noted. Grateful (or guilty) diners in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Chicago tacked on an additional 14 or 15 percent to their standard tips. If you’re going to order dinner during the deluge, follow their lead. Throw in a few extra bucks for the person who’s slogging through the slush.
Does requesting delivery during an epic snow storm make you a jerk? That’s between you, your stomach, and your conscience. But if you are planning to order delivery, consider pooling your order with a neighbor, Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, suggested to the Observer. That way, the delivery folks can make as few trips as possible.
Clear your sidewalk.
No one wants to tumble on a slick patch of ice. Not only is shoveling and salting the neighborly thing to do—you could also be slapped with a summons for failing to attack the drifts in a timely fashion. In New York City, that means within four hours, assuming that the snow falls between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. A 2010 ruling gives Boston business owners three hours to get it done, and residents get six hours to shovel their sidewalks. (If you’re a tenant, your landlord could be the one saddled with any penalties.)
In many cities, you can file a 311 complaint if your neighbors are trying to shirk their shovel duties. But, in the name of neighborliness, you could also lend your services to local organizations that rally volunteer snow corps for people who are homebound or concerned about slipping on ice. “We’re hoping to make the tough winter months easier,” Pete Connelly, the Brooklyn-based founder of the Sunset Park Shovel Brigade, explained to DNAinfo last year. Don’t be someone who makes winter worse.