A SPATE of old-fashioned winter weather has left Boston residents and city officials scrambling to get on top of an ever-increasing mountain of snow.
In less than two weeks, three storms have dumped 35 inches of the white fluffy stuff on Bean Town. Meteorologists predicted even more for later in the week.
After so many mild winters, New Englanders are having a d vu of the great blizzard of 1978 - which left a record 27.1 inches in the area. Like that storm, this year's snowfall offers an unusual twist to the regular hum-drum of Boston's gray season.
Mini mountains cover sidewalks and street sides. Cars are literally buried in fallen snow or drifts, some recognizable only by their protrusions - a side mirror here, an antenna there, a bright orange parking ticket courtesy of the City of Boston or yellow ``Save your back, we'll dig you out'' shoveling ad.
For some sturdy residents, the snow provides good exercise. City folks enjoy a new-found camaraderie with neighbors while hoisting pounds of snow from beside a wheel. Pedestrians get thorough workouts trudging through waist-high drifts on street corners.
But others haven't taken as well to the ``exercise.'' Tempers have flared after weary hours of shoveling or vain attempts to find a parking space - and many have done face plants into icy sidewalks. ``The streets are awful - just trying to cross the street and get through the snowbanks when there are no openings. You have to walk all the way to the corner,'' says Kevin Cosby, a letter carrier.
Snow-removal crews haven't been as prompt this year, he says. Maybe it's because former Mayor Raymond Flynn, known for riding on snowplows during storms, is no longer keeping ward over Boston, he muses.
Besides messy sidewalks and streets, dressing for the weather takes on new meaning. Working people, usually decked out in crisp office attire, bundle up in furry hats, bulging scarves, and clomping snow boots.
Getting around has been a feat. Even though Mayor Thomas Menino urged commuters to abandon cars in favor of public transportation this week, it has not been reliable. In fact, commuters rode the ``T'' (subway) and buses free of charge Tuesday due to long delays on Monday.
Driving, well, has been unpleasant to say the least. Unearthing a snow-entombed car can take up to two hours. The screech of spinning wheels and the thud of a bumper hitting a wall of snow - or another bumper - are familiar sounds.
In picturesque Beacon Hill - where narrow, hilly streets provide nightmarish parking and driving conditions in good winters - one shoveler wanted $20 at minimum and $50 for ``the worst case job.'' Some cars sit high and mighty on hardened ``snow platforms.''
A few city residents, such as Brian Breen, were lucky to have assistance from a friend. It took him ``only 30 to 45 minutes'' with the extra pair of strong arms. ``My biggest concern is coming home at night and wondering if I can find a parking space.''
Mr. Breen is not alone in that feeling. Once a spot is shoveled, residents take great pride in ``guarding'' their spots with objects like chairs, tables, or barrels to keep out other drivers.
But if shoveling and guarding a parking spot is too much of a hassle, why not try having the car towed or simply leaving it in a garage? Jerry Booden of Boston Towing Company has towed 50 to 60 cars in recent days ``because people are too lazy to shovel them out,'' he says matter-of-factly.
One man, who moved to Boston from Los Angeles a few months ago, keeps his car in a garage and uses public transportation. Experiencing the snow was a shock from life in sunny L.A, but ``it's hard not to see the beauty of winter,'' he says.