Earlier this week we were treated to a frightening announcement from Mayor De Blasio - a storm was heading for New York that could be the largest snowfall in history for the city, producing up to three feet of powder. My wife (and 8 million other people) raced to the grocery store, stocking up on milk and eggs. Schools were canceled. People were sent home early from their jobs. We hunkered down for a good old-fashioned blizzard.
Alas, it wasn't to be. We went to bed dreaming of mountains of snow piled high on the streets. In the end we only got 6 inches or so. Previous mayors got into hot water for not being ready enough for snow. This one just had the embarrassment of overstatement. The Onion did a hilarious story on De Blasio's bone-chilling winter warnings, which he at least had the good humor to read aloud for reporters on Wednesday.
Today in hushed conversations I heard several people confess they wish the storm had been worse. They had hoped it would be epic and found it lackluster, as if they were describing the latest Thor movie. Given the fact that the storm cost billions of dollars in lost revenue for shutting down the city for a day, it seems a strange thing to root for a worse storm. But, I have to say, I felt the same way. I was rooting for a big one And I was disappointed when it didn't happen. A lot of us were.
Is there something wrong with us to long for chaos like this? The first explanation that came to mind was this is a case of massive schadenfreude at work, that dark experience of taking joy in the misfortune of others. We're slyly looking forward to reading about all the inconvenience and cars sliding off the road. That explanation might make sense if we were sitting on a beach chair in Florida reading about the snow in Manhattan, but we were taking joy in the idea of going through the terrible white-out ourselves.
Maybe a better explanation for this morbid excitement about a blizzard is that we just wanted a little excitement in life. Winter in New York isn't so fun once the holidays are done. It's dark. It's cold. It's often wet with rain. You spend all season bundling up and trudging through puddles and windwith nothing to show for it. Then suddenly, one day, the mayor is on TV! A storm is coming! Get your cars off the road. The MTA is canceling service! What's better than a snowstorm night? You get to cancel whatever evening plans you had that you weren't that excited about anyway and stay home drinking cocoa and binge watching Homeland. The next day you get to stay home from work and go sledding! Nothing beats a good storm. It breaks up the monotony of the daily grind.
We want the satisfaction of being able to say, "I was there."
But why do we feel the need for a super storm? A real blizzard? After all, 6" of snowfall can often do the job. But that wasn't enough for my friends and I. We wanted three feet of snow. We wanted the record. Getting less than a foot felt like a let down. I can't help but feel like the Mayor over-promised and the storm under-delivered. I wanted to be stuck in my building for a week straight. Why?
I think the most important reason for this longing is we wanted a little test of our existential strength. We want the satisfaction of being able to say, "I was there." I was there for Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I was there for the New York City blackout in 2003. I lived through it. I'm a survivor. That's why I somewhere in my heart, I want the blizzard. These are badges of honor. They are shared experiences we go through together. They prove our mettle.
Ultimately, isn't that what being a New Yorker is about? Facing challenging situations day in and day out and fighting through them? If there's one thing we have in this city, we've got the fight in us. No matter what they throw at us. Even if it is a record-setting blizzard. Even if it's a city-wide blackout. Even if they knock down our largest towers. We've been through the worst. A little blizzard can't stop us. It just makes us stronger. At least that's what I think was going on in my heart on Monday night as I sipped my cocoa, and looked out the window at the snow whispering "Go!"
Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.