Saturday, March 03, 2007

Another Walk

We're out of milk.

It's getting late in the day, but I figure I can make it downtown and back before I have to go pick up Sugar Daddy. I could go to the nearby convenience store, but it's sunny, and we haven't really been outside in two days because of the weather. The fallout from last night's storm was a bit alarming this morning, but the falling ice weapons -- spears, darts and swords -- have had all day to fall from the trees, wires and rooftops in the melting temperatures, and the plows have had all day to clear away the mountains of wet snow and lakes of dirty slushy water. The ice spikes did make a pretty cool mohawk on the snowman across the street though.

At the last minute, I take my camera, because I'm inspired by work I've seen on the web lately.

I open the door, and see that I didn't shovel the walkway wide enough to get the stroller through. Oh well, I think I can muscle through it, and the sidewalks will be clear.

They are, sort of. Just plowed enough to make the corners particularly treacherous where the street plows have piled up what came off the road and the sidewalk plow hasn't cleared through, and where huge pools of water have collected, blocked by ice, I guess.

Stopped at the corner with the very slow-to-change traffic lights, I contemplate the mountains I have to get through on the other side. I notice a dog barking frantically up the way, jumping up and down on its leash. I wonder if I should go past it, it's obviously kind of angry, but then I think maybe I'm just being prejudiced against big scary-looking dogs. If I were closer I think I could see its angry, bared teeth.

Between the angry dog and the heavy going, I begin to question the wisdom of this walk, but we're out of milk. And we haven't really been outside for two days. A few snowflakes begin to fall in a pretty way.

As I cross the street, slowly, I see that on the other end of the dog's leash is a police woman. The dog quiets, and they just loiter on the sidewalk. (Of course, I know they're not really loitering, they must be on police business, but it looks just like loitering.) I push the stroller slowly up the slight incline, through several inches of heavy wet slush. The stroller is way out in front of me, my arms at right angles to my body, my body at 45 degrees to the sidewalk.

I wonder if maybe I should choose another route. If maybe I'm about to walk by a drug bust, and the scene will erupt in gunfire while I try to walk past -- with my baby. (Wasn't there a movie like that?) I continue to make slow progress, and wonder if this is the right course of action. But I'm nosy and dead curious about what's going on. And I have a plan to get milk. And once I have a plan, I stick to it.

I think the police woman notices my progress towards her, and she moves away from the frat house that I thought was about to get busted, into the parking lot of the taxi office. I notice the police car parked there. I guess she knew there wasn't enough room on the sludgy sidewalk for me, the all-terrain (well almost) stroller, and her and the dog.

I get up to the parking lot and notice a second police car. Guess they mean business. When a big black mean-looking truck with tinted windows and multiple antennas -- a surefire mark of an unmarked police vehicle -- pull up on the street, I decide to get the hell outta dodge. I veer into the road. I don't think this is a safe place for my baby. I'll just keep my distance as I trudge painfully slowly through the slush.

The door of the taxi office slams open. Through it, a large male police officer propels a scrawny kid with dreadlocks, cuffed hands yanked behind the kid's back. The police officer towers above the kid like a giant; he's gotta be at least double the height and breadth of the kid. The dog goes into a frenzy as soon as he spots the kid, barking and spinning and jumping. He looks like he wants to tear that kid apart in a bloody mess.

Great. Here I am, on my way to get milk, merrily walking past a freakin' police takedown. I walk faster. La la la... If I don't pay attention, maybe they won't notice me, and there's less chance of random gunfire piercing my baby or making him an orphan. La la la... I'm not listening. We're out of milk... la la la.

They get the kid in the back of the cruiser, and the dog settles down again. The woman puts the dog in the back of the other cruiser. I don't see what happens next.

Once past the danger, I figure I may as well keep going. We're out of milk. I'm nearly halfway there, right? And the going will be easy once I'm downtown.

It's not. The straightaways are ok, but the corners are hell.

On the corner across from the police station, trying to plan my strategy over the next mountain and lake, I see the police car with the dreadlocked kid in the back drive by. I wonder what he did? A man on a bicycle turns the corner, and shakes his slowly at me. At first I think it's that shaking of the head that means tisk tisk on that badass in the backseat of the cruiser. Then I realize it's in sympathy of my struggles over the wet mounds of snow, tisk tisk the city has done a godawful job of clearing the sidewalks.

I think of the curmudgeonly neighbour I encountered the other day, when I was pushing the stroller through just enough of a fresh layer of clean snow to make me feel intrepid, but not so much as to actually impede my way. Would be nice if people cleared their sidewalks, wouldn't it? he grumped. At the time I hadn't even cleared my own walk, and I didn't really know how to respond.

By the time I get to the store, the stroller has nearly tipped over a few times trying to climb mountains, when it is NOT built for mountain climbing, and I've had three soakers.

I buy the milk, and forget to buy the chocolate I so deserve by this point.

I decide to try Gordon Street on the way home, hoping the sidewalks are in better shape.

They're not.

The snow comes down more heavily, and I notice some kids snowboarding next to the haunted-looking house on top of the hill. They're taking turns, and I get my camera out, waiting for the next one. He goes down the concrete stairs , no doubt slippery with ice, that I guess used to service the old building they just tore down last year. Down the stairs, up onto the railing, down onto the ground, down the small slope and a smooth whoosh to stop. I put my camera away and keep moving forward.

The snow gets heavier... it's no longer a few pretty flakes fluffing down, it's a snow squall. I plan to cross to the other side of the street to take a more direct route home, but an entire mountain range on the curb, without even a small pass through it, makes me change my course. My sopping winter boot's laces come undone and I stop under the bridge to do them up, and put the plastic cover over the stroller.

I start to get angry, to formulate a letter to the city about the appalling state of the sidewalks. Does no one think of the parents with strollers?!? When the snow starts coming down like a giant sneezed at the exact same moment that he spilled the entire box of laundry powder instead of pouring a decorous amount in the machine, I take drastic action. Fuck it. I walk unapologetically down the road; the cars can go around us, thank you. Have you seen the state of the sidewalks? I want to gesture to each driver.

My feet are pruny and white when we get home. But we have milk.


Suz said...

We currently live in the Southern US and are thinking of moving much further North to be nearer my husband's relatives, but it's entries like this that make me think - oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no!!

Beck said...

We need sleds! Nice little sleds with straps to hold the babies on and a space in the back for us to leap on and ride down particularily steep sidewalks with the baby.
I had a long, miserable walk the other day, half carrying The Baby in her stroller, and I was literally weeping with exhaustion when I got home. I'm so tired of winter.

Aliki2006 said...

Milk, but no chocolate--what an oversight!! What a walk, reminded me of when we lived in upstate NY and had to walk a ridiculous distance to get to the bus stop--often in tons of snow, AND with a baby, too...

slouching mom said...

I love the way you described this walk; the details really gave it life. Beautiful writing!

kgirl said...

i am completely intolerant of uncleared sidewalks. i live in neighbourhood comprised mostly of young families and old people, and snow on the sidewalk is a bitch for both.
last year i actually opened the door to a bank that had not cleared their boulevard, and shouted at them. yes, i am that girl.

NotSoSage said...

Ah, the street- and sidewalk-clearing state of things is so poor here, too...These days Mme L gets excited about how "bouncy" it is, while I'm (as you so perfectly described) walking at a 45 degree angle to the sidewalk with my arms straight out in front of me.

Amazing post.

Denguy said...

I have over 150 feet of sidewalk to shovel, and by gawd I get it done! I even shovel out the ramps to the streets for the stroller-pushers--after all, I am one.

Sue Richards said...

This beautifully explains why Cinnamon Gurl is not as ubiquitous with her camera in G-town right now.

Hail spring!

Mimi said...

aha ... cin, i feel your pain. i think i had the same walk with miss baby this w/e -- only minus the police takedown. don't your arms just kill you by the time you get home? it's quite the workout. glad you made it ;-)