Posted by: Chris | February 7, 2010

A Lesson In Human Behavior (Updated)

Well, as I am sure you all know, DC got hit with quite a bit of snow (over 2.5 feet here in Oakton) recently.  It seems to have perplexed some more than others.  I am currently trapped (and have been since Saturday morning) thanks to a bizarre suicide pact my neighbors and I have partaken in.

Apparently, we’ve all decided to build a wall blocking all of our cars from ever getting out and anyone else from ever getting in.  But no one ever did this with that intention in mind. 

My understanding is that the wall was predicated on a nugget of misinformation.  The first person to clear out his car was apparently told that the snow mound at the terminus of our petit street was too large and that a tow truck would come through shortly to haul it and any snow in the middle of the road away.  Thinking sharp, the intrepid first-shoveller, in order to save time and energy, decided he would simply move his excess snow out to the middle of the street, letting the tow truck haul it away with everything else.

However, the tow truck did not materialize immediately and other shovellers soon emerged from their apartments.  The minor mound of snow the pioneering individual was building behind his cars immediately changed the calculus for everyone upstream of him.  Since they now could not remove their cars until this fanciful tow truck arrived anyway, they might as well adapt the same strategy as the initial shoveller and started building their own mounds.

This system spread down the lane too, assumedly through the subtle influence of peer pressure.  By the time I emerged to clear off my car and head out to the city at 4:00 PM Saturday, there was already a sizable continuous barrier between me and the exit of the court twenty meters away.  So out of the laziness that impelled everyone else, I too contributed to the pile.

And now we are in a situation where, 24 hrs after I began clearing things, a several-ton wall of snow, roughly 1.5 meters high and 30 meters in length prevents anyone but the firstmost cars from leaving.  No tow truck has ever come and even if one did, they could never deal with something like this.  It will take over a day to move and weeks to melt and no one quite knows what to do.

Over on the other side of my street, no one worried about the size of their mound and no one hoped for a tow truck to come.  Thus everyone did the extra work and cleared their snow to the side of the street rather than the middle.  They can now freely drive to and fro, and could since last night.  Thus one person, cutting one little corner based on one minor misunderstanding has now completely trapped well over 20 cars from leaving their parking spots for the foreseeable future.  And now each and every one of us have become our own prisoner and captor.

Except Nick Dunn, of course.  But he has other problems.

Update:  The Greater Oakton area seems to have decided to save us from ourselves.  More than a day later than promised the tow truck and “tractor” arrive in what can only be described as an underwhelming show of force.  Hopefully he will be done before tomorrow.

Update 2:  Correction – The battle has been joined.  Another tractor has entered the fray.


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