A lone cyclist fishtailed unsteadily down Tremont Street early Tuesday afternoon, somehow staying upright, until the wind and driving snow became too much and he gave up.
Twenty-five-year-old Christian Schmutz was heading back to Brighton, after the Starbucks where he works in the Financial District gave up and closed early. He tried pushing his bike down the unplowed sidewalk. Then he gave up even on that, slung the bike over his shoulder, and carried the useless thing.
Much of Boston just gave up in the face of Tuesday’s snowstorm.
We mostly stayed home, after days of breathless weather reports forecasting a potential snowpocalypse-style nor’easter. Schools were closed. South Station was a dead zone at what should have been morning rush. Before the snow picked up in late morning, the few scattered cars on the Southeast Expressway cruised into Boston at 60 miles per hour on what might have been the quickest a.m. commute of the year.
Boston on Tuesday was a city of largely empty sidewalks and abandoned intersections, where traffic lights cycled mindlessly through their duties, counting down walk signals for nobody. You could pull a U-turn in the middle of Hanover Street at noon and nobody was around to yell obscenities at you.
It seemed an entire region had already mentally moved on from winter and couldn’t quite handle its return. Who could blame us? It was 73 degrees two weeks ago. We were clicking on car air conditioners in February. And, yes, climate change is a terrible threat and we may be doomed, but at least we would be fighting rising sea levels in shorts.
But then came a bracing blast of cold ahead of Tuesday’s unwelcome laggard of a snowstorm at the tail end of an otherwise easy winter. The storm stumbled into Boston like an uninvited party guest, insulting the host and knocking over the dessert table. What is it doing here? Is it lost? Is it drunk?
Nope, it’s winter again. Take a deep breath and then check out the long-range forecast. Temperatures in Boston are not expected to top 45 degrees even once over the next 15 days. There could be more snow this weekend, barely two weeks before Red Sox Opening Day. City schools are preemptively closed again Wednesday.
Boston Common, jammed two weeks ago, was nearly deserted Tuesday. There was a TV news van parked there, taking viewers LIVE! into the heart of the storm. A runner jogged laps around the Common, preserving a consecutive-day running streak or perhaps just scoring some toughness points. A woman posed for cellphone photos with a snowman.
“It is really pretty here,” said Karen Crowley, out exercising her dog among the bare trees lightly frosted in fresh snow, before the rain started falling in the afternoon. She still would have rather stayed inside like most people, she said, but Daisy the labradoodle can’t walk herself.
Nearby, Quincy Market was all but abandoned at lunchtime, with nearly every restaurant closed. There was a Japanese place open on one end and a Chinese place open on the other.
Rose Mary Rodriguez, 21, who staffed the Sea Boston retail cart, said it was a slooooow day in the Boston-themed souvenir shirt and hat business.
“There are hotels nearby, and with the people who stay around here, it was worth a try,” she explained.
Bundled in winter clothing, Jim Racca, 59, stood inside the quiet market and watched workers outside lean into shovels to clear sidewalks that few were around to walk on. Racca had slept outside on the street Monday night, like most nights, inside two sleeping bags and under a canvas tarp, in a spot he found downtown that we’re not going to give away. He woke Tuesday dusted with snow.
“This city is dead,” he lamented. “It’s like one of those movies” in which a catastrophe, “like some kind of gas or something,” drives civilization away and leaves only the buildings. Racca, who said he has been homeless about three years, had a face of white stubble and a few renegade gray hairs in his dark eyebrows. He had been hoping to run into some of his “regulars” downtown, the people he sees every day, who will buy him coffee or lunch or throw him a few bucks. But the snowstorm had kept them all away, and Racca had given up on Tuesday.
“I got nothing today,” he said. “I’m stuck.”