Jewish World Review Feb. 17, 2011 / 13 Adar I, 5771
Winter brings out the worst in us
By Betsy Hart
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | So much for adversity pulling folks together.
Maybe I'm just a cynic, but why am I not surprised to see the recent Wall Street Journal headline, "As Weather Worsens, So Do Manners"?
In my city of Chicago after our recent blizzard, the case of a woman taking a shovel from a fellow's front porch, clearing her car, but then not returning the item became well known thanks to his revenge: Having caught the "perpetrator" on a surveillance camera, he actually spent time snow-blowing her car right back under. That took her another three hours to dig out. All proudly displayed on YouTube video by him.
His actions were largely cheered in the blogosphere. Really? I'm not defending the woman, but I had to believe if she was digging a car out in the dark of night after a blizzard, she must have been pretty desperate. Maybe she was just a jerk. Or who knows? Maybe she was a single mom working two jobs, meant to return the shovel, but was just too exhausted to do so.
He's the guy with the snow blower, and he's cheered for giving that kind of a hard time to a gal with only a shovel? Nice. Or rather, so very not nice. Apparently the shovel was eventually returned.
Anyway, as snowfall records were set around the country, so apparently were new accounts of rudeness. According to the Journal piece, call-in talk shows, blogs and city halls have been "inundated with gripes about amateur winter drivers, people who see snow on the ground as a license not to pick up after their dogs, and cars flying down the road looking like igloos."
In Washington, D.C., the City Council is weighing the "Winter Sidewalk Safety Amendment Act of 2011." Shovel the sidewalks in front of your home or get fined. There has to be a law for that? I guess so.
Now, for the most part I just think folks need to lighten up and cut each other some slack. Of course, that's generally my advice to my children when it comes to their siblings, and that's never seemed to avert World War III around here.
But on the other hand, all this winter action, reaction and overreaction at least has the valuable effect of proving a theological point: Original sin is real.
OK, maybe this winter's extra rudeness doesn't "prove" it in the strict sense of the word -- at least not in the same way that observing a clique of seventh-grade girls does. But, wow, it lends credence to the idea. Here's the point: It's relatively easy to be nice when we're rested and happy and not stressed out. But the minute we become less than content and our protective barriers get dropped, the more "real us" comes out. And it's often not pretty.
Or, put another way, I've never heard anyone say, "That little 3-year-old over there must be exhausted -- he's being so delightful and sweet!" Uh, no. Generally speaking and from the earliest ages, the more "real us" gets exposed, the uglier it gets.
I'm not sure that brings anyone a great deal of solace in these cold dark days of winter.
But maybe it shows that we're up against a lot more than several feet of snow. In any event, given that we've got weeks of winter left -- and who knows but that more deluges might be part of it all -- how about we resolve to give each other a bit of a break?
If you are a guy, and during the next blizzard a woman takes your shovel to clear her car out in the middle of the night, how about giving her a hand instead of giving her a hard time? It won't change my view of human nature. But it will make one guy at least seem a little kinder.
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