Minutes into our blizzard jog last week, a man told my friend and me to run straight to the hospital. Blocks later, someone else stopped to tell us we must be from another planet. Then several pedestrians we passed yelled after us: “What the hell?!”
I had planned to do homework last Friday afternoon. But the snow freckling the air plucked headphones from my ears, pulled pages and screens from my eyes, and made me listen to the people around me and see the place where I live.
“Obscure Games,” a group in Pittsburgh, calls this phenomenon “social grease” and “spatial glue.” Because no one is good at the weird games they invent, the games encourage strangers to play and laugh together. These games shift the way players interact with space — transforming a player’s idea of a random lamppost into that lamppost she ran into one rainy night during a game of, say, Korean Laser Tag. The games stick players more and more to the place where they live. They add layers to the landscape.
Seasonably wild weather is my social grease and spatial glue. I still remember standing with my roommates on the second-floor porch of my house during Sandy, watching a thick trunk of a tree I had never noticed before bend and sway. I see that tree every day now when I look out my window.
I started seeing again when Nemo came. Hanging from a tree in Edgerton Park, I saw the snow become the sky. Tubing down the Divinity School hill, I saw the hooded masses frolic through the snow. Climbing up a snowbank on Wall Street, I saw icicles drip from the cubed walls of the Beinecke.
I know it wasn’t just pretty pictures out there. Hail and wind hurt our faces a lot, many people worked absurd numbers of hours to keep the streets safe and clear, and the shoulders of almost everyone who doesn’t live in dorms ached from shoveling.
But there were many pretty pictures: groups of people pushing strangers’ cars out of the snow, an old man on the Divinity School hill giving a big push to anyone who wanted the perfect sled ride, friends building igloos together, two girls giving each other a lift to climb a tree.
I nearly left for the weekend, figuring the days would be better spent on skis near mountains where orange streetlamps don’t smother the city with a rusty haze. But the snow linked me to this community and stuck me to this place.
And now I wonder, as rain browns the snow and sun melts it into the street: What if I could break my spatial habits and start transforming corners of this town without the snow? What if I played with that sense of wonder when it’s boring out? What if I joked with strangers when it’s just another one of those partly cloudies, with no Linda Koch Lorimer weather updates?
Spring weather brings us outside of ourselves, too. In the ecstasy of sunshine, social grease and spatial glue abound. We join each other’s Frisbee games. We try to read outside and talk instead. We close our eyes lying in the windy grass. We start seeing again.
On the way back to campus the night of the blizzard run, a few people stepped out of their houses on Orange Street and cheered the group of us running onward, commending our efforts and yelling at the one guy in shorts to put some clothes on.
Now that I’m back from that run and that snow is melting, here’s the challenge: Can we still be that bunch of strangers cheering each other in the middle of the night once all the snow is gone? Can we find some non-snow glue to stick us to this space? Can we laugh together, tell each other to go straight to the hospital, make sure we’re all okay?
Diana Saverin is a senior in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .