Lileks: A quick course on negotiating a Minneapolis snow emergency

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2013 - 8:20 PM

Every snow emergency is a chance to see how many newcomers we have. More than 655 cars towed? Welcome to your first winter.

You think the Snow Emergency is baffling, wait until they declare a Slush Crisis, and you have to go out there and sponge up the sidewalk.

How can you not know the streets must be plowed? Streets are already so narrowed by snow, that when two cars meet it's like watermelons in a drinking straw.

It would help, perhaps, if the term "Snow Emergency" was replaced with "Grimly Efficient Car Disappearance Time," and announced with sirens, loudspeakers, leaflets dropped by helicopter and a few instructional drone strikes on cars still parked on routes that need to be cleared.

Of course, they do warn you. By phone. But 655 people apparently think that "City of Minneapolis" listed on Caller ID is a trick, and it's actually Rachel from Card Services calling about your credit balance.

Since there are rules in place, perhaps we should have a seminar on what to do. Class is now in session. ...

Most important point: If there is a sign that says SNOW EMERGENCY ROUTE and there is a picture of the angry red maw of a plow, this means that there will be towing with extreme prejudice. This happens on Day 1, which is from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m.

You there, in the back, looking befuddled:

"How can Day 1 go from 9 at night to 8 in the morning? Wouldn't that be Night 1?"

I suppose, but saying "Night 1 shading gently into Day 2, as rosy dawn breaks and the land wakes from its slumber" does not fit on a sign.

Now, once the street has been plowed -- ah, hand up in the back again. Yes?

"How can I tell if the street has been plowed?"

Good question. Can anyone get out of the driveway or alleys, or is there a 3-foot wall of ice boulders that will shatter your cold plastic bumper if you try to barrel through and get to work? There is? Then it's been plowed.

Now, remember: Day 1, which begins at night and includes the next day but is not Day 2, means you shouldn't park on the Snow Emergency Route, or "SER." To be safe, never park on the SER. Even if it's July. We may get a mayor drunk with power who declares a Snow Emergency in August just to get some of that sweet, delicious towing revenue.

Now, Day 2. It goes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Do not park on the EVEN side of non-SER. Park on the uneven, non-level side. How can you tell if the side is even? Walk up to a house and look at the address. If the house number ends with a 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9, then go back to your car, which unfortunately was towed while you were looking at the house.

If that's confusing, let's put it in simple terms that make sense: The "2" in "Day 2" is an even number, so park on the odd side. What could be more intuitive?

Day 3 is easy: Time-wise, it lasts from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., just like Day 2, but it is the opposite of the day before. If you are heading north, park on the right side. If you are heading south, park on the left side. If the street is a diagonal, it is either Hiawatha, on which you should never park, or Hennepin, which eventually leads you to the impound lot, which is probably where you'll end up anyway. So drive there and give them $100.

Another question -- you there, with the look of confused despair.

"Can we prepay our ticket?"

Do you mean, pay them ahead of time for ticket and towing, put the receipt on the windshield, and the tow truck just leaves your car in place? Not yet. The city is exploring a special "Silver Service" round-trip option -- the moment a Snow Emergency is declared, a special team tows your car first, takes it to the lot, washes it, refuels it and gets it back in front of your house the next morning.

"Will it have a dent in the door?"

Well, sure. If you want to avoid that, upgrade to Platinum.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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