For the first time since my husband and I moved here in 2009, snow plows at night are keeping us awake, and during the last two storms did so for nearly four hours after we tried to go to sleep. We’re not sure what made them so loud. They seemed to be moving fast around our intersection (we’re one of the corner houses). We and some others have bedrooms very close to the street, and most of the houses are close to the street in general, so the noise is close to many people. We watched the plow for awhile (it was clear we wouldn’t be sleeping for some time) to try to determine just what it was crashing and banging against – curbs, sewer grates, potholes? The plow blade seemed to drag along the street heavily – maybe in the past our plows’ blades were raised a little higher – an inch or so? We just couldn’t tell. In past winters those grates, curbs, and potholes were all there, yet we could sleep. I’m not talking about typical plow noise but rather noise like a series of car crashes or explosions that on two occasions jolted us right off the mattress. Could it be the drivers on these nights were in more of a hurry, maybe drinking lots of coffee, maybe talking on the phone, maybe playing a loud radio so they don’t hear their own crashing so loudly, or all the above?
Calls to DPW yielded no improvement. One person, who we called after a bad night in the first storm, said the driver would be told. We got our hopes up. During the night of the second storm someone we called said the supervisor would be told. Hope again. Later that same night (we’d now given up on sleep), after another request that the plow driver move a little more carefully and try to observe the many curb markers we’d put up since the first storm (in case curb visibility was the problem), that same person’s reply to us changed to “We can’t do that ma’am.” OK, so now we were just cranks bothering them. I begged anyway. I said, “I’m BEGGING you, PLEASE.” No change. So they “can’t” ask the driver to be more careful when people are sleeping? Can’t ask him not to come back every 35 to 60 minutes as he did, and re-wake everyone repeatedly when it’s snowing much less-almost not at all, and a lot of the street is already cleared? Really?
Here’s why they CAN ask the driver to do that. The other day we observed a huge John Deere plow just like the one that kept us awake. The driver was shoveling both snow and dirt and doing it gently and quietly, yet efficiently moving massive amounts of stuff. His blade was not scraping against ground, grates, or curbs. He was poetry in motion with that truck–quiet poetry!
Back to that second recent storm, though we’d been told there was only one driver, we were in fact also kept awake by a second one in a pick-up truck with plow blade. So from 9:30 p.m. to nearly 1 a.m., one driver or another crashed and banged through that intersection every 35 to 60 minutes – just time enough to drift off toward sleep, and the be violently awakened with another crash. (Hasn’t this kind of repeated halting of the process of falling asleep been successfully used as an instrument of torture?) The traffic earlier that night was light, and the snow already slowing, so we wonder why most plowing could not have been done then, while most people were still awake, then stopped by 8 p.m. or so when lots of the kids and several of the adults start going to sleep because they have to get up so early. If 8 pm is just impossible, then unless it’s a blizzard it seems as if 9 should be the outer limit, and no return plowing in most cases until around 6 in the morning. (Watertown residents, correct me if I’m wrong about those sleep hours, but that’s about how it works on our couple of streets here.)
That last night when hardly any snow was still falling, not much was being accomplished with these repeated plow trips except the chronic waking of everyone. And if there IS heavy snow that must be plowed later in the night, can’t there be a rule that it be done slowly and carefully so the work days of dozens of people aren’t wrecked the next day? They’re already facing digging out of their driveways in the morning – at least let them sleep. I know the plowing must be done but I can’t believe it has to be so destructive. Among our dozens of neighbors on that corner are nurses, teachers, airline personnel, medical researchers, and parents of young children, most of whom get up early. Most people want nurses, pilots, and their kids’ teachers to be awake and rested, right?.
We hope the town government never again forgets people must sleep, and many must get to sleep early. I ask the town to conduct activities so they never add to what for many is the already difficult task of getting to sleep. Adding plow noise pretty much seals the deal for the many already battling insomnia as well as for most people who normally sleep fairly well. Not many people can sleep through what sounds like a bomb going off. And much of our population includes light sleepers who need all the help they can get in staying asleep. (Our white noise machines were no match for those snow plows by the way.) Empathizing with people’s need for sleep is what a civilized city would do, and I like to think I live in one. It requires something else too–the golden rule. Maybe the DPW and the plow drivers could be reminded that their own loved ones need to sleep at night too.