Framingham Underground: Broadcasting from the Bunker on a Snow Day

By Phineas J. Stone

I guess I don’t always remember menial things like how politicians used to handle snowstorms and blizzards, but for the life of me, I can’t recall some of the City’s old-time mayors and the state’s previous governors giving press conferences about what we should do to get through a cold night in January.

I don’t know.

I’ve thought about it.

Did Ray Flynn warn us that we should caulk our windows and check on our elderly neighbors as we waited for six to eight inches of snow to arrive from the north?

I just don’t recall mayors or governors taking such measures to warn us and prepare us for snowstorms and cold, winter weather at a time of year when it should be even colder and snowier than it is right now.

The state government and our last few governors are much worse than the modern mayors.

What is it about the Bunker out in Framingham?

It’s just silly how they flock to it with the TV cameras in tow.

Gov. Deval Patrick loved the Bunker. Most of us have tried super hard to get him out of our minds, and to date it’s worked rather well. Feels good too, even for the most die-hard Democrats – though they may not admit it. Yet I have to take a reprieve in forgetting to remember how he took to the Bunker at a moment’s notice.

I remember a friend of mine saying that he believed Patrick liked the Bunker because of the spiffy coat they wear when conducting a press conference in the Bunker. For once, my friend said, the guy looked tough and in control. And honestly, who doesn’t like a look that conveys such things?

It’s a nice coat, for sure, and now I see that Gov. Charlie Baker wears the same one.

Baker doesn’t seem to flee to the Bunker so much as Patrick did, but there’s no question they both like have press conferences from the Bunker to tell us to keep off the roads, not to “crowd the plow,” to take extreme caution if we have to get out, and to never use a blowtorch to thaw a frozen pipe.

It’s all great information, but most of us have that info a thousand times over in the pamphlets, e-mails and alerts the City and state sent out routinely anyway – not to mention the God-given common sense 90 percent of us possess.

Instead of that stuff, I would like them to talk about what the heck we should do if the heating oil guy can’t make it out just before the Blizzard, or “forgets” to come, and the tank is below a quarter full – meaning you have to ride out a multi-day Blizzard with the prospect of losing your of heat. That’s a problem I’d like the governor or mayor to help me solve.

(For those who are curious, the answer to that question is to get in car and head for the nearest gas station selling diesel fuel with gas cans in the trunk. I’ll go no further with that, but anyone whose been around for more than a few years and has an oil tank knows exactly what that all means.)

At the same time, there are outliers where we need Bunker talks, such as in 1976 when a Blizzard hit that crippled the city for so, so long. That required some real communication from on high. So, too, the series of horrible storms that tried our patience in 2014.

And from one of those 2014 press conference by Mayor Walsh, we get one of the Mr. Boston all-time best real-deal Boston moments.

As the snow piled higher and higher, people started jumping off their roofs and out of windows into the soft snow below – and they were filming it for Facebook.

Like no other mayor before him, Walsh took to the podium, turned on his Dorchester swagger, and addressed the “foolishness” in one of the better speeches I’ve heard from a mayor in decades. This was a problem coming right from the streets, a real pulse of the people thing.

These are adults jumping out of windows and they need to stop the nonsense right now, he said – seemingly surprising everyone, including the American Sign Language interpreter beside him. (I often wonder how she interpreted that speech, and if it were true to his words). He went on saying this was the City of Boston, not Loon Mountain, and the foolishness needed to stop.

“You could kill yourself,” he said with absolute and sincere Savin Hill disgust in a speech that I think was totally off the cuff.

I must have watched that video 50,000 times. Our family laughed and laughed at it, and precisely because some of our neighbors and friends were the ones being shamed as they were some of the ilk catapulting out of their second story windows into the safety of untouched snow – and right there was Mayor Walsh talking about street-level stupidity.

He hit the nail on the head; and after being stuck inside for days without a moment of comic relief, our family and friends surely enjoyed that little moment. If there were a time capsule being buried in Boston, that’s a speech that needs to be included.

That’s the kind of stuff I’d like to hear when they feel like they have to put on that spiffy coat and broadcast live from the Framingham underground.

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