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“It’s the thought that counts.” That is a very popular saying. A way to cover up for some sort of objective failure by putting the emphasis on the thought behind the failure. I thought of that saying when I came across the following snowman with a mask in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on February 4, 2021:

A horrifying snowman with a surgical mask in front of a black snowbank, photographed by Nicholas A. Ferrell in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on February 4, 2021.
A horrifying snowman with a surgical mask in front of a black snowbank, photographed by Nicholas A. Ferrell in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on February 4, 2021.
A horrifying snowman with a surgical mask in front of a black snowbank, photographed by Nicholas A. Ferrell in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, on February 4, 2021.

I took all three pictures with my BlackBerry Classic camera. Victor V. Gurbo retouched them for publication.

The Mask Makes the (Snow)man

They say that the “clothes make the man.” In this case, the mask made the snowman. Most snowmen are easy to spot. I am not sure that I would have noticed the snowman at all had it not been wearing a cheap disposable surgical mask. It was dark enough that the arms may have escaped my notice. Masks are still in for decorations, I suppose.

The Fleeting Whiteness of Snow in the City

Earlier on the same day that I happened across the snowman with a mask in the evening, I published an article full of scenes from the snowfall that I took on February 2. Toward the end of that article, I wrote the following about fresh snow:

The whiteness of the fresh snow in New York City is ephemeral. Car exhaust, dirt, grime, and people who refuse to pick up after their very precious pet dogs quickly turn the snow into something quite unpleasant.

Nicholas A. Ferrell

Look at the snowbank behind the snowman with a mask. The snowbank achieved that color a mere 48 hours after I walked around taking pictures of pure white snow. New York City acts fast.

The Snowman with a Mask as an Attempt to Create Garbodor

I was trying to think of how best to describe the snowman other than the “it’s the thought that counts” platitude. While preparing the article, I had a eureka moment. The snowman with a mast is actually a failed attempt to depict a Garbodor.

Garbodor is the 569th Pokémon. It was introduced in the fifth generation of Pokémon games, which were first released in Japan in 2010. It takes a great deal of creativity to come up with hundreds of Pokémon over a quarter-century. Some lapses in creative inspiration can thus be forgiven. Garbodor is quite literally a pile of garbage. Its Pokédex (think Pokémon Encyclopedia entry) in Pokémon White, one of the two games it was first introduced in, said of Garbodors that “[t]hey absorb garbage and make it part of their bodies.” As you can see below, Garbodor does in fact look like an animated pile of garbage.

Screenshot of Garbodor's Pokédex entry in Pokémon Shield.
Screenshot of Garbodor’s Pokédex entry in Pokémon Shield. I clipped the image from my own copy of the game.

Mr. Snowman with a Mask was not a pile of garbage. But he reminds me of Garbodor both because of his shape and because of his motley assortment of appendages. With that being said, I always found Garbodor just a touch endearing. Something about the feet, I think. The thought-that-counts snowman is perhaps endearing in his own way too.

Or was, I should say, for the snow has finally melted.