The situation was going downhill. Because I was running. Downhill.
I found myself jogging in the bike lane as it had been more thoroughly plowed compared to the spotty shoveling of sidewalks. Plus, the heavy, wet snow draping over bushes and branches put me at risk on the sidewalk of frozen dousings worse than an unwanted Gatorade shower.
Ahead of me, I saw a postal van creeping up the hill using the shoulder and bike lane. Soon it would be time for me to jump back temporarily to the sidewalk, I reckoned. The van pulled over, and the driver hopped out. I watched him clamber over a snowbank (to make a delivery, I presumed), but then he crossed the road. Following his path, I noticed a car I hadn't before, lined up at an awkward angle to the next side street. Another person stood by the car's hood, pushing to no avail as the tires spun with futility.
Wordlessly, I adjusted course, as did another jogger coming uphill. In a moment, we four silent partners -- two runners, one USPS employee, and the car's passenger -- were leaned in together, rocking the car back and forth while the driver gave the engine gas. Each shove helped the rocking distances grow with logarithmic power, a term for which I now have greater appreciation, and the car soon slid free.
In that moment, we bridged social distance through the power of an unspoken social contract.