Just after Christmas there was a great big snow. Other places got more of it than we did, but we got enough.
The Queensway was mushy and slow, on-ramps were slippery, arterial roads were tricky and residential streets were mostly unplowed.
The day after that snow, I was driving out of town. The side streets were fine. The Queensway was in beautiful shape. So was Highway 7, and it wasn’t as if any of the snow had melted. No, it had just been pushed aside and taken away.
“Well, of course,” I hear you say. “We know how to deal with snow.”
It’s something we always hear ourselves saying, often to friends in the U.S. who have lived through snowstorms that have crippled transportation and deprived thousands of power.
We know how to deal with snow, we say smugly. We also love to say it to our cousins in Toronto after they have had a difficult time with the weather.
We don’t have to call out the army to clear the streets.
But what was apparent the day after that big snow on the dry and clear 417 is that it’s not we who know how to deal with snow. It’s the people who work for us, who drive that noisy, clunky equipment all day and through the middle of the night and into next day. They know how to deal with snow.
And, unlike people in many other walks of life, they don’t just do it when they feel like it. They do it when it’s needed and don’t stop until it’s done. The same goes for the private guys who clear the laneways, parking lots and driveways of the city.
There are more and more of those, as annual warnings about the risks of shovelling are read by wary (certainly not lazy!) males of a certain age.
It’s a miracle what they all do. One day you think you’ll never be able to get where you want to get and the next day you forget that you even thought about it. You rarely hear those who live in Ottawa complain about the snowplows. Not for long, anyway.
Deal with snow? We as individuals might play our little part. We get our cars out of the way, sometimes doing a little dance with the snowplows. We put snow tires on our cars so that we don’t get stranded and add to everyone else’s difficulties. We stay home when urged to, take public transit when it makes more sense.
But it’s not we who get the snow off the streets and roads.
The people who do that not only perform a great service; they also enable our bragging about how we know how to deal with snow.
It’s a neat trick to convince ourselves we are hardy northern survivor types at the same time as we spend most of our time indoors and warm while others do the heavy lifting. That’s what Canadians do every winter and the accumulation of bragging rights adds to our national pride.
So it’s best not to question it too much. We do, in fact, go outside from time to time. We bundle up. We freeze in the car until it warms up. We wait in the cold for the bus. In colder parts of the country we even plug the car in overnight. And when we get where we are going, when we get back indoors, we are exhilarated by how cold it was and how we survived and we can’t stop talking about it.
Not everyone on earth gets to do this. For example, people who live in warm weather climes, such as southern California, can’t, although they occasionally get to brag about brush fires and earthquakes, thus avoiding the accusation that they are total weather wimps. I wonder if they say “we know how to deal with earthquakes”?