January 7, 2009

A Midwinter's Tale

Christmas 2008 will be remembered as the first cross-country white Christmas in Canada since 1973, which is pretty cool. Well guess what? Christmas has come and gone, which is great, because I don’t have to be cheerful about the snow any more. When it comes to the white stuff, unless I’m skiing on it, I’m a total Grinch.

As far as living in Vancouver with snow goes, it’s your basic pain in the backside. Given Vancouver’s relatively mild climate, snow isn’t falling as real snow around here anymore like it was at Christmas. It’s falling as Teflon coating. It would be nice if the vast majority of drivers had sense enough to put snow tires on early in the season, regardless of the forecast. But, they haven't and guess what people, the plows aren’t coming, so suck it up and get some decent tires and a shovel while you're at it, pLeASE!

I’m pretty sure I spend more on coffee in a year than Vancouver does on snow removal, which is no big deal, usually. Generally speaking snow doesn’t much come ‘round these here parts, which is one of the major reasons that I love Vancouver. This year’s snow fall has been an anomaly not seen for decades. Usually, we get three inches of snow at most, and within 72 hours, it’s gone. But this year, it’s just kept coming. A metre of snow later and a few rainfalls, and we’re all pretty sick of it.

With these curmudgeony thoughts in mind, sumitted for your approval, A Midwinter’s Tale:

Kate and I drive home from dinner at her mum’s house the other night. It’s 7:30 pm, and the snow is falling fast. We loop downtown to drop off a friend who joined us for dinner. All is well. Then, we begin our ascent back up to our house on the hill in the ‘burbs.

And it begins.

First, we see Knight Street traffic has started coming to a standstill. A heads-up play, and we’re able to divert over to Commercial Drive before we hit the snarl. As we head up Commercial, it happens again. In the few blocks that Commercial Drive turns into Victoria Drive, this rapidly evolving SnowMaggedon has taken hold, and is giving way to CarMaggedon. The base of the hill is a graveyard, articulated buses strewn all over the place, bent awkwardly in the middle as they try to scramble away from the curbs, only to get stuck. A semi truck can’t get any traction in the snow; he too has abandoned hope. Smaller vehicles without snow tires try to get up the hill, but any wavering in momentum, and they are done for. We do a little dodging and weaving, a little side street action (which, ironically, are more passable than the main roads at this point despite having never been plowed in the last three weeks of snow), a little waiting behind more snarled traffic, and at last, we make it home.

I decide that before I go inside for the night, I will do some shovelling of our walkways so that come morning, I’ll have half the load to move.

Alas, my efforts are thwarted. You see, while Kate and I were out for the afternoon, some ill-mannered, ill-prepared individual has let themselves onto our property, onto our porch, and stolen our snow shovel. Our beautiful metal-edged, wide bucket snow shovel.

Of all the low down, dirty rotten…

My snow shovel? Really? I am forced to chip away at the snow and ice with our narrow flat-head garden spade. If being irate melted snow, my property would’ve been tropical right about then.

Any vestiges of Christmas spirit have officially been sucked out of me. Next morning, I leer out my windows at the neighbours dealing with their own sidewalks and parking spots. Is that my shovel? Is that my shovel? No one is above suspicion.

On Monday, resentment still courses through me. Nellie and I go out for a walk, Sacha strapped in a pack to my back. A low-riding souped-up Honda civic with a grumbly muffler and all-season tires has beached itself trying to turn a corner at an intersection. Three of its four wheels are off the ground, its belly resting on the middle-of-the-road rise of snow. CarMaggedon continues. “that’ll learn ya,” I grumble to myself, thinking/hoping that maybe this is a Karmic return for stealing my snow shovel. Is it? No one is above suspicion.

But then, Nellie, Sacha and I cut through a playground. There, at the base of a slide, a discovery. All the while that Mother Nature has been busy kicking ass all over the place, she’s still had time to fold her laundry. Beautiful.

We walk past a school yard. There is an army of snowmen in the fields, slushily advancing from behind a number of snow forts, seemingly set to wage wintery war with the school kids happily frolicking in amongst them.

And, as we move on down the road to another park, Nellie gets lost in the joy of bounding through snow drifts, diving after snow balls; a headless black smudge on a white landscape as she digs down for her prize.

Sacha is off of my back now and smiling happily as he sits propped up in the snow, watching while I launch snowballs for Nellie.

I pause. The air is crisp, silent. Then, somewhere off in the distance, a car engine roars and wheels spin.

If I encounter that car on my way home, maybe--just maybe--I may help push it out, and on its way.