Tag Archives: slush

The Only Good Thing About Snow

Creative Commons--Ian Britton

I grew up in Alberta, which meant real winter. We had winter in the winter, we had winter in the fall. Sometimes we had winter  in the spring…almost always and we even had some winter on a rare occasion in summer.

Winter was cold and snowy. Sometimes winter was deep, with a windchill factor of -40 or -60. In most cases we still trudged to school, wrapped thicker than the Michelin tire man and the Pillsbury dough boy put together. When I was little I was perennially late for school and exhausted from dragging my little self through all the snow. Snow was evil, snow was cold. Winter was no fun and sometimes my nostrils would free shut while walking and a crusty layer of ice would form on a scarf, or worse, the balaclava we wore over our faces. You know the ones; bank robbers favor them now.

The indignities of snow and winter meant fashion nightmare even before I was old enough to really care about fashion. But no kid wanted to wear the geeky balaclavas. In our house, two of our bedrooms were in the basement, mostly below ground, where the furnace somehow didn’t send any heat. And the floors were cold linoleum on cold concrete, in a city where the ground freezes in the winter. But we were lucky in Calgary, compared to Edmonton, because we got chinooks, which is when a warm front moves through, turning the clouds into a chinook arch, and brining a reprieve with melting snow.

When I was about six I remember my older siblings building an igloo in the back yard. We had enough snow for it and I think it was only about three feet high but they were cutting blocks of snow and then pouring cold water on it to freeze. I remember an igloo shape; whether it truly was or just an open fort I don’t really know.

But the only good thing about snow, as far as I was concerned, was that very first snowfall of the year. Calgary is dry so the snow would be dry and big and flaky. It would drift out of the dark sky falling like powder over the ground. The best was at night, if I was up at my friend’s and I got to walk home late. The snowfall, usually enough to carpet everything was like diamonds under the street light. It of course warmed everything up and it sparkled and glinted. The virgin fall would be untread by cars or footprints and I would be walking through a new landscape. Everything was muffled in this snowy white blanket. Any car or dog, always heard in the far distance, was far far away and very faint. I felt like I was the only one in all the world and it was so tranquil. I loved that aspect of snow.

But these days, as I did then, I believe that snow should stay in the mountains where it belongs and where it is of use. Vancouver’s snow is wet and moist, sticky and damp. It soaks through everything and you can’t get traction for yourself or your vehicle. I especially hate it here because of that and because we’re in a climate that isn’t supposed to get snow. So I will always vote for no snow but remember those tranquil evenings when the first snowfall was magical, before it turned to slush.

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Weather and Commonality

My neighbor's Victorian painted colors are the only ones that show up in snow on snow.

My neighbor's Victorian painted colors are the only ones that show up in snow on snow.

It is alas, snowing again in Vancouver. I’m supposed to go to a friend’s for Boxing Day but may very well not make it out.

What I have noticed over this last week of weather, snowy, slushy, slippery, trudging weather, is that people have opened up. Where normally we walk down the streets minding our own business, not making eye contact or glancing briefly and away, that has changed.

I’ve passed people shovelling and shovelling and shovelling their walks. A few of us have popped out with our cameras to take pictures of the record breaking views. I’ve followed behind people stepping into foot-deep slush and water puddles, squeaking and shrieking as we slip and the wet seeps through our boots to later freeze our feet.

We’re clumsy, we’re beleaguered by snow and stuck cars, we laugh at our silliness, because we can’t curse and grumble the whole time. People have looked at each other and smiled in commiseration. In the long pre-Christmas holiday line-up I started talking with the woman behind me about how we both almost got rid of our old boots this year. And she said she was originally from New York but wants to get her maple leaf in Newfoundland (when she applies for citizenship). I was wearing my cat hat (with ears) because it’s the warmest I have. Another woman commented on that and how it seemed to suit me.

Me in cat hat on my very snow street.

Me in cat hat on my very snowy street.

In our conversation about weather the second woman said she worked for the government and they’re staging all sorts of disaster scenarios to prepare for the 2010 Olympics. We were making comments about how bad it’s gone at the airport this year. On Dec. 24th Air Canada cancelled all of its short and medium haul flights (my friends going on West Jet were luckier), and Greyhound cancelled all buses in and out of the Lower Mainland due to road conditions.

We thank the bus drivers for stopping over the three-foot banks of snow in front of the bus stops and smile at the people shovelling to ease our way. One thing the adverse weather is doing is making people much more friendly. We have a certain commonality in weather and in dealing with it. Even Christmas does not have that commonality because we come from different backgrounds and beliefs, have had good or bad Christmases.

But snow and more snow and dealing with it in a city where we don’ t normally have to, has given all of us something we can talk about, safely and freely. If it wasn’t for all the other unsavory aspects of bad weather I’d almost welcome it for the aspects of bringing out camaraderie in everyone. I have actually really liked this side effect of weather.

Photos are courtesy of my neighbor Rob.

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The Idiocy of Winter Driving

Inevitably there is always someone (or more than one) who decides they’re outside the laws of nature when it comes to driving, and driving in winter. Really I should call this Sex and the Idiocy of Winter Driving and it will get more hits but I just can’t work sex into this…in most cases, and really I don’t want to know.

As I ranted yesterday, Vancouver doesn’t handle real winter well. We’re just not used to it. Not that the first snowfall doesn’t cause havoc in the rest of the country, and it often does but I can observe first hand the idiotic behavior here.

So yesterday, snow falling, roads sanded and salted but still icy and city trucks not keeping up everywhere or on the Number 1 Highway. There were accidents, there were lights out at intersections. There were many of us who opted for SkyTrain and bus. I did because even if I was cautious I didn’t want to deal with those who might not be and the traffic snarls. I’m glad I didn’t drive after I heard about the accidents. There were at least two deaths. I don’t know the details.

But as I was waiting for the bus last night, having stayed late at work to hopefully avoid delays (I didn’t) this is what I saw on the slushy, still slippery road: people booting it through the lights. Revving up on slippery snow and ice is bound to get you spinning your tires and going nowhere, or worse, sliding out of control. People running red lights. This is par for the course in Vancouver and dangerous at any time but more so when you have less control on the road. People dialing and talking on their cell phones, driving with one hand. Why am I surprised? People always think they can divide their attention between driving and smoking and talking on the phone and drinking coffee, sometimes all at once.

Sure, some of these drivers might just be from the Interior or Alberta or Ontario where snow and ice are a factor of winter. But reckless and unsafe driving negates the fact that they know how to drive in winter. If they’re driving like that, they’re not aware. Then there are all those who may not know, who incorrectly judge how fast they can stop, how slow they should turn a corner. My biggest fear in taking the bus was standing on the street and watching some vehicle spin out of control and into me.

Today I drove, deciding to take my time. That meant brushing all the snow off my car, including my lights and the roof so that it didn’t blind someone driving behind me. That also meant pulling slowly out of my parking spot, driving carefully down the ice and snow packed street, coasting gradually to a stop at the corner and signalling well in advance. The main roads were pretty good and overall, on the city streets, people were driving reasonably, not too fast and too close.

On the highway, traffic was lighter than usual and moving well. The speed limit is 90 km and we were moving at speed or 100 km. That wasn’t enough for one guy who decided to pull suddenly into the HOV lane, roar along at something like 130 km and cut back in front of a car without signalling. Obviously the recent news of a family losing two of their young boys in an accident when a single occupant driver drove into their van in the multi occupant lane did nothing to deter this guy. That driver was charged and a second driver (also single occupant who hit the other one after it hit the van) will likely be charged as well.

I shake my head and wonder who else will be a statistic because they thought they were immune. Like the stupid teenager last night, who arrogantly kept walking closer and closer to the cars driving by (while waiting for the light to change). He made one taxi come to a stop in the middle of the intersection on slippery snow. That kid will pull his tricks of power until he becomes a statistic or loses a friend. I wanted to smack him and muttered, “There’s someone who deserves to be hit. ” I got a look from one pedestrian, but really, if you’re going to court disaster, don’t be surprised when it takes you up on the offer.

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