I stepped out with the dogs this morning into this season’s first blanket of snow. The dogs were wild with joy, and instantly made it their Prime Objective to find all of their digging holes and excavate them from under the layer of snow. Within minutes, the pristine white quilt was defaced with the spray patterns of mud and dead leaves kicked out from a handful of Very Important Holes.
Since I have tenants, I have to make sure I keep the sidewalks clean. So I cleared all the sidewalks and both decks, then went in to shower and get ready for work. The snow was still falling, and I had to swipe the dogs with my gloves to get the snowy layer off before letting them back in the house. By the time I went out again an hour later to take the dogs on their actual morning walk (on the leash! leaving the boring yard!), it was time to shovel again. So I did that, and threw some sand down as well, since we’re hovering just below freezing: always a dangerous time for slip-and-fall.
The drive to work was ridiculous. People in this climate are used to winter driving. We go from 35C to -35C every year. There is snow on the ground for months. We pride ourselves on our toughness and ability to take these Manitoba winters in stride. But at the first snowfall of the year, the drivers in this city simply lose their shit.
It’s predictable and frustrating and amusing and just plain dangerous. It’s as if everybody has forgotten what snow is, how it changes the road, and how it must be accommodated. There are the ones who act as if every hump of snow is a child they have to avoid running over. There are the ones who have been dreaming of this day so they can take their 4×4 cross-country all-terrain off-road pumped-up whatchamacallit vehicles over curbs and streaking through intersections at high speeds, confident that their winter tires will save them, oblivious to the fact that people around them might not have the same maneuverability (or assholery). You’ve got the general public all half-paralyzed with indecision and anxiety when the light turns green “Should I go? Are the rules different in winter?” And then they either creep forward so slowly that the light is yellow before they’ve even gotten across, or they hit the gas too hard and start spinning or skidding and have to recover—so the light is yellow before they even get across. So only three or so cars get through at every light change, and traffic backs up to the edges of the city.
I try to be an in-betweener. I try to drive as quickly as the conditions will allow, but as slowly as I need to for safety and still being in control of my car. I pretty much double my following gap when the road surface has snow or ice.
It’s also irritating how many people have kept their bad habits from last year: not cleaning the snow off the rear windshield (you need that window, buddy; that’s where the cops are gonna be!), not having put on their winter tires yet (seriously? this is a late first snowfall! what were you thinking?), not giving themselves enough time to slow down for turns or stop signs (what part of ice do you not understand?), et cetera.
In a week, everyone will have remembered what snow is and how to drive in it. But for today, people are driving around like headless chickens.
For an entertaining example of someone losing their shit, here’s a video that reduced me to tears and helpless giggles the first time I saw it: Nicholas Cage Loses his Shit.
(01-Dec-2015: Edited to fix a typo)