To Too Many Things, There is a Season

Ten days before its official onslaught, winter arrived (Wham!) on the Canadian Prairies. I know, because I too, had just arrived on the Canadian Prairies. Oh, hurray.

As so often in life, you now have a choice. Do you want to share in my rant? Or do you want to Do Something About It?

Door #1 – Come Rant with Me

The packed snow squeaks as I scamper carefully across the parking lot, moving as fast as I think I can without landing on my keister.  It’s not fast enough. In the less than thirty seconds it takes to cover the distance from the car to the hotel sliding doors, the sinus cavities behind my forehead start to ache: an ice cream headache without benefit of ice cream.

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.
In fact, it’s cold as hell.”
Elton John & Bernard Taupin, Rocket Man

Cold as hell. Think about that for a minute.

“Hell is the concentrated essence of a winter morning.”
Adam Dalgleish, gentleman detective

OK, I can’t locate the specific P.D. James mystery this quote comes from, and I might be misremembering its specific wording, but not its, you know, essence. It struck me at the time as an appropriately biting verdict on winter.

But as hellish as the cold and dry are, even worse are the inane comments about this ridiculous weather.

“Cold enough for ya?”

Truly, this one doesn’t merit a response. I mean, what am I supposed to say? That I wish it were ten degrees colder?

“Yeah, but it’s a dry cold.”

Of course it’s a dry cold. Sneezing doubles the relative humidity out here.

“You’re a Prairie girl. You should be used to this.”

Conflating familiarity and acceptance, this response is the worst, both logically and emotionally. Of course I’m “used to” Prairie winters, in the same sense that I’m used to mosquitoes, the common cold, and political corruption. That doesn’t make any of these things OK.

No, familiarity definitely breeds contempt.

Door #2 – Do Something About It

The packed snow squeaks as I scamper carefully across the parking lot, moving as fast as I think I can without landing on my keister.  It’s not fast enough. In the less than thirty seconds it takes to cover the distance from the car to the hotel sliding doors, the sinus cavities behind my forehead start to ache: an ice cream headache without benefit of ice cream.

Not for the first time, I reflect that any sensible geopolitical division of the North American landmass would accommodate more of the geo, dagnab it, and run north/south, rather than east/west. Think of the benefits of two or more countries running from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

With a single responsible governance entity, animal occupants would get better migratory corridors, mitigating the habitat threats posed by climate change.

Similarly, human occupants would get access to warmer climes in winter and cooler in summer without the added costs of foreign exchange and medical travel insurance, and without the added complexities of complying with different laws on gun ownership and marijuana use.

Natural physical barriers to east/west continental travel would facilitate border control. Fewer time zone ranges would simplify communication and foster commerce. Commonalities of character driven by similar geography, climate, and history of settlement would foster social cohesion. In-house access to clean northern water for southern population centres would reduce the potential for armed conflict.

As always, the devil is in the details. Such a change would require extensive negotiations on significant questions:

  • How many countries?
  • Whose dollar?
  • Which official languages?

And, of course, the really big question: Which spelling choices in English? Labour or labor? Centre or center?

But with the impending inauguration of a Negotiator in Chief in the USA, what better time to start? Write your Member of Parliament today.

We can do this.


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8 Responses to To Too Many Things, There is a Season

  1. JimTaylor says:

    The idea of north-south divisions is not new, you know. I saw the first exposition of this idea back in the 1980s sometime. He divided N.A.into six countries, as I recall: Atlantica, francophone Quebec, Industrial heartland, bread basket, frozen north, and Ecotopia. His divisions might not apply any longer, as the north is increasingly less frozen.
    Still, the notion has validity. Someone should study how, and why, the geographical divisions of the continent seem to be reflected in psychological and social attitudes. A north-south division would yield more culturally unified countries.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Yes, I also remember a conference of geographers predicting a six-fold split, but I don’t remember the details. Regarding similar cultures in adjacent north/south areas, I think it’s at partly that similar activities drive similar bases for societies (e.g. farming, fishing, forestry) and the continental geography is more similar north/south than east/west.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Well, please don’t take this as a complaint, because when I’m inside I’m warm and dry, but they welcomed Janice and me to our winter visit to our Manitoba family with a blizzard and then ensuing…ummmm…bitter cold temperatures. However, to the one inane question “Cold enough for ya?” I don’t have a whole bunch of trouble answering, “Yep, sure ’nuff, it is!”
    Keep warm!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Yes, we were in Manitoba, too – blessedly, only for a few days. Yikes. Your response is the right one, I think. It’s akin to “How are you?” They’re not really asking, so your answer can be as pro forma as you like.

  3. Barry Jewell says:

    a recent news item!
    Snow in Vancouver!

    Chilled Vancouver commuters faced their second day of winter hell today, as an additional ¼ centimeter of the peculiar white stuff fell, bringing the Lower Mainland to its knees and causing millions of dollars worth of damage to the marijuana crops. Scientists suspect that the substance is some form of frozen water particles and experts from Saskatchewan are being flown in. With temperatures dipping to the almost but not quite near zero mark, Vancouverites were warned to double insulate their lattes before venturing out.

    Vancouver police recommended that people stay inside except for emergencies, such as running out of espresso or biscotti to see them through Vancouver ‘s most terrible storm to date. The local Canadian Tire reported that they had completely sold out of fur-lined sandals.

    Drivers were cautioned to put their convertible tops up, and several have been shocked to learn that their SUV’s actually have four wheel drive, although most have no idea how to use it.

    Weary commuters faced soggy sushi, and the threat of frozen breast implants. Although the Coastal Health Authority reassured everyone that most breast implants were perfectly safe to 25 below, down-filled bras are flying off the shelves at Mountain Equipment Co-op.

    “The government has to do something, snarled an angry Trevor Warburton. “I didn’t pay $850,000 for my one bedroom condo so I could sit around and be treated like someone from Toronto.”

  4. 1) Coming from California, I knew I had met a real Canadian when, on a freezing January morning, I asked a colleague, as we walked to our building (CMHC), “It’s so cold, why haven’t you even buttoned up your jacket?”
    He said, “What will I do when winter comes?”

    2) A few years later, I knew how to survive winters: get a hat and scarf! and don’t drive a convertible MGB with its thin leather top and puny heater,
    and — buy a proper coat. The short, flared (!) pink wool one with its, albeit huge, fox fur collar just wasn’t warm enough even if I did look adorable in it!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Maybe you should write a manual for immigrants from warmer places. (Maybe that’s redundant. Are there immigrants from colder places?) Anyway, a manual with illustrations, especially one of you in an adorable, short, pink wool coat with a huge fox-fur collar.

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