A lot of people think hockey is Canada’s National pastime, it’s not. It’s actually talking about the weather. As Canada’s 150th birthday comes one of the many things that makes Canada great is talking about the weather.
You might not get this if you don’t have the crazy weather we have here that is usually actually worth noting on any given day. If somebody says to you it’s hot, you going to be like of course it is, it’s Texas! We don’t really have that consistency here but contrary to popular opinion no one lives in an igloo either. Well I don’t know that for sure but trust me his neighbours think he’s weird too.
Outside of Victoria weather in Canada is so nutty we’ve even had to invent new words to describe it. Ask a Calgarian about a Chinook, a Cape Bretoner about a le suiette wind warning, a Manitoban about a black blizzard or a Newfoundlander about a scad. So how does it make us better people? In a myriad of ways!
It gives us something to talk about
This is an obvious one and well get into subtleties later. But since it’s actually worth noting we have built in conversation starters and small talk subject matter. Whether it’s elevator awkward silences or banter in the check out line commenting on the tornado warning New Brunswick had last night, which lead and ended the national news update on CBC, is actually extremely rare. I have never ever lined up for a race in 16 degree sunny weather with a light breeze, nor have I ever lined up with a friend to talk to. But I have lined up during a heavy rainfall warning from a post-tropical storm, in -18 degree Celsius cold and in pea soup fog. But I’ve always found a friend to talk to and that usually started with “crazy weather huh?”
Also talking about the weather is safe when words are hard to find. “How did you make out in the snow storm last week?” is a good way to start a phone call with your mom after a fight. Especially if that storm dumped 80 cm of snow. There are built in follow up questions like, did the plow guy need to use the V? Or when did the backhoe say he would get to you? Then you can follow up with your mountain bike ride to the grocery store and how you dug your neighbour out of his trailer after a panicked phone call. You really don’t even have to talk about your issues if you don’t want to.
We occasionally have to help each other out of it
Literally and figuratively. Fun story I met a couple of brothers from snowy Switzerland on vacay one year and they came to visit 6 months later. Now in Halifax we have this weird group freak out tradition every winter. No one prepares for the first snowfall, not the drivers, the city or really anyone. It’s just like that episode of Gilmore Girls when Lorali is unprepared at the Dragonfly only the whole town takes part. No snow ploughs arrive to clear the road, no one has winter tiers on their cars, those that do all suffer a group stroke and forget how to drive in the snow and everyone’s shovel is stuck in the back of the garage behind the lawn furniture. It takes hours to get out of the city about 15 km, there are 100’s of fender benders and people run out of gas and abandon their cars in the street. However the next storm the following week the whole operation goes seamlessly. Well the brother’s Swiss arrived for this city wide shit show and at the time I drove a Jeep, which of course has a tow rope inside. We decided to skip the sightseeing far from the city but after we were plowed out at the condo, the plow guy hit a parked car and telephone pole in the street, we set out to see the city. I pulled a few cars off curbs and out of ditches and they pushed a few up snowy hills and merge lanes. Every time we came to someone having a problem we, and all the surrounding motorists got out, helped and went on our way. They ended up retuning to Switzerland believing that Canadians were so nice we didn’t need snow ploughs!
I’ve pulled a few people out of ditches myself in my Jeep, Xterra and Pathfinder, that’s what we do. One day I pulled over to let a car pass on a deserted road but that shoulder turned out to be a deep snowy ditch. Even 4 low wasn’t going to work. Before I could tell CAA the first car that passed had stopped and pulled me out!
Another time a tree had fallen in a hurricane and a HUGE tree was blocking the road meaning a 55 minute detour until someone came to clear it. But honey being the Canadian he is had loaded the chainsaw in the car just in case. He got out and started cutting about 15 stranded motorists got out and started hauling brush. In about 5 minutes we were done and on our respective ways. A few days later the tree adjacent neighbour dragged the brush out of the ditch and burned it in his yard.
We can argue about it and then make up
Which hurricane was worse Wahn, or Noel that showed up in July and stripped all the leaves from the trees with in a 1/4 km of the coast? Is the snow sticking? Is is a light mist or a heavy fog? Sometimes these arguments can get heated. But it’s a pretty low stress way to get your anger out. Plus we have a saying,”If you don’t like the weather wait 15 minutes, it will change.” So even if your arguing one point and sure your right in a few minutes you’ll have to switch sides anyway. It makes the whole country civil. Seriously when Americans watch are prime ministerial debates they don’t even believe that they are debating at all.
It makes us tough
There just isn’t time to bend to mother nature’s whim and wait for rescue. So we get shit done and we are (usually) friggin’ prepared for anything. I myself:
- Can run and start a generator
- Have made stew on a wood stove
- Have shovelled out a 150 m driveway with 70 cm of snow in it
- Have opened a well and got water when the pump isn’t an option
- Rode a cape and a skiff in a hurricane
- Helped to secure a yacht that ran ashore in a hurricane against the coming tide
- Used the grill of my truck as a plow in 4 low
- Have cooked all of thanksgiving dinner on a charcoal grill during a power outage
- Drank fireplace coffee
- Biked for supplies and provisions after a snow storm
And I’m not a tough Canadian girl by anyone’s standards. I even try my best to avoid driving in the snow. Truthfully a lot of that is honey’s fault. A typical storm means he spends all day on other’s emergencies so he heads off in a truck with a storm go bag including a chainsaw, rope and lots and lots of screws. Then I stay home and deal with our house and what goes wrong there.
We are in it together no matter what it brings us together
Canada is a pretty regional country. We feel certain ways about regions and those stereotypes run deep and can be divisive. There are language divides and cultural divides hell one province even voted 49% to 51% to leave the country in the 90’s. Those devisions run so deep opening up our constitution to changes is pretty much impossible. But weather related tragedy strikes each region often enough to remind us that we’re all in it together and we help each other out. Donations, befit concerts and outpourings of goods and lodging pour into the troubled region almost immediately. It reminds us that we are all in fact Canadian no matter what else divides us.
We have mad respect for Mother Nature
You just have to. The west coast is in an earthquake zone, Alberta suffers from wildfires, droughts and floods plague the prairies, snow ice and the occasional tornado shutters Ontario from time to time, Quebec has crazy blizzards and the East coast gets hurricanes. It coming for everyone eventually. So when the government say evacuate, shelter in place and have an emergency kit for 72 hours we do! It’s not always so dramatic, but about once or twice a year Mother Nature humbles you and makes you feel small and insignificant. In a you’d have to be there sort of way I saw what land ice knocked loose on a tidal surge did to two wars in a matter of seconds and trust me it made me feel small. We build our houses and plan our drainage for those worse case senecio days since they will be coming.
Nova Scotia is on the list of most vulnerable places from climate change just behind New Orleans. In particular costal erosion is a major issue here. Honey is building wharfs 2 feet higher than when he arrived 18 years ago, some of the ones he built then are now underwater at high tide. Literally EVERY wharf re-do involves raising it. In the most dramatic example I’ve seen the beach next to my mom’s house used to have a parking lot for 10-12 cars and 8 wooden posts were erected to prevent people from driving too far. All put 2 of those posts are gone and the last two are mid beach. The parking lot is gone entirely and there is only space to pull one subcompact off the road where the driveway used to be.
What mundane thing do you think makes Canada great on our really big birthday? Happy Canada Day!