Whenever I see dump trucks roaring back and forth busily hauling snow out of town I can’t help being struck by the strangeness of their task.
If God were to suddenly crank up the heat they would arrive at their destination to find their trucks empty; their load would have simply vanished in the warmth.
There aren’t very many things that can disappear without a trace, but snow is one of them.
Snow is also one of very few things that will go away if we simply ignore it long enough.
If you don’t take down the Christmas lights they’re still going to be hanging around looking tacky in July. If you ignore the pile of debris behind the garage it’s still going to be there unsightly as ever five years from now. But if you get tired of shovelling the deck you can just ignore it, plop down on the couch and come spring . . . voila!
The snow will be gone; the dreaded task completed with no effort on your part whatsoever.
Of course, as futile as hauling and shovelling snow may seem, when you’re faced with mountains of the white stuff and another four months of winter, it’s still a necessary task.
Musing about heat waves or waiting for the problem to take care of itself doesn’t help much in January.
“Don’t worry about it dear,” you might say cheerfully from the relative warmth of your front door as the mail person glares at you from across the white expanse of your hip deep driveway. “It will all be gone in the spring!”
That kind of attitude is not going to earn you any accolades from the neighbourhood and it’s definitely not going to get you your mail.
Unless it’s mail complaining about your driveway and walkway, but even then you’re not going to get it because the mail carrier can’t get to your door.
Wait a minute. Let’s read that over again, but this time with brains fully engaged.
Hmmm. A thought occurs and it’s one of those good ones too. If people can’t get to your front door they can’t deliver bad news, they can’t try to sell you stuff and they can’t interrupt you when you’re trying to do something really important like reading a book or watching TV.
All that lies between you and a winter time of serenity is a few feet of snow. We have snow! Lots and lots of snow. Now if I could just find a way to build a snow bank around my telephone I could achieve total peace.
Wait. Another thought occurs. That’s two whole thoughts in only five minutes! I’m having a pretty productive morning.
Here’s my second thought: If no one can get in that means I can’t get out. I might want to get out, you know, to get food and more books.
People need to get out of their homes to go to work too. And sometimes you really, really, want people to come in. People like ambulance attendants and the furnace repair person. And if you never get your mail that means you’re not going to get your heating bill which might seem like a good thing, but if you don’t get your heating bill then you’re not going to pay it and if you don’t pay it then you’re not going to have any heat. And having no heat when it’s 40 below is not a good thing at all.
We’re fond of pointing out how our cold is different because it’s a dry cold as opposed to the damp cold down on the coast.
A friend, who grew up in the north and now lives in Victoria, recently pointed out that the cold they experience down on the coast really is different – the cold on the coast doesn’t kill you.
Paying your heating bill when you live up north is a matter of life or death. And so is keeping our streets, sidewalks and driveways clear.
So thank you to the hardy folks who drive the snow trucks and graders and sprinkle sand and gravel across our icy intersections.
Thank you to the mail carriers that brave the cold to bring us news, bills and best of all – garden seed catalogues! Thank you to everyone whose work helps to get us through the winter safe and warm – until spring makes the whole thing disappear.
Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org