Urban winter wussies need to count their blessings

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 6, 2018 - 5:00am
Winter outside the city bounaries


I was standing at the window Friday morning, enjoying my first jolt of caffeine, gazing out at the frozen river. It’s always frozen this time of year.

In the background, the TV news was going, with a reporter excitedly explaining that some river back east was, OMG, actually frozen over. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen thereabouts, obviously.

“Be safe!” cautioned the anchor back in the studio when the reporter finished talking.

Be safe? The reporter was wearing a thick winter coat and heavy mitts, and standing on the deck of a very sturdy looking ice breaker.

The media are abuzz with such stories these days from places having genuine winter weather this winter.

I’m convinced the only Canadians left with any Canadian fortitude live either in Newfoundland or in the B.C. Interior somewhere outside the city boundaries of Kamloops. Everybody else is in Florida for the winter, or boarding the plane.

There’s ample evidence. In Vancouver, snow is cause for “breaking news” special reports. In Vancouver, bear in mind, they refuse to buy winter tires for their cars. Their answer to snow is to stay home from work for the day.

Closer to where we live, I heard Coun. Donovan Cavers being quoted yesterday as lamenting the fact that Prince George has better snow removal than Kamloops.

Two things about this. One is that people forced to live in Prince George deserve to at least have good snow plows. The other is that it’s about time Kamloops felt inferior to somebody other than Kelowna.

Coun. Dieter Dudy put out a very good analysis on Thursday comparing snow removal in various cities, but it doesn’t seem to have convinced anybody in Kamloops that they should stop complaining.

Later yesterday morning I had to drive into the city to do some things. One always knows where the city boundaries are because suddenly the road becomes bare of any sign of winter. That’s the place where City trucks turn off the chemical concoction that melts the ice and snow down to the asphalt.

In the country, where the provincial government is too stingy to pay its road maintenance contractors to do anything more than give roads an occasional pass with a plow and lay down a bit of gravel here and there, we make do.

In the country, we wait ages for a snowplow to appear, much in the way our ancestors waited for the annual supply ship to come over the horizon. In the city, they want instant service. They complain about windrows left by the plows in front of driveways; in the country, we (well, some) simply push the snow out of our driveways right onto the road and hope nobody notices.

Everywhere in town, the only topic for the day was the weather. People complained that the trucks weren’t hauling the snow off Victoria Street fast enough, impeding a direct path to the coffee shops. In the country, we switch on four-wheel drive or strap on snow shoes and muscle through drifts taller than our houses.

Country people laugh in the face of the snow and the wind, and soldier on. It’s the rural way.

Not everybody in the east or in town is a winter wuss. One of the books I got for Christmas was Wayne Johnston’s newest novel, which I finished the other night. Johnston is a brilliant author who brings the culture and history of Newfoundland vividly alive. I could read Johnston or Joseph Boyden all day long, which I sometimes do.

Anyway, Johnston’s new book is called First Snow, Last Light, and begins with a 14-year-old returning home from school in St. John’s to find that his parents have disappeared without a trace, just as an early snow storm begins.

For the next 500 pages or so, as the story develops, there’s a snow storm about every other page. “The only colour was white, the only sound that of the wind,” the lead character recalls at one point, in a typical description of the weather of the moment.

“The snow stung my face like flecks of glass. I was suddenly cold as if I had been dropped into a bathtub filled with ice.”

In Newfoundland, and in rural B.C., they know about winter.

In Toronto, or Vancouver, or urban Kamloops…. not so much.


Mel Rothenburger writes editorials and columns for CFJC Today five days a week, and publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca website.