I went on a Toronto radio show this week where the host struggled to contain herself as I described Victoria’s brush with Real Canadian Winter.
“Say it again,” she urged. “Tell me how minus six was ‘brutally cold.’ ” These might not have been her exact words. It was hard to tell over the sound of her slapping her knee.
I tried explaining, again, that Victoria measures winter like dog years, and you have to multiply everything — snow, temperature, Prozac prescriptions — by seven to get the true impact, but she cut me off.
“Suck it up like the rest of us,” she said.
Suck it up? Victorians don’t pay $74.70 for car and driver and sink their life’s savings into a two-bedroom glorified storage shed only to be told to “suck it up.”
No, that sort of nonsense belongs to lesser parts of Canada, the bits that God still loves but just not as much as those that don’t keep electing Ford brothers. Our tiny, pink, uncalloused hands are built to hold umbrellas, not snow shovels.
At least, that’s the image we project: Victoria, where the only flakes we see are the ones we elect. Nobody here even owns a snow shovel or ice scraper, because it never snows, except for every single winter, which is when the cookie sheets and credit cards get pressed into service.
But here’s the secret: Little do other Canadians realize that when we on Vancouver Island refrain from buying proper snow-removal equipment, we do so solely for their benefit.
That is, we all have our roles to play in the Great Canadian Dramedy, and ours is to go full-on Three Stooges for the entertainment of the rest of the country when it snows. Nothing brings a smile to the cracked, frostbitten lips of Block Heater, Manitoba, like a video of some shorts-and-Birkenstocks doofus slipping on the ice and landing on his ass while trying to clear his Gordon Head sidewalk with a garden hose. It’s the price we pay for living in Paradise.
Thursday, I asked readers to submit examples of the implements they had used, or seen used, to deal with our wicked weather. They did not disappoint:
“I used a magnetic ‘L’ bumper decal on Sunday,” wrote David Vest, “but today all I had handy was the cover of a paperback called Glamour: A World Problem.”
“I saw someone scraping a full-size interior door down their driveway,” reported Amy Bronee.
“I saw someone use a blowtorch to clear his driveway of snow and ice,” added Jeremy Walker. “Pure genius.”
John Kostas wrote that when his sister-in-law lived in Alberta, she kept a curling broom in her car for snow-sweeping purposes. “Yesterday she used her yoga mat. West Coast transformation complete.”
Sherry Krieger observed a couple shovelling their driveway with garden trowels, which must have been like trying to empty the bathtub with an eyedropper. Likewise, Sandy O’Reilly once had neighbours who (clad in business suits, no less) attempted to do the same with egg flippers, while this week, Erik Adlersparre saw someone in Saanich use a McDonald’s coffee cup.
Several readers said they used dustpans as shovels, though none showed the determination of Jim Goddard’s neighbour, who in the Blizzard of ’96, used one to clear a 20-metre path from her house to the street.
A few more reported using kayak paddles, which reinforces our image nicely. Bonus points to Victoria’s Kellie Hart for incorporating another Victoria stereotype when she used her footwear as a measuring stick on Twitter: “Current level of snow in Victoria: 1.5 Blundstones.”
“You will probably get multiple reports about this one, but some knob in Oak Bay was seen trying to clear his walk with a leaf blower,” said Marcus Handman. Yes, I did get multiple reports.
Jim Mayer spied someone clearing a sidewalk with a length of 1x6, while Dirk Meissner saw a downtown store owner doing so with a 2x4. “It’s all I had,” the latter told him.
Sheila Mackay and Shelora Sheldan both swore by aluminum wok lids. Many used hockey sticks (which should earn at least a nod of grudging respect from fellow Canucks), while other implements included a pink toy broom, a fan-style lawn rake, a lawn chair, a pick axe, a Frisbee and a sheet of plywood nailed to a piece of lumber.
“Our trumpet player shovelled off the snow-covered steps before rehearsal with his music stand,” said Kryn Zedel. Paul Totzke sent a photo of what appeared to be a flattened cardboard box lashed to a broom handle with electrical tape.
Even those who know what we’re in for must abide by Vancouver Island’s strict no-shovel, no-scraper code. Meteorologist Astrid Braunschmidt found herself clearing her windshield with a flip-flop she had left in her car. Katherine Gordon turned to a barbecue spatula, while others used a blood-donor card, a towel and cardboard coffee sleeves from the cafeteria at Swartz Bay. David Jack noted that his pocket comb “curves to the shape of the car window.”
Alanna Wrean suggested using a plastic cassette case. “They have nice sharp edges but are a little hard to come by these days.” Similarly, Jude Somers turns to her old Alice Cooper School’s Out eight-track tape (she has John Denver as a backup).
Lisa Relkoff still sounded guilty about wrecking her dad’s windshield when she scraped it with a bottle of Obsession perfume 30 years ago.
No need to feel bad, though. She was just fulfilling the rest of Canada’s obsession with Vancouver Island when it snows.