March 02, 2005

They like the snow here, but they're not prepared for it. It's funny how it upsets their routine. At about 9.30 AM today, as I was about to walk through a courtyard on my way to work, I found my way barred an account of a bit of snow.

It's really just the tiniest amount of snow.

This courtyard contains a little park: a little playground with a couple of benches and some lawn. Today, there was a sign on it that said "Closed for reasons of public safety." There was a dusting of white powder on the passage. The gates at both ends were locked.

As I arrived near the gate, there happened to be a maintenance truck pulling up and some city caretakers were emerging from it. I didn't want to walk all the way around the block, so I asked one man if they were going to open the gates now. He replied no.

"Too bad," I said, and walked all the way around the block.

But it was really just the lightest dusting of snow. As I was walking around the block, I passed a guy with a bucket of salt and a shovel spreading the grains out over a section of the sidewalk. At the rate he was going, it would probably take a year to finish the neighbourhood.

I've never seen anybody salting a road or sidewalk in Canada. Unless, in the pre-dawn surrealism, on a dreamscape drive to some airport, it has been the three mountainous silhouettes of snow-ploughs that have usually come and gone before you have gotten out of bed.

It is the difference in the infrastructure that is astounding. Canada is ready for huge piles of snow. Here, a couple of centimeters can really cripple cities.

I really mean cripple. This morning was funny, but the stories can be sad. A few years ago a tiny bit of dandruff flies around, and, honestly, people almost starved. All traffic stopped on the highways, and they had to wait in the cold for nine, ten hours to get back from shopping.

I feel Canadian today, since I like those occasional slips on the ice, when just for a moment your body is no longer walking, but falling forward. But it's amazing that everybody's late for work because of it.

Oh, but that's not the ice--it's the strike. That's another story.

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