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10 Signs It’s the Middle of Summer in Ottawa

Ottawa, July 2020

One evening, on a chilly “spring” walk, Mark asked me when we would be allowed to do this and that—play in the park, go to the movie theatre, get a haircut, go back to school, etc.

“Honestly, I have no clue,” I replied, adjusting my scarf to block the wind. “But there’s one thing I can promise—at one point, virus or not, it’s gonna be summer.”

COVID-19 is disrupting everything but it has yet to infect and affect weather patterns—that would be the other threat, global warming, but I can only deal with one major disaster at the time.

I was right, by the way.

It’s definitely summer in Ottawa.

Phew. I forgot how hot it gets around here. It’s been a month of 30 °C and above temperatures and it only goes down to 20-20°C at night. Canadians hate it. I love it.

But summer isn’t just about the weather, it’s a way of life.

Ottawa, Clyde Avenue, July 2020
Ottawa, Clyde Avenue, July 2020

In summer, in Ottawa, you’ll find…

… people watering their lawn but really, mostly the sidewalk. How can homeowners and businesses not see the giant puddle and dry lawn metres away? And why are there still sprinklers working when it’s raining? That’s a mystery to me.

… people who have a pool suddenly having tons of friends. Spoiler, we don’t have a pool and neither do my friends but we’re still friends. As for kids, they go to the nearest splash pad (public play areas with sprinklers, fountains, nozzles, etc.)—the City of Ottawa did eventually turn them on in stage 2 of reopening.

… people driving fancy sports cars and street-racing around residential neighbourhoods. Based on the excruciatingly loud whining and grinding sounds they make in the middle of the night, none of the drivers master the classic smooth gear-changing such rides deserve—that’s what happens when you drive your typical North American automatic car ten months a year.

… random fireworks all the time. Apparently, it’s the same in the US and there’s a conspiracy theory about it. It could be a government plot, basically a desensitization tactic to get the population used to incredibly loud noises, like bombs. Or it could be a tactic to encourage sleep deprivation in neighbourhoods currently protesting against police violence. A civil war is more likely in the US than in Canada, mind you—I think in Canada, it’s just bored people having fun with firecrackers and fireworks.

… summer bestsellers. Not face masks or COVID gear, but water guns, inflatable pool toys, Canadiana merchandise (invariably 50% off after Canada Day), soil and gardening tools, etc.

… humidex, pollen and heat warning. And then thunderstorm and tornado watch. Yes, the same day, why?

… emergency cooling stations, i.e. city-operated facilities that provide relief from the heat to residents in need. It sounds like a Canadian joke (“ah, ah, these people are hopeless when snow melts!”) but a heat warning means that temperatures reached at least 30 °C and humidex values over 40 °C. Plenty of people don’t have air-con and live in housing designed to trap heat. This year, with pandemic restrictions, typical ways to cool off—going to the mall, to the movie theatre, etc.—are not available.

… wildlife. So much wildlife even though we’re right in the city! Rabbits, hedgehogs, crows and seagulls, snacks and thousands of bugs, skunks, squirrels… hell, I saw a fox behind the mailbox yesterday.

… people setting up BBQs everywhere, especially on their driveway—option to BBQ in the garage, door wide open, if the weather looks stormy.

… companies fighting the yearly giant “cool-off drink” summer battle—Starbucks with Frappuccinos, McDonald’s with the yearly “$1 soda,” Tim Hortons and their Ice Capp (most Canadians I know say “Way too sweet, but I’ll have one once a year… it’s tradition!”), beers and coolers advertised everywhere, etc. Half of the population is walking around or driving around with a container and a straw.

What does your summer look like?

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