Canada experiences a dramatic change of scenery between the two main seasons, summer and winter. But snow doesn’t just change the landscape, it also affects the overall atmosphere and mood.
During summer, days are long, humid and sunny and people make the most of it by engaging in as many outdoor activities as possible. But once a blanket of snow falls and the days get shorter, we all become hobbits. Suddenly, nothing is more appealing than a cup of hot chocolate, a movie and layers of clothes and blankets. People are less chatty and more reserved—like if the cold had drained all the energy from them and what little they have left was used to fight winter.
This story took place in the peak of winter, in January 2008. I was very scared that night, and the winter atmosphere I just described was a creepy setting.
We live in a semi-detached home in Ottawa’s suburbs. It’s a typical Canadian suburban neighbourhood. Houses all look identical and are neatly lined up along a small street. We all nod at each other when we pass in the street, but I can’t say people really know each other. Canadians are very polite but also quite reserved.
That winter, we experienced a record snowfall. A series of snowstorms had left piles of snow everywhere. It was also very cold, probably around – 30°C.
We didn’t have anything to do that night. Around 6 pm, Feng decided to drive to the video store to get a movie. I stayed in to take a warm shower and I locked the door behind him.
I emerged from the shower twenty minutes later. Time went by and I suddenly realized Feng had been gone for a while. I put on my winter coat and stepped out to see if it had started snowing again. I can see our driveway and the main street from our tiny porch. It took me a couple of seconds to process the scene.
Five or six police cars had parallel parked along the street, one of them blocking our driveway. And a bunch of guys in uniform were getting out of them.
I stood there for a minute and stepped back in the house. I paused by the door and stepped out again, unsure of what to do. I looked at them from the porch. They weren’t regular cops, they looked like a Canadian SWAT team with their shields, masks and guns. They didn’t look too friendly either.
Eventually, one of them spotted me. “Get back in the house, NOW!”, he yelled. “But my husband is out and…” I protested. “Nobody goes out, nobody goes in”, he yelled back.
I locked the door behind me and ran upstairs, in the bedroom facing the road, to see what was going on. The cops were gearing up and had set up a roadblock in our quiet residential neighbourhood. They were very quiet and I probably wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t stepped out. Most houses had the curtains closed at this time of the day and snow muffles everything.
A moment later, I Feng showed up at the door. He had driven right into the roadblock and had been told to stay away. He had left the car and discreetly walked home. “What’s the hell is going on here?” “I have no idea”, I shrugged. “I hope they know what they are doing! It looks liked we are right in the middle of something”.
I brought another chair upstairs and we both sat by the window, watching the scene unfolding before our eyes. It didn’t take long before we got some action.
About twenty cops, all geared up with their shields, marks and guns, walked to a neighbouring house, down the street. They brought back to their cars two guys, shirtless and handcuffed. Some cars drove away, most of them stayed there.
The whole thing didn’t take long and went smoothly, as far as we could tell. We didn’t hear any loud noises anyway.
Then, the rest of the cops proceeded to remove every single piece of furniture from the house, putting in by the curb. The roadblock remained in effect for a few more hours, and the police eventually left.
We read the paper the following day to see what had been going on but we couldn’t find any mention of the incident. It was just so weird. I assumed the guys must have messed up pretty bad to justify this kind of arrest but we never learned what happened.
A creepy winter night, really.