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Winter Misery

First Snowfall, Ottawa, November 2014
First Snowfall, Ottawa, November 2014

On the evening of November 16, we noticed a few snowflakes dancing in the wind. I shrugged it off—meh, just a cold night.

On Monday, it snowed all day. Not a lot, by Canadian standards, but enough to coat the roads and the sidewalks.

On Tuesday, I splurged on a new pair of Cougar boots, the kind that keeps your feet warm by -30°C (or so it says on the tag) with a polar plush lining. My feet were getting cold with my usual sneakers, and my “sexy boots” with heels aren’t very practical to navigate icy sidewalks.

On Wednesday, I bought a new pair of gloves. My cheap Old Navy pair wasn’t cutting it.

On Thursday, I bought a hat. It was very cold and windy, and even though I haven’t had a haircut in a few months and I have a lot of hair, my ears were frozen. Mark immediately stole it—good to know that, apparently, I have the hat size of a two-year-old.

On Friday, I realized the doormat was already full of salt.

On Saturday, I apply a thick layer of Vaseline on my cracked heals.

Winter has started, I guess.

Just a few years ago, on the first snowfall of the season, I would have taken dozens of pictures. I briefly considered snapping shots of yellow leaves on snow and bare trees in black and white but I couldn’t bring myself to, mostly because the article I had in mind would have contained way too many expletives to describe my feelings about early winter.

I can’t stand winter. And I live in Canada. It’s a bit of a problem, I know.

Winter landscapes are lovely—on TV. As a kid in France I always envied American families who always seemed to celebrate Christmas looking out the window to see snow falling. I’m not a Grinch. I don’t mind snow on Christmas Day. But can it be just that one day, and not five months of misery?

Some people rejoice when winter comes because they can go skiing, skating, snowboarding, because the hockey season is in full swing, because they enjoy sipping hot chocolate by the fireplace, the holiday season, comfy sweaters and sweet treats. I understand that not everyone likes hot and humid weather like I do—Feng is miserable when temperatures hoover around 40°C.

I hate winter because I see this season as a major inconvenience.

I remember very clearly the first time winter inconvenienced me. It was in 2004. I had just received my working holiday visa and I had found a two-month contract in a call centre. This was my very first job in Canada, the very first time I was legally allowed to work in this country. Needless to say, I was desperate for money around the holiday season and I was looking forward to cashing my first paycheck.

On pay day, I walked across the street to the communal mailbox. I inserted the key in the keyhole, turned it clockwise and… nothing. The lock was stuck, completely frozen.

“The mailbox is frozen!” I complained to Feng, who laughed at my very French outrage. “Don’t just stand there,” I begged. “Do something, my cheque is in there! Can you… throw some hot water on the mailbox? Pee on it, even?”

There was nothing to do, I learned, but wait for a warmer day.

Fuck winter.

In winter, everything is more complicated, every task is more tedious, every move involves more planning.

Getting around by car or by bus is less reliable when it snows or when the roads are icy. You’d think Canadian drivers are used to severe weather conditions and that for public transport systems, it’s business as usual. Well, think again. If the roads aren’t cleared, you’re not going anywhere.

Walking is hazardous, as you have to step on ice and snow. My thighs hurt right now because you use different muscles to keep your balance and avoid slips and falls.

Being outside can be painful. Even with gloves, your fingertips get uncomfortably numb and your skin is burning. My hands and my feet are very dry, and you need a very moisturizing face cream and lip balm if you don’t want to look like Freddy Krueger.

You get in the car and you’re cold. By the time you reach destination, it’s nice and warm in the vehicle, but you freeze again during the short walk from the car to wherever you were heading to. And then back in the car, no longer warm. Rinse and repeat.

You have to carry around a bunch of much-needed accessories, such as a hat, gloves and a scarf. You feel clumsy in a thick winter jacket that you don’t know where to put whenever you’re stepping inside a store or a mall.

Laundry duty is due more often, as the washing machine fills up fast with our thick sweaters and jeans. I miss summer where I could just hand wash my tank tops.

The list goes on and on…

Born-and-raised Canadians are sometime offended when you admit how much you hate winter, much like French get annoy when visitors don’t appreciate the gastronomy, or Chinese laugh at vegetarians. They take it personally. “Winter defines Canada,” they argue. “If you don’t like the weather, why are you here, then?”

There are hundreds of things I love in this country.

But sorry, winter isn’t one of them. Eh.

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