’Tis the season of giving. But when it comes to winter driving, “giving” can be interpreted rather broadly. After several months of spring, summer and fall driving, when our snow tires are safely stacked in the garage, the first morning of snow-dusted streets seems to unhinge us all. As I write this in early November, outside my window the couple of centimetres of snow have fallen. I’m not going to rant about how much earlier the snow has come than in past years. I don’t want to aggravate the meteorology gods any further. Global warming has put them in a foul mood already. (Not that I’m making light of global warming. It’s real and already upon us.)
But back to the blessed season of giving. This morning, I watched a driver “giving” another driver the old mono-digital salute for the very minor offence of moving very slowly in the falling snow. Have we really forgotten how to drive with a bit of the white stuff on the road? Perhaps we have. Snow seems to make the most cautious and tentative driver even more cautious and tentative, while the lead-footed, aggressive, and impatient driver becomes even more so when the flakes have fallen. I think we all just need to remember to drive with more prudence and care in the snow. That’s all. And of course, get your snow tires on! (By the time the service appointment I just made for mine comes around in a couple of weeks, the snow may well be gone.)
Perhaps we’re all just a little stressed as we approach the holiday shopping frenzy. When I noticed the first inklings of Christmas in the retail world, Halloween candy was still on the shelves. The early bird gets the tinsel-festooned worm, I suppose. But it would be nice to have a little breather in the stores between the disappearance of pumpkin-spiced coffee, cake, ice cream, chicken pot pie, and far too many other seasonal culinary abominations, and the arrival of candy-cane spiced coffee, ice cream, chicken pot pie…. You get the idea. By the time you read this, we’ll already have endured the mall mayhem of Black Friday and will be well and truly immersed in the holiday shopping insanity.
For much of December, our slippery streets are not nearly as treacherous for driving as the shopping mall parking lots are. Cars circle endlessly looking for overburdened shoppers emerging from the stores and heading for their cars. One morning I followed a man bearing what had to have been about a dozen heavy bags as he exited the mall and walked across the parking lot. I didn’t follow him too closely, but there were other cars ready to pounce on his vacated parking spot, so I had to stay somewhat tight on his tail without invading his personal space with my car. He looked nervously over his shoulder a few times and I just smiled and waved him on. After he walked the entire length of the lot, he then kept going and headed across the grass to the sidewalk, plunking himself down in the glass shelter to wait for his bus. Serves me right, I guess. I, and the other four cars jockeying for the guy’s apparently nonexistent parking spot, scattered and resumed our cruising. I think I found a spot by just after lunch.
In the end, for most of us, the chaos of the holiday season is all worth it. If we’re lucky, we’ll be together with family. If all goes well, we’ll have just enough shovelling to do to ensure a white Christmas. We’ll stuff a turkey and then ourselves. We might even sing a carol or two, even though we’ve been hearing them in stores and on the radio since early November. Perhaps we’ll even attempt tobogganing down the hill in Talbot Park or walk through the streets of Leaside to marvel at the lights. And, filled with good cheer, we’ll drive safely on icy roads (and parking lots!) and do our best to keep our cool when others are losing theirs. And before we know it, the year will turn and we’ll look back at December wistfully and fondly. Then we’ll don our new scarves and gloves and get back to shovelling. And to all a good night.
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of seven national bestsellers, including his most recent, Albatross, all published by McClelland & Stewart.