I WATCHED The Revenant on Tuesday.
Wait, no, that was the view from my front window.
Our verdant world had turned savage. Vans on tires as bald as the top of my head pirouetted past like drunken ballerinas. Commuters wise enough to leave the car at home trooped to unfamiliar bus stops, only to discover they were on the wrong side of the street.
Bedraggled school children stumbled along icy sidewalks like the frostbitten Wehrmacht retreating before the Soviet Red Army in 1944. Dogs turned feral and roamed in packs, taking down letter carriers and bill collectors. I felt bad about the letter carriers.
The sounds of winter warfare were terrible: The moans of the fallen, the angry whine of spinning wheels, the gravelly rasp of garden-spades-as-snow-shovels, the rifle crack of credit cards snapping while scraping windshields.
I looked to the heavens. What’s next, God? Locusts?
Oh, Victoria isn’t good at this stuff at the best of times, and we’re particularly bad after a long, snowless period like the 2 1/2-year stretch that just ended in such Xanax-grabbing fashion this week.
To Victorians, snow is something that happens somewhere else, just like tornadoes, hockey riots or late-night dining. Even when the flakes flutter as close as Vancouver or Nanaimo or the Malahat, the capital usually remains as bare as Wreck Beach in a heat wave.
When the snow does arrive, we are as surprised as the Americans at Pearl Harbor (by coincidence, 75 years ago today). We have had only five white Christmases in the past 70 years. That’s fewer white Christmases than earthquakes — not that we’re prepared for those, either.
After a shaker centred on Sidney Island rattled us last December, we all vowed to be ready for the Big One (a resolution as sincere and quickly abandoned as the “Oh God, I’ll never drink again” prayer). Some even flocked to buy earthquake kits, which flew off the shelves as quickly as salt, shovels and snow tires did Tuesday.
Others just went into panic mode. Note that among the many people who called VicPD’s emergency line after last year’s (minor) earthquake was one who said, “OK, I have my kids in the car and we’re evacuated. Where do you want us to go?”
It wasn’t much different after this week’s (minor) snowfall. On Tuesday, the West Shore RCMP felt compelled to say on Twitter: “Please DO NOT call 911 to get an update on road conditions. Check out @DriveBC instead.”
Imagine how people would react were this another Blizzard of ’96, a legendary calamity that Victorians rate alongside such disasters as the 1917 Halifax Explosion or the 1999 Vancouver Canucks. (Do you remember the Blizzard of ’96? If so, just have someone stroke your head and sing Soft Kitty in a soothing voice until the flop-sweats and waking nightmares stop.)
In 1996 the snow was chest-high, not ankle-high, and stayed for days on end, just like your in-laws. By day four Victorians were ready to go Lord of the Flies on one another. (My wife, perhaps overstimulated by my constant presence, decided to escape the house and go for a walk — only to have a neighbour phone with a warning of a cougar on the street. “Yeah?” she replied. “It had better stay out of my way.” True story.)
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