In Which I Sound like an Old Fart

Before I start being opinionated, I would like it known that when I was a child, I did not actually walk to school for miles in blizzards, nor was it uphill both ways.

That said, we have become wimps.

Winter in Toronto has so far been very winter-ish. It started a good four weeks early and we have had what can objectively be called a lot of weather. There has been several large snowfalls, an ice storm, way too many days spent in the deep freeze and we’re all more than a little sick of this.

This is no excuse for freaking out about the -40 windchill that started this week.

People called in sick to work and we were all glued to the television watching newscasts where every single reporter were in a froth of hysteria about how dangerous it was. Pipes might freeze, there was the risk of frostbite if you sat outside naked for an extended period of time, cars could have difficulty starting and the morning commute would, as usual, be a mess. 

Welcome to January in Toronto.

The last month has been God’s gift to the 24-hour news cycle. At a time when there usually isn’t much news happening because the entire country is huddled inside by the fireplace drinking hot chocolate, Mother Nature has supplied a bonanza of weather events that can fill up hours.

This is not to say it’s not cold. Of course it’s cold. It’s the kind of cold that can best be described as f**king freezing. And yes, I just swore, because -40 deserve swearing. What it does not deserve, at least not in Toronto, is this level of hysteria. -50 deserves making the news. Three feet of snow (hi, Buffalo!) deserves making the news. What’s going on in the US right now deserves making the news (although the term “polar vortex” does sounds like something out of a bad disaster movie). If you live in Georgia and you have a foot of snow and your fingers are blue, it deserves making the news. Canada? In January? Not so much.

We have become very spoiled as climate change has made our winters a lot milder than they were when I first arrived in this country 30 years ago. I remember winters with a lot of snow and frequent incidents of -30 and -40 windchill. We all still went to school and work. The only times classes were canceled or we were sent home from work were if the storm was showing signs of getting really bad (as in the 30+ centimeter dump). Classes weren’t canceled ahead of time, people didn’t call in sick to work, because it was Toronto in January and it was normal. Did pipes freeze? Of course they did. Was there a risk of frostbite? Of course there was — the tip of my right ear still reminds me of an encounter with howling winds in an open space — and so, we bundled up. Did cars had trouble starting? Of course they did. People made plans, gave each other a boost, got winter tires and drove carefully, you did your best to warm up the pipes and then you moved on with your life.

These days, I’m encouraged to cancel my ride with WheelTrans if the forecast promises 8 cm of snow or more. That’s 3 inches. THREE INCHES!! I'm just happy I work from home, because I can't imagine any employer being ecstatic when you don’t show up once a week for three months.

Which brings me back to the news. I know that it’s a business, I know that they are in competition for eyeballs, but when people are calling in sick Monday morning because the forecast promised 10 cm (max) of snow for Toronto and the news went nuts about it, it’s ridiculous! When I watched the news Monday evening and every single reporter was freaking out about how cold it was going to be, I couldn’t help but wonder that maybe that had something to do with them having to wait outside in -30 temperatures (that’s -22F) for their segments. That’s enough to drive anyone into a mild case of hysteria. Because yes, that is cold. But it is, as I may have mentioned once or twice: Toronto. In January.

Can we all just get a grip?


Helen said…
There were no "snow days" when I attended school in Toronto or the surrounding area & I survived.
Larry said…
I'll admit it: we let our kids stay home from school yesterday. My excuse was that Diane and I were out of town, and feeling slightly guilty.
Wren said…
I was wondering how the "Polar Vortex" (some media wonk got a raise for that one)was affecting you, Lene. I'm glad to hear it's not, other than irritating you. It IS nice to work from home.

The other big news that no one is paying any attention to is that out here on the Left Coast, we are officially having a drought. No rain in months and months, no snow in the Sierras, and a landscape so tinder-dry I'm a bit scared of the oncoming spring and summer months. Water rationing has started. And last night, our local weather guy said there's no rain in the forecast for at least a month, and even then, it's anyone's guess.

This, apparently, is not news. But I'd gladly take 15 feet of that Eastern snow for our mountains and a couple of weeks of rain for everywhere else. We're thirsty.

Oh, and bored. The temp has been in the mid-60s for months now. And except for a little overcast once in a great while, it's sunny. I know that SOUNDS great, but jeez, is it DULL.

I guess we can always find something to complain about, eh?
Eileen said…
No, Wren - I don't think there is an excuse for a media wonk pay rise! It's a real meteorology term.

I'm so pleased someone who knows (as she lives there) has confirmed my suspicions about this chilly weather (i.e. it's relatively normal for the time of year). I had a really good laugh yesterday afternoon at an Austrian weather website which had a link to a report telling us it was -8C in HAWAII! On consulting various weather reports I discovered that, no, no one on the islands had noticed if it is. I came to the conclusion that whoever had written it should have failed geography at school. They mentioned Florida, Hawaii and Mexico as if that was the order in a line across the southern states.

Or is there a town called Hawaii down there somewhere?

Bizarre isn't it though - our winter is being a bit low on cold and snow here in central Europe, sort of hovering around freezing. The southern UK has been drowning since just before Christmas. Yesterday it was in the upper 50s (F)in the middle of Germany and bees were out collecting pollen from catkins.
Rebecca said…
Up here in Minnesota, we call the purveyors of this kind of hysteria "weather terrorists." I don't know why the weather people hype it all up so much. Maybe they all grew up in Florida or something. In any event, it's ridiculous!
AlisonH said…
In North Dakota yesterday, it was 88F degrees colder than where my daughter is in Alaska. That rates a mention. Three inches of snow in Toronto? Maybe not so much.
"Sit outside naked!" LOL!

Glad you said it - you and I, along with Rick Mercer ( will be "old farts" together.

I grew up in Thunder Bay, when we would have a cold snap of 20 - 30 below (before the windchill was added in) for several weeks.

My stint in Thompson, Manitoba was also very cold.

As you've said, it was winter. You dressed appropriately (or not -says the 12/13/14 year old Marianna who was fashionable, but freezing, in her leather boots as she waited for the school bus.) Yes, it ran in those cold days - indoor recess.

Weather drama = jobs, advertising and stirs people up (as if they need more of that!)

I've been somewhat spoiled living out here on the coast. When it's minus 5 and bright and sunny I think it's a balmy day since I remember what a Canadian winter feels like, without the hype!