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.
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?