“It’s -41!” she cried.
“It is?” I responded incredulously. That wicked temperature is not unknown in Calgary but typically only occurs every few years.
“With the wind chill,” she said.
Rarely am I happy to know that it is “only” -33 outside but this was one such occasion. For a moment, I was miffed that she would exaggerate the state of our weather – until I realized that she was only doing what every good Canadians does: bitch about the weather.
Canadians like to describe themselves as a hardy lot. In our minds, at least, we carry a bit of the DNA from our coureurs des bois forebears. In our romantic imaginations, we could paddle through churning rapids, climb a snow-encrusted mountain or even skin a bison, just like great-grandma and great-grandpa did. We could even use an outdoor toilet, if it came to it.
Yet modern Canadians have gone soft. It’s an ordeal these days if you’ve forgotten to warm up your SUV in winter with the remote starter. Canada Goose coats and various knockoffs virtually fly off the racks and are de rigueur even in balmy southern Ontario, where the population considers anything below -10 “severe weather.”
Even our junior men’s hockey team has fallen prey, blowing its outdoor game against the U.S. – the U.S., no less! – because apparently we’ve forgotten how to play hockey in a snowstorm.
Wind chill must’ve been invented for us. Whatever temperature we actually experience has to be made to sound even worse. If the wind chill is -41, well, then what would the actual -41 feel like? Minus 50, perhaps.
How did this happen? When did we turn from a country of pond-hockey-loving Van Doos to delicate tropical flowers that shrivel at the first fall draft?
I’m not sure who to blame. Maybe it’s the guy who invented central heating, because Canadians who had to go outside and split their own wood for the stove seemed to have the right stuff.
Or, more recently, maybe it’s the guy who invented heated floors in the bathroom. Really? A little porcelain tile is too much to take?
Or, then again, maybe it’s those evil automotive engineers who created heated car seats and – as if that weren’t enough – heated steering wheels. Heck, thanks to the auto club, we don’t even have to climb out on frozen asphalt to change a flat tire.
We are, in effect, winter poseurs. We talk a big game, but when the chips are down we’re as whiny as chihuahuas sent out to play in the snow. Our national identify has become our national shame. We’re about as tough as gummy bears.
Some of you may wonder whether I’m truly the one to pass judgment on other Canadians for their sorry anti-outdoors state. Truth is, I’ve earned some street cred. I’ve snowshoed in -20. I’ve skied on snow so cold that it felt like sand underneath my boards.
Of course, that was then. Now, I’ve gone a bit soft. This column, in fact, is being filed from the comfort of a southern resort where the average daily temperate is 30. I’m not proud of that fact but I acknowledge it.
All is not lost, however. There still are courageous young men who will sit through an entire Grey Cup game with no shirt on (thanks, in part, to the bracing effects of excessive alcohol). I also know people who get a kick out of climbing frozen waterfalls. They’re still out there and they represent Canada at its best.
To them, I raise a glass of hyper-chilled Molson Canadian. They represent the hardy spirit that we once were – and perhaps once again will be.
In the meantime, would someone pass me another margarita?
Veteran political commentator Doug Firby is president of Troy Media Digital Solutions and publisher of Troy Media.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.