Proust, in his masterpiece Remembrance of Things Past, had his madeleine, the taste of which triggered a flood of involuntary memories. I have, in contrast, the first few snowflakes of the season, which, when they drifted down recently on a November afternoon, brought with them their own set of visceral recollections: images and sensations as portentous as they were powerful. My mind was filled with reminiscences of scraping, swerving, swearing and being stuck in freezing traffic jams – joys of winter driving.
It's that time of year. The time we somehow forget exists while we're in our shorts sweating over the barbecue. Winter is coming (it's already arrived in many parts of the country) and, while snow is great for looking at and building snowmen, it's a pain for drivers.
You'd think we'd be used to it by now. This is Canada. Winter happens every year. The only things more certain are the Leafs stinking and taxes. And yet, when the first real storm hits, drivers act as if they've never seen snow before. It's as if we've all been parachuted in after a lifetime lived tropically south of the equator where whiteouts, icy roads and freezing temperatures exist only in science fiction.
That's why I'm sounding the alarm. I'm going to roam our streets and highways in my minivan with the windows rolled down yelling, "The winter is coming! The winter is coming!" After all, those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. So, in an effort to prevent the usual first-snowfall chaos, I will run down the driving infractions that invariably occur when the first substantial snowfall hits.
First, there's panic. Frozen water is falling down upon us and it's frightening. Some mortified motorists gear down. They drive at a snail's pace regardless of the fact they are on a highway. Speed kills, and they believe the only way to weather the snow is to drive at the speed of a brisk walk. Then again, perhaps they are only fashion-conscious and want to ensure their white knuckles match the snow.
Others see snow for what it is – a blatant challenge to their potency. They adapt to inclement weather by speeding up. A snowstorm is a personal affront and there is no way they are going to let God, Mother Nature or whatever other force is responsible show them up. They race at warp speed – often talking on their phones (because they're important) while they do it. Later, you can often find these drivers stuck in a ditch or stalled on the shoulder of the road.
You also find the introverts. These drivers deal with the elements by closing off from the rest of the world. They do this by forgetting how their defrosters work. The windows of their automobiles are so fogged up it looks like they're driving a sauna on wheels. Instead of dealing with driving conditions, they spend their time cruising around city streets while rubbing raw hands against the ever-cloudy windshield. To these trembling fools I say, the defroster works exactly the same as it did last winter. Just do what you did then again.
Look, they say we're getting another polar vortex. We can't afford to start the winter driving season badly. I, for one, am determined to do my best to make it a safe and pleasurable driving experience. Well, at least safe.
Now pass the madeleines.
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