I don't mean to alarm you but it's that time of year again…
A big dose of dumb is on its way, a tornado of asinine acts is about to blow through, a Tsunami of stupid is poised to crash down on roads and highways across this great land. We are about to witness acts of futility that fly so furiously against common sense and any shred of sentient being that to document them would take virtually all the film stock available on planet earth. What is perhaps most surprising about this great phenomenon is that it will surprise us.
To what terrific calamity am I referring?
Why snow, of course. Despite a relatively mild autumn Canadians are due for their first snowfall.
You know, the one we have every year.
Snowflakes begin life as tiny ice crystals within "cold clouds" which form when the temperature falls below the freezing point. When a snowflake is heavy enough, it falls to the ground.
And then every person on the road starts driving like a drooling maniac.
The highways become Bedlam on wheels with cars spinning, sliding and colliding. The night of a first winter storm I once got in a cab driven by a fellow who had never seen snow, let alone a snow flurry. He was trembling, on the verge of tears, terrified. This is the appropriate response. Insurer Aviva Canada Inc. sees an average 38 per cent rise in customer claims during the winter months. In 2007 and 2008 snow-related incidents accounted over $38.5-million in company's auto-collision claim payments. In Toronto, there was one collision every two minutes during a particularly bad storm in 2006.
Why was it then, that when we get the first big drop of icy precipitation, the entire country has a case of collective amnesia and everyone drives like lunatics? It's a triumph of dope over experience.
Here are some first-snowfall reactions to watch out for:
Maybe if I speed, the friction caused by my spinning wheels will cut through the ice and snow?
This kind of psycho generally drives an SUV. They bought the monstrosity because they're not about to let a little thing like inclement weather get in the way. Remember that advertisement a few years back where the couple drove their SUV (I think it was called the Dodge Icarus) all over Brazil and then had some poor kid wash it? That's the dream: domination of the elements. For these Mensa candidates when the snow hits it's time to put the pedal to the metal. There you are, trying to see through the blizzard and they blaze by at 140 km/hour. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you pass by them later stuck in a ditch.
Maybe if I bring my car practically to a halt I will be safe?
These folks hop in their Mini or Subaru, put it in the middle lane and gear down to 60 km/hour. Then it's time for a heaping helping of denial as the put everyone else in mortal jeopardy. It doesn't matter how many folks see their lives pass before their eyes as they brake, swerve and spin to avoid hitting these highway tortoises. What's important is that they are driving slowly and if you are slow, nothing bad can happen. Right?
I'm not going to let a little thing like snow stop me from driving my bicycle.
No, we'll let gravity do that.
I think I'll rent a truck and drive it during a snow storm.
Take it from a guy who once backed a truck into his boss's office, trucks are not just big cars. Even a cube van requires a fair bit of skill. If you've never driven a truck and are planning a move, and then there is an enormous storm don't take your rental on the highway. You're a menace. Put the keys down and step away from the vehicle.
This last piece of advice could be applied across the board. Is where we're going really so important that we'll gladly risk elements that would have caused our pioneer forefathers to huddle by the fire clutching a bottle of scotch and copy of Pilgrim's Progress? Once, while in northern France, I tried to order a coffee "to go." Perplexed, the barista asked me, "You don't have time to sit down and drink a coffee?" He was right of course (as the French sometimes are). Couldn't I sit my North American ass down for five minutes and enjoy a cup? The same goes for snowfall. Can we not be a little late? Or simply stay home and read?
So, when that first snow storm hits, ask yourself, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" Then remember you're Canadian, pour yourself a cup of coffee and go back to bed.