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scenes from a snowstorm

Guys secure in their masculinity would probably handle getting stuck with a little less stubbornness than I do – they might even ask somebody for help.

They probably wouldn't spend an hour and a half trying to dig out a minivan with a window scraper on a street so full of snow that, as I discovered later, the snow plow had gotten stuck earlier that day and had to be towed out.

It was 11 p.m. on a Friday night in Edmonton two winters ago, there was a 12-hour wait for tow trucks, and every store within 15 blocks was sold out of sand – and kitty litter.

I really thought that I'd get unstuck through sheer force of will, the scraper, and spinning the wheels so hard the check engine light came on. Or, at least, I thought I might look pathetic enough so that somebody would offer to help push without me having to ask. Cars kept driving by, the lady in the window across the street watched for 20 minutes and then shut her blinds, and a couple walking their Lab switched to the other side of the street.

I considered sleeping in the car just for headlines like, 'Man dies in car after jerks don't help,' but instead I waited another hour for a cab and went home.

The next morning, the sky was blue and I woke up with a plan – you can always count on family, right? I called my dad and then my brother and rounded up a couple of shovels.

My dad gave me a lift, and we got there before my brother to start digging.

The van was still stuck, with a note pinned under the windshield explaining that I was parked in a reserved spot. "We pay our taxes and this guarantees us a spot on the street in front of our house," said the photocopied letter (a lot of people must park in front of that house). If only they had towed me.

This time, the van drew a crowd. The lady who had shut the blinds came out carrying a pot of coffee and holding a stack of Styrofoam cups under her arm.

An orange VW camper van drove up the street and stopped beside us. "This is your lucky day, gentlemen," the driver said. The other doors opened and two guys tumbled out.

I told them we'd be okay and that we still had to dig. They said they'd help if it killed them.

The driver stayed in the van, but the helpers, Mike and Dave, got louder and louder as they argued over the best strategy – forward or backward – while I kept mumbling something about hating to waste their time. The overpowering smell of rye made my head spin.

My dad thought so too, and was worried. "Good morning so far?" he said to the driver, John.

"It sure is for them, I just got off work and picked them up," he said. "Don't worry – if I'd been drinking, I'd be out wanting to push with those guys."

My brother showed up, and a guy walking by with a dog joined, too. The five of us pushed while my dad drove the van forward. One of the drunk guys, Dave, I think, yelled out directions ("Turn the damned wheel the other way!") to my dad, a gentle man who was ready to punch the guy by the time the van broke free.

Dave and Mike hugged each of us, a bit too long, got into the camper van and they all drove away – to a house on the next block, where John said he lived.

"I don't want you to get the wrong idea about our neighbourhood," said the blinds and coffee lady. "I'm pretty sure those two drunk men don't live here."

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