You can feel it in your bones. Winter is coming. In some parts of the country it's already here.
We've passed through the couple of weeks before Daylight Savings Time ends when any time you're driving west at five in the afternoon the sun shines so brightly and directly that it feels as if you're having your retinas burned out by high-powered lasers. Autumn is gone.
Yes, old Jack Frost is on his way, bringing with him honoured winter traditions such as peeing in snow banks and teenagers hiding empties under blankets of new fallen precipitation.
Winter also brings with it a dizzying array of cold-weather-specific stupidity. You know how, in the summer, energized idiots strip down to their bathing suits and do all sorts of insane things (drunken boating, lotion-free sunbathing)? In the winter it's similar except they're wearing toques, warm coats and boots.
As the Road Sage, I know I have a sacred duty to help, to enlighten and encourage a Canadian population so battered and defeated by recession and light beer that, each morning, it can barely lift its troubled head from sweaty pillow. That's why I'm presenting the Winter Driving Dictionary – an easy-to-use reference that will allow you to instantly identify whatever form of cold-filtered driving dumbness you encounter (with apologies to Samuel Johnson).
This driver is as constant as the Northern Star. He drives the same (badly) in all weather conditions and he has the all-season tires to prove it. You are most likely to spot this driver sliding toward you across two lanes atop a few inches of snow covering a layer of ice.
Oh my god! Is that a car behind me? I BETTER SLAM ON THE BRAKES! Is there a tiny bit of snow falling? I BETTER SLAM ON MY BRAKES! Is it sunny? SLAM ON THE BRAKES! Nothing bad can happen as long as I SLAM ON THE BRAKES!
"I don't worry about winter driving. I know how to drive in winter. If you know how to drive it's okay to go 80 km/h in a 40 km/h zone during a blizzard. No, I never went to skid school or trained but I've watched tons of winter driving videos on YouTube. Who has time to learn how to drive in the winter? I'm too busy driving in winter."
You know what's super confusing? The defrost system of an automobile. Just how precisely do they work? I mean, the button says "defrost" and also has a picture symbolizing the act of defrosting but what does that really mean? The Greenhouse Effect is easy to locate – just look for an automobile that has windows so fogged up with icy humidity that the motorist operating it is effectively blind. Generally the driver is peering through a small hole the size of a snowball.
While the rest of us wrestle with scrapers and brushes, the Igloo driver deals with a snowfall by running a gloved hand across his windshield – then he's good to go. These rolling DQ ice cream cakes can be found in every town and city. They have zero visibility but don't worry the snow and ice eventually melts off – around May.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good 4WD vehicle must believe that he has better stopping power than other drivers. However false this feeling – 4WD only provides better traction to accelerate to high speeds. They can't stop any faster than two-wheeled vehicles – such men can be seen in every neighbourhood ripping down streets and crashing into stop signs or flying into highway ditches.
Just as men of a certain age are afraid to go out in the cold with wet hair, this driver is afraid to have him car washed during the winter. He is also loath to keep a spare jug of washer fluid in the trunk. The result? Dusty Beyond-Thunder-Dome vision-impaired cars that look as if they have been spray-painted with a combination of cat litter and glue.
A strange breed, the Wiper Disciple believes that any and all winter-related obstacles can be dealt with by turning on your windshield wipers. Facing a snow storm? Turn on wipers. Blizzard and freezing rain? Turn on wipers really fast. Black ice? Turn on wipers and two squirts of washer fluid. Can usually be found staring, mesmerized at their windshield wipers as they rock hypnotically back and forth.
There you have it. Keep this list in the glove compartment for easy reference. Of course, I may have missed a few. If you've got an entry send it in. We'll try to add to the Winter Driving Dictionary and I'll take credit for it.
Meanwhile keep your hands on the wheels and keep – well – keep your hands on the wheel and eyes forward. Pay attention, you're driving.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy