Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A winter masterpiece by Scott Feschuk

Anticipation, not denial, is the first step of winter

by Scott Feschuk on Friday, November 16, 2012 10:26am
Photo Illustration By Taylor Shute

It’s that difficult time of year again, but come on people, we can get through this together. To better navigate our ordeal, it’s important that we take the time to review the challenge ahead. Here are the seven stages of Canadian winter:

1. Anticipation. As the long, hot summer surrenders to the first hint of an autumn breeze, many of us experience a small thrill: winter is on its way, bringing relief from the heat and promising the many splendours that accompany the most Canadian of seasons. We envision snow-flecked landscapes, ice-covered ponds and joyful Christmas choirs. Digging deep into the closet, we gaze fondly upon our parkas and mitts. We dream of frosty adventures ahead.

2. Despair. The first cruel winds of November cut through us and we pretty much want to fall down and die right there. Three days of hostile muttering ensue.

3. Sarcasm. A huge December snowfall—awesome! And maybe a little freezing rain in there because THAT WOULD BE PLEASANT. Wake up and there’s a metre of snow in the driveway—and hey, great, it’s the wet, slushy kind that weighs about a squillion pounds per shovelful and lays those of weak heart in their graves. Yay winter! Just when we finally get it cleared—literally, just as we finish clearing it away—the plow pushes a huge drift back in front of the driveway. Thanks for that, buddy! And for the record, that could have been anyone’s snow shovel that flew through the air and struck the window of the plow’s cab. We only ran away because we were in the mood for some exercise.

4. Rationalization. Typically this stage is triggered by an enjoyable day spent outdoors. We are imbued with the belief that not only can we survive winter, we can learn to love it. We vow to plan more outings. We settle in for hot chocolate by the fireplace. We look out the window into the deep black of a winter’s night and we are content . . .

5. Swearing. . . . until we realize it’s only 4:35 p.m. Sweet mother of @!%*#. It’s pitch black when we go to work! It’s pitch black when we come home from work! There’s more daylight in Das Boot. HUMANS WEREN’T MEANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS, BY GOD! Our stylish leather boots are salt-stained. The legs of our pants are salt-stained. Our will to live is salt-stained, and that’s not even possible. At work, the guy two cubicles over is wearing the same wool sweater for the third time this week. It smells like a wet ferret. And now we smell like a wet ferret. Morning comes and the ice on our windshield is thick, so thick, and we take our scraper and we just hammer on it and hammer on it until we crumble to the driveway, spent and weeping. Later, at Starbucks, we overhear some cheerful idiot saying the Inuit have dozens of ways of saying “snow.” We tell him we’ve got hundreds of ways of saying, “Shut the $@*# up.” The ensuing conversation with management centres on whether we’re banned from all Starbucks or just this one.

6. Despair. It’s late February. The snowshoes we got for Christmas are still in their box. Communication among family members has devolved to a series of grunts, crude drawings and middle fingers. In this dark moment, a decision is made. The next person who comes up to us and says, “Cold enough for ya?”—we are going to murder that person. Not secretly. Not with any foresight or planning. We are going to reach out with our bare hands and we are going to strangle the life out of that person right then and there, and if anyone tries to get in our way then we are going to murder them as well because we just. Can’t. Take it. Anymore.

7. Despair. The neighbours are back from their March break trip to Florida. They’re all tanned and perky, and they sure seem eager to come over and tell us all about it—right up until they spot the barbed wire and land mines. They back away slowly. Spring is coming. It must be coming. But the nights still are long, and in our dreams we hear only the swish-swush snowsuit sound of the longest of the seasons.

(This bit of genius from Macleans Magazine needs no preface and no post-face, cuzzadafact that it's PERFECT THE WAY IT IS.)

Things that smell

Things that smell

Stale pee in stairwells

BO that leaves a visible trail and should have its own postal code (note: this should be a punishable offense)

Old vomit in the crack between seats on the bus

Old Navy stores (why do they always smell like the inside of a vacuum cleaner?)

The inside of a vacuum cleaner


Dog pee (or anything else a dog does)

The dishwasher before you run it

Cigar butts


I'm sorry, but some people smell. Some things smell, but not as bad as people.

I wrote this list, which is far from complete, a long time ago and just stumbled upon it while trying to make my computer work the way it is supposed to. This may never happen, which is heartbreaking, but at least I have this list. It touches on the main issues, I think. But worst of all is the smell of an unwashed human.

It's as if they are sitting on your face and farting. It is public pollution. When BO is so strong that you can tell the person has been there half an hour after they leave, it should be a punishable offense.

If you had a gas canister or ammonia or a bucket of horseshit or some other noxious substance that you uncovered in a public place, you'd be charged, no?

I recently took a hearing test and was told I had unusually acute hearing and could hear frequencies that most people my age can't. Fine. My sense of smell is equally hypersensitive. What does this do for me? It's seen as a "disorder", no doubt. Hypersmellism or something. Every asset is now medicalized.

But there are times. . . there are times. . .

We're supposed to put up with it in teeth-gritting politeness and not even mention it to anyone when a 350-pound man in a creased polyester suit that hasn't been dry-cleaned in 14 years squeezes himself into the aisle seat beside you, emitting an odor so gaggingly bad that you don't see how you're going to stand it during that long flight to Australia.

You hope to God he doesn't move around very much. But when he yawns, which he does every 30 seconds or so, he thrusts his big mutton arms into the air and goes, "Ho, hmmm, ho-hoh-hoh-HOHHHH, hm, hm hohoooh, hm hm hm, hoooooooooooohoooooooooooooh." This would be obnoxious enough without the slaughterhouse waft that escapes from his swilling pits, soon to form a dense storm cloud that looms over the entire cabin until it begins to rain sweat.

Last time this happened to me it was in a movie theatre, and fortunately it was empty enough that I was able to move. I had to nudge by a little old lady (twice - I forgot my popcorn) who gave me a nasty look, and I said to her, "That old man over there stinks and I can't stand to sit beside him." She gave me a startled, offended look as if I'd said, "He's a Jew and I can't stand them." You just don't SAY things like that.

You silently endure. But I was tired of having to try to tune out that disgusting stench and keep my mind on the movie, which suddenly appeared to be in Smell-o-Rama.

I think we should bring back expressions like "the great unwashed". Personally I can't see harboring all that greasy gunk on your skin without realizing how noxious it is, and I REALLY can't see how your mate, if you have one, can withstand lying next to it all night. Being married to it.

Of all the things that smell, human beings smell worst of all. They say Bigfoot smells, and no doubt Neanderthal did too. But almost all of us now have access to a marvelous little thing called running water, both hot and cold! Most of us have the wherewithal to wash our clothing, and ourselves.

I have sat next to homeless people who smelled better than the fat guy in the polyester suit. Maybe being outside airs them off.